It was bound to happen; Ravens give game away

October 18, 2010 |

When it comes to yesterday’s loss to the New England Patriots, I suppose John Harbaugh’s team could point fingers in a few differing directions.

But, as we know, that’s not how the Baltimore Ravens absorb losses. Well, that’s not the way they publicly accept a loss, anyway.

In quite the contradictory manner, it’s EXACTLY how we cope with seeing the Ravens lose to a team it led by double digits, with a little less than 12 minutes remaining in the game.  Venting and casting culpability eases our frustration, right?

And, all of us think a certain component(s) of the team must shoulder these embarrassing meltdowns. That’s what yesterday’s ultimate loss to the Patriots became …..

AN EMBARRASSMENT.

I can sit here and reasonably suspect many folks are going to blame some prime individuals, both IN and OUT of uniform. That’s a fair assessment – and respective units had their own shortcomings, as well. But, in the end, the Baltimore Ravens lost their second game of the season, period.

Is it frustrating? Sure it is …. I absolutely believe the Ravens are assembled as a more talented team. But, yesterday’s disintegration of their energy and overall effectiveness really causes the more casual mind to take notice. Imagine what Bill Belichick must have been thinking?

Wanna blame the defense? They could’ve played better in the 4th quarter – they surrendered a DOUBLE DIGIT lead, when it mattered most.

Wanna blame the offense? Beginning with the Billy Cundiff field goal to start the 4th quarter, the Ravens offense had nearly 30 minutes of clock, (OT included), 5 possessions and 25 touches to squeeze out an additional 3 points and they couldn’t do it. Say what you will, they squandered unfulfilled opportunities.

After all, it’s not as if Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison were nailing down the Patriots defensive attack. But, I suppose Belichick’s young, inexperienced unit found its game in the final stages.

Wanna blame the special teams? Why not, they’re not above a critical assessment. The Ravens continue to improvise with punt returns, employing the likes of Tom Zbikowski, Chris Carr and a few others. Meanwhile, the Patriots rely upon a dynamic set of legs, in Wes Welker.

The Ravens have talent capable of excelling in an explosive return game. Yet, we’re led to believe the team is not willing to compromise health of crucial playmakers at the impending expense of injury. This reservation must not weigh too heavily on Bill Belichick’s mind – after all, he’s using his best receiver, who is bouncing back from a 2009 injury, to return punts.

Injury risk? Welcome to the NFL …..

As for specific impact of special teams production on yesterday’s game, just consider each team’s respective field position when taking over possession in the 4th quarter and overtime. The Ravens had an average starting position on their own 21 yard line, whereas, the Patriots started on their own 30 yard line, overall.

Aside from simple numbers, the Patriots feature more explosive threats in the kick/punt return game. In fact, on the game winning drive, Tom Brady assumed possession on the team’s own 38 yard line. I sensed the game was over before he took a snap during that series.

Wanna blame the coaching staff? Go ahead …. they deserve it. From Greg Mattison’s devotion to pursuing pressure with 3 upfront defenders, to Jerry Rosburg’s commitment to assembling a “who’s dat?” return corps and Cam Cameron’s evident fallback commitment to the “simpler things in life”, the coaching staff is not above reproach.

In fact, perceived coaching decisions can be one of the most frustrating elements fueling yesterday’s disappointing loss.

Why not use a more explosive player for punt returns? So, he’s vital to the offense or defense …. but, so is the return game.

Why not apply a different look to the pressure aimed at Tom Brady? When the dude sitting at home knows who’s chasing down the opponent’s quarterback, BEFORE IT HAPPENS, it might be time to get a little more creative.

Why throw more passes to Ray Rice (i.e. – dumpoffs) in overtime, than any other player? Was that really working in the quest of moving the ball? Was Anquan Boldin thoroughly covered? Was T.J. Hoshmandzadeh thoroughly covered? Was Derrick Mason thoroughly covered?

Yesterday’s game was absolutely a team effort. And, as a team, it was given away. Call it bad play calling. Call it poor execution. Call it anything you want …..

The defense gave up a double digit lead. The offense couldn’t score 3 more points. The return game was stuck in idle …. and reverse. The coaching was VANILLA-LITE.

In truth, the best team actually stood across the field, yesterday. The best team won the game. When they’re leading in the 4th quarter, they don’t grind it out and try killing the clock. They look to score more points and kill the opponent.

Conversely, if they’re behind, they’ll take any opportunity you give them.

That’s Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

If you’re willing to give them the game, they’ll take it. And, that’s exactly what they did yesterday.

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