It has become official; the Ravens are no longer a defensive stalwart. This is not news for most of the purple camo army, but after Sunday’s game versus the Cowboys, the NFL pundits need to change their thinking about this team. The Super Bowl run of 2000 is long in the past, as is almost everyone on the roster (not named Ray Lewis).
Teams are gashing the Ravens on the ground, which was basically unheard of for the past decade. Remember when the defense did not allow a 100 yard rusher for over 100 consecutive games? Well, last week versus the Chiefs, Jamaal Charles reached that mark in the first half. And now, the Cowboys amassed 227 yards, with DeMarco Murray leading the way with 14 carries for 93 yards (6.6 YPC). Many believe if he does not leave early with a sprained foot, not only does he hit the century mark, but the Cowboys win the game as well.
Just think, if this were years past, if the Ravens put up 31 points, the game would have been considered a blowout. Sunday, it was not enough, as coaching mistakes by Jason Garrett and a missed 51 yard Field Goal at the end of the game cost the Cowboys the game; not Ray Lewis and company.
And speaking of Ray Lewis, the one thing that remained the same for the Baltimore forever, now has a triceps injury that will cost him the season. Though he is not the same as years past, he is still a defensive leader and intimidator. Haloti Ngata sprained his MCL and will be dealing with that for the near future. The major blow though, is the Ravens best cover corner, and probably best defensive back at this point, Lardarius Webb, is out for the season with an ACL tear. When has this team ever walked out of game and was physically beat down? Add in the Achilles of Terrell Suggs and this defense will have a long month ahead.
Heading to Houston next week, who is coming off their first loss of the season, is sporting one of the most dynamic rushers in the league, who ranks second with 561 yards this season. The Packers held him to 29 yards on Sunday night, so he is stoppable, but after a disappointing performance, expectations are he will bounce back. The offense will have a lot of pressure to keep up against a very good and well balanced attack on both sides of the ball.
So now the rest of the season relies on Flacco’s arm and Rice’s legs; can this team put up just enough points to pull out wins like Sunday? Flacco has been spectacular at home, yet has duds on the road against inferior teams like Kansas City. With four out of the next five away from the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens could realistically fall from the best record in the AFC, unless the quarterback is lights out. The question will be “Can the offense keep them atop the division and secured in another playoff spot?”
Either way, looking at this team for the immediate and distant future, everyone must adjust their eyes to see a different type of team. The 26th ranked run defense is not the norm in Baltimore, but neither is an offense ranked 5th in the league.