Watching the game live and in person from my perch in section 513, I was as disgusted as the rest of the 71,000 cheering for the home team. The Ravens played into the official’s hands yesterday and allowed them to be the scapegoats for a totally pathetic team performance. As bad as they played yesterday, they deserved to lose the game. Had they won, it’d be one of those ugly wins where they were dominated but still managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the end.
There are 3 basic reasons why the Ravens lost to the Bengals yesterday.
Reason #1…. The offense was totally out of sync. The Bengals took away the deep routes and forced Flacco to play dink and dunk for 2 and 3 yards at a clip. Bad passes, dropped passes, 1 catch by Kelly Washington and 0 catches by Mason. The last 3 times they have been in the red zone, they have come away with 0 points on 2 Flacco interceptions and the Clayton drop. Five weeks ago the focus was on Steve Hauschka and whether he deserved to be the kicker. Hauschka hasn’t gotten a chance to even attempt a field goal since the San Diego game. Willis McGahee touched the ball once. LeRon McClain must have complained about his lack of touches, but he did nothing to justify giving him the ball. Mark Clayton continues to be an enigma this season, looking great on a circus catch, dropping a pass clearly in his hands, then getting hit and fumbling the ball (although the call was not overturned) Take away Ray Rice’s “Houdini” act on his TD scamper and the Ravens offense looked rather Bolleresque to me. Over the first five games, the Ravens once powerful offense has been in the decline stage, scoring 38, 34, 31, 21 and 14 points. The defense has accounted for 14 of the last 28 points since Flacco hit Derrick Mason with the first score against the Patriots. This season, 21 offensive points in 8 quarters isn’t going to do anything but get your team a higher draft choice come April.
Reason #2…….Defense or lack thereof…..PERIOD… I haven’t looked at any game stats from yesterday, so correct me if I am too far from the actual figure. The defense was dominated and on the field entirely too long yesterday. I am going to guess at least 41 of the 60 minutes was spent on the defensive side of the ball. The offense went 3 and out on numerous occasions and forced the defense to come back on the field with very little time for rest.
The Bengals actually dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball yesterday. The only time the Ravens touched Carson Palmer was in the post-game handshake. Jarrett Johnson’s sack was nullified by an illegal contact penalty in the secondary. In my opinion, Terrell Suggs has done NOTHING to earn that multi-million dollar payday. He talks the talk but he sure hasn’t walked the walk this season. I hope people enjoy listening to his radio show, because we sure aren’t enjoying his effort on the field, not for the money they tied up in this guy over the next 4 or 5 seasons. There was no evidence of a pass rush for the 3rd game in a row. At times they were rushing 1 and 2 defensive linemen and dropping everyone else into pass coverage. The blitz packages haven”t worked too well and they appears to leave half the field wide open and the mismatches are exploited. Blitzing only works WHEN you can get to the quarterback and force him to do something he doesn’t want to do. Cedric Benson became the first 100 yard rusher against them in almost 3 seasons and Carson Palmer either scrambled for 1st downs or hit his receivers on slant patterns because no one wearing purple was covering the middle of the field. For having arguably the best middle linebacker in the game, the Ravens are extremely weak over the middle and have been for quite a number of years. When you drop a 340 pound defensive lineman into pass coverage, you lose that edge on the line, but I guess it doesn’t matter when you aren’t putting pressure on the opposing QB. Ed Reed was the only defensive standout with the 54 yard pick-6. Palmer knew he screwed up as soon as he threw the ball and you probably failed to notice he didn’t throw in Reed’s direction for the rest of the game.
Three weeks ago, Phillip Rivers exposed them, last week Tom Brady expolited them, and yesterday Carson Palmer stretched them out. I’d be willing to wager that Brett Favre, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Kyle Orton, Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, and Palmer once again, are going to pick them apart unless they vastly improve their pass rush and coverage packages. Adjustments have to be made quickly or the Ravens are facing a possible collapse in the final 3 quarters of the season. What appeared to be very winnable games on the schedule are now highly questionable as to whether they can win or not.
Reason #3……………. Poor tackling, coaching decisions, costly penalties. Doesn’t anyone know the proper way to tackle a player with the ball? I counted at least 20 missed tackles yesterday which allowed the Bengals extra unearned yards. For whatever reason (probably because they don’t want to risk getting injured) todays NFL players hurl their bodies at the opposing ball carriers hoping to knock them off balance enough for their teammates to knock the runner down. When you grab a runner by the legs and lock in, he has nowhere to go but down. The pinball tackling efforts aren’t working and ball carriers are picking up an extra 4 or more yards per carry.
Play calls on both sides. The offense looked rather conservative at times and drew random boos from the crowd. The dink and dunk short game was not working out too well. Flacco looked bad, the pass blocking looked bad, the run blocking wasn’t there at all, and the Ravens were willing to allow the Bengals to push them around all day long. The choice to punt with 6 seconds left in the first half was changed to going for the hail mary, only after Cincinnati called a time out, but Flacco tried to throw the ball through the uprights instead of making it catchable. There was also the spotting debacle after the Clayton fumble challenge. Sometimes 5 yards makes a huge difference, but on a day when the offense couldn’t get any consistent drives going, it didn’t matter at the time. Lardarius Webb looked good on his returns, but was nowhere to be found at the end of the game. I have a problem with the reverse call on the one kick too. Had he run straight ahead they would have had the ball 14 yards further instead of taking a 5 yard loss on the play. The little things in tight games sometimes mean the most, and you can’t attempt the trick plays when it’s difficult to gain any momentum with field position.
Yeah, yeah, those 3 defensive penalties which allowed the Bengals to continue their drive toward the winning score all looked like bad calls to the 71,000 in the stadium. The pass interference, illegal contact, and unnecessary roughness calls were crucial and came at the worst possible times. Ray’s hit on a defenseless Chad Johnson was a judgement call, but it was made by the back judge standing some 25 to 30 yards away from the play. His was the only flag thrown. He probably deemed the contact unnecessary since the ball wasn’t caught and Johnson’s helmet flew off his head and bounced about 10 yards away. To Johnson’s credit, he bounced right back up flashing that gold filled toothy smile because he knew he got into Ray’s head enough to sell that call to the officials. The hit also knocked Fabian Washington out for a few plays so the Bengals got a nice chunk of yardage out of it, plus they got a mismatch in the secondary when little 5’6″ Chris Carr replaced Washington and had to cover the 6’4″ Caldwell. Palmer found the mismatch and easily threw the pass.
Officials….. There were 2 calls I’d like to have some understanding about; On the botched extra point try after Cincinnati’s first TD, I’d still like to know how the defense can be called for an illegal formation. I checked the rule book on that one when I got home. There are NO formation standards for the defense in the NFL rule book. Maybe the Ravens had 12 on the field, but that would have been illegal participation. 71,000 were screaming for the ball on the botched attempt, but on an extra point attempt only the team trying can score. If the defense recovers the ball, it’s dead and cannot be advanced. Either way, something was messed up about that call.
The other call was a late one in the 3rd quarter and again helped continue a Bengal drive. In fact it may have even been on their touchdown drive. Carson Palmer was clearly in the grasp of Jarret Johnson on his way to the ground and the side judge threw a very late flag for illegal contact downfield. There was no way Palmer was going to throw that ball with Johnson wrapped around his legs. The flag should have been picked up, but wasn’t. And without any discussion, Cincinnati was given a new set of downs.
The Ravens are now 3-2, riding a 2 game losing streak, tied for 2nd place in the division with the Steelers. Just where we fans didn’t want them to be. They hold a tiebreaker against only the San Diego Chargers, but that might not mean a thing if they can’t get untracked and start playing better football on both sides of the ball. The Ravens are not the elite team they may think they are at this point in the season and they have a long way to go to convince the fans they have what it takes to even make the playoffs.
That road to the post season doesn’t get any better next weekend as they travel to Minnesota to take on Brett Favre and the unbeaten Vikings. After the bye week, they will face what could be an unbeaten Broncos team and then travel to Cincinnati for a critical divisional rematch. Only 3 of the Ravens’ remaining 11 games come against teams that are currently sporting losing records at 1-4 each; Cleveland, Detroit and Oakland.