Tag Archive | "Bernard Pierce"

Our Ravens/Steelers “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Steelers “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 29 November 2013 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 22-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Thanksgiving night at M&T Bank Stadium…

Glenn’s Pats…

5. Bernard Pierce

 

4. James Ihedigbo

 

3. Lardarius Webb

 

2. Torrey Smith

1. Justin Tucker (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Continued on Page 2….)

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Our Ravens/Bears “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Bears “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 17 November 2013 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Chicago Bears 23-20 in overtime Sunday at Soldier Field, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Lardarius Webb

4. Tandon Doss

3. Terrell Suggs

2. Eugene Monroe

1.  John Harbaugh (Two Slaps)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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SB Nation’s Butt feels Ravens’ commitment to run won’t change vs weak Bears defense

Posted on 16 November 2013 by WNST Audio

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Ravens-Bears: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Bears: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 16 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

With an opportunity to climb back to the .500 mark and improve their standing in the AFC playoff race, the Ravens travel to Chicago on Sunday to take on the Bears for the fifth time in franchise history.

Baltimore will be playing its final road game until mid-December and has struggled away from M&T Bank Stadium with a 1-4 record this season, but the Bears are dealing with a number of key injuries including an ankle ailment to starting quarterback Jay Cutler, who is out for Sunday’s game. The Ravens have listed six starters as questionable for Sunday’s game, but all but two — defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and wide receiver Marlon Brown — took part in Friday’s practice.

Sunday’s forecast at Soldier Field calls for temperatures in the low 60s with an 80 percent chance of rain and winds approaching 30 miles per hour, which could make for a very interesting day as the Ravens play in Chicago for the first time since 2005. The all-time series is tied 2-2 with the Ravens winning the last meeting against the Bears, a 31-7 final in Baltimore on Dec. 20, 2009.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to win their second consecutive game and even their record at 5-5 before a three-game stretch at home that could dramatically alter their playoff outlook …

1. Ray Rice will start the game, but backup Bernard Pierce will finish with more carries than the struggling starting running back. The three-time Pro Bowl running back continues to say all the right things, but there have been no signs of him regaining his old form as his numbers have been even worse since the bye week (29 carries for 47 yards). Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged earlier in the week that the Ravens will go with the hot hand in the backfield, and Pierce showed flashes of improved explosiveness against the Bengals and his power running style has a better chance of gaining ground behind a poor offensive line moving forward. The Bears’ 31st-ranked run defense might provide the Ravens with their last best chance to finally make strides in the running game, and Pierce will be given the ball more consistently after another lackluster start from Rice.

2. Jacoby Jones will finally shake free for a kickoff return for a touchdown to help the struggling Baltimore offense. The Bears gave up a 105-yard kickoff return for a score earlier this year and Jones has yet to make a major impact in the return game since recovering from the knee injury he suffered in Week 1. Call it a hunch, but the 2012 Pro Bowl return specialist is due to bust a long one and the Ravens will need it on a day in which the rain and wind will limit quarterback Joe Flacco’s effectiveness in the passing game. To win enough games to remain in the playoff picture, the Ravens need more game-changing plays from their defense and special teams and Jones represents the best chance to do so in the return game.

3. The weather will help the Ravens in the battle against Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but Bears running back Matt Forte will collect 150 total yards and a touchdown. The rain in the forecast will stunt the Bears’ passing game, but Forte presents a major problem in coverage for either linebackers or safeties as backup Josh McCown will lean on shorter passes. Tight end Martellus Bennett will be another challenge for the pass defense, but his ankle injury will leave him less than 100 percent as he’s listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Marshall and Jeffery will still make an impact with their size advantage over Ravens defensive backs, but Forte will be leaned upon to move the chains consistently against the Baltimore defense.

4. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil will exploit one of the weaker pass-blocking offensive lines in the NFL with a combined 3 1/2 sacks. After arguably his worst game of the year against Cincinnati last week, Suggs will bounce back against a Chicago offensive line that has struggled all season. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will move Suggs and Dumervil around — perhaps even occasionally lining them up on the same side in an overload look like he did last week — to give each rusher opportunities against right tackle Jordan Mills, whose pass blocking has been a major liability. The Ravens’ pass rush must come up big in putting heat on McCown and eliminate his opportunities to make big plays in the passing game, but head coach Marc Trestman will need to call for more quick passes to help neutralize the Ravens’ deadly pass-rushing duo.

5. The Bears’ ability to run the ball more effectively will be the difference in a low-scoring 20-17 win over the Ravens. If the weather proves to be as bad as forecasts are predicting, this one will come down to the running game and field position, which will play into Chicago’s hands perfectly. The Bears have struggled to stop the run this season, but the Ravens’ historically-poor rushing attack has shown no ability to gain yards other than the final 30 minutes of the Miami game in Week 5. Meanwhile, the Baltimore run defense has struggled from time to time — including a four-game stretch earlier this year in which they gave up 140 or more rushing yards three times — and the Bears possess the league’s 15th-ranked running game. After years of priding themselves as a team equipped to win games in the harsh conditions of November and December, the Ravens will show that’s no longer the case on Sunday as Flacco and the passing game won’t be able to do enough in another road loss.

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Bears passing game dangerous despite backup McCown under center

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Bears passing game dangerous despite backup McCown under center

Posted on 14 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Chicago Bears are one of the NFL’s cornerstone franchises built around a reputation of menacing defense that’s stretched across decades of professional football.

However, this year’s team under new head coach Marc Trestman centers around an explosive passing game despite injuries that have sidelined starting quarterback Jay Cutler and thrust 34-year-old journeyman Josh McCown into action for the better part of the last month. With Cutler sidelined for Sunday’s tilt against the Ravens, McCown will again serve in a starting capacity, but the number of pass-catching targets at his disposal qualifies as a new version of the “Monsters of the Midway.”

Of course, the Baltimore defense did exceptional work against Cincinnati’s talented group of receivers led by A.J. Green last Sunday, but the Bears bring a level of physicality that the tall but wiry Bengals receivers do not provide. Leading the way is the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Brandon Marshall, who is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons and ranks ninth in the NFL with 786 receiving yards and tied for sixth with eight touchdown catches.

“He catches the ball no matter where you put it,” said cornerback Lardarius Webb, who is coming off his best game of the season in Week 10. “If you put it somewhere around him, he can make the catch. That’s what makes him so dangerous. You have to know where he’s at at all times on the field. Wherever he’s lined up, we need to know because he’s a game-changer.”

What makes Marshall so dangerous is Trestman’s willingness to line him up in a variety of places on the field, making it difficult for defenses to find the best matchup consistently. Even if the Ravens are able to harness Marshall, the emergency of second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery has forced pass defenses to pick their poison when electing to bracket coverage on Marshall, leaving the 2012 second-round pick matched up in single coverage.

After an underwhelming rookie season in which he caught just 24 passes for 367 yards, the 6-foot-3 Jeffery is 13th in the league with 735 receiving yards, giving the Bears one of the best pass-catching duos in the NFL. With the Ravens possessing only one cornerback taller than six feet — starter Jimmy Smith — Webb and No. 3 cornerback Corey Graham will need to play in a physical manner similar to how they played last week against the Bengals.

“[Jeffery] catches everything. He goes up and gets the ball,” cornerback Corey Graham said. “I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen him drop a pass on film. If you’re not attacking the ball and going up and making a play, he’s going to get it.”

The news doesn’t get much better beyond that as 6-foot-6 tight end Martellus Bennett has caught four touchdowns and running back Matt Forte is regarded as one of the most dangerous receivers in the league out of the backfield. The Ravens will find size everywhere they look in the Bears passing game, making their ability to pressure McCown that much more critical in Sunday’s tilt at Soldier Field.

It remains to be seen whether defensive coordinator Dean Pees will once again use Webb inside in the nickel package, but the ability of safeties James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam to gain good position in coverage against Bennett will be a major challenge in containing the Chicago passing attack, especially inside the red zone.

Even with an array of power forward-like targets to throw to, McCown must still deal with a defense tied for third in the NFL with 32 sacks. The Ravens were able to harass Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton into throwing three interceptions and will look for similar results against the career backup, who has completed 60 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and no interceptions in three games this season.

Baltimore has talked all week about the takeaway outburst against Cincinnati being the result of preparation finally coming together and will try to prove it wasn’t simply the result of some different defensive looks mixed with good fortune against their division rivals in the 20-17 overtime win.

“You all just happened to see a byproduct of all the work that we put in,” linebacker Jameel McClain said. “We got put in the position to get those plays. I always like to say that turnovers and interceptions are an accumulation of preparation and luck. Some of those plays, [the ball] landed in the perfect position. It’s luck, but it’s preparation for being there.”

Rare chance for running game

The struggles of the Ravens’ historically-poor running game have been discussed ad nauseam, but Sunday may represent their best last chance of hope that the ground production can improve in the second half of the season.

The Bears rank 31st in the league against the run and are giving up just under 130 rushing yards per game this season. The season-ending loss of defensive tackle Henry Melton in September and the current shoulder injury sidelining outside linebacker Lance Briggs haven’t done the defense any favors as the Bears have needed to lean heavily on offense to build a 5-4 record.

It remains to be seen how offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell will handle the workload in the running game after head coach John Harbaugh suggested performance will dictate how many carries struggling starter Ray Rice and backup Bernard Pierce will receive moving forward. Rice is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry while Pierce isn’t much better at 2.8 as both have battled injuries this season.

“We’re working to get better,” Rice said. “I know I’ve worked my butt off to get back on the field to play at a high level. I’ve just got to keep myself motivated, because I know once the opportunity comes and we rip off one of those big gains, we’ll be saying, ‘Well there it goes.’ The day will come.”

If the day doesn’t come Sunday against one of the league’s worst run defenses, it may be time to close the book on any hope for improvement in the Ravens’ rushing attack.

Hester the home-run hitter

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Performance to determine carries for Ravens running backs

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Performance to determine carries for Ravens running backs

Posted on 11 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — What was once brushed off as a slow start can no longer be ignored by the Ravens as Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice averaged less than 2.0 yards per carry for the second straight week in Sunday’s 20-17 overtime win over the Bengals.

For the better part of a month, questions have persisted about Rice’s health after he suffered a hip flexor injury in Week 2 and have gone as far as wondering whether the sixth-year running back is reaching the end of the road as a productive player. Whatever the cause, coach John Harbaugh can no longer ignore Rice’s 2.5 yards per carry average in eight games this season after he gained only 30 yards on 18 carries against the Cincinnati defense on Sunday.

Three or four underwhelming games per season can be chalked up to playing strong front sevens, but Rice has gained only 289 yards on the ground and hasn’t shown elusiveness when catching passes in the open field, averaging a career-low 4.9 yards per reception. Certainly a porous offensive line has played an overwhelming role in limiting Rice’s running room, but the Baltimore coach acknowledged health still being a factor for Rice despite his claims since before the bye in late October that he was 100 percent physically.

“You’ve got to look at the numbers, and definitely, it’s not the same,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no doubt about that, so what is it? It’s injury or it’s not as much room to run, or it’s both. His health has been a factor. There’s no doubt about it. He’s working hard to become healthier; that’s important [to] get past that hip flexor. That’s a muscle injury, and it’s hard to predict exactly what impact that has, but you’ve got to assume it’s had an impact.”

Perhaps Rice’s biggest defense of his performance this season has been the underwhelming numbers of second-year running back Bernard Pierce, who is averaging only 2.8 yards per carry and has battled a nagging hamstring injury that now appears fully recovered. Though not posting numbers on Sunday that would be confused with all-world running back Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, Pierce collected 31 yards on eight carries against the Bengals and displayed more explosiveness than seen from him in quite some time.

With the Ravens desperate to generate any production from a running game averaging a league-worst 2.8 yards per carry, Harbaugh was asked Monday whether he’d consider using Pierce as his feature back with Rice playing more of a secondary role. The coach’s answer was predictable in trying to protect his struggling No. 1 back, but he left the door open for altering how the workload is distributed in the coming weeks.

We can only wait to see how it plays out starting on Sunday in Chicago against a Bears defense ranked 31st against the run and giving up 4.5 yards per carry.

“Both of those guys are going to play,” Harbaugh said. “What would [making Pierce the starter] mean? One guy’s a feature back by definition? Both of those guys are going to get a large number of carries and I think whichever guy’s playing better should get more carries as we go forward. Bernard’s had his hamstring issues the last five weeks, which he seems to be coming out of. Ray’s had his hip issue since the second game, but he seems to be coming out of that. Both of those guys seem to be getting healthier. That’s a plus for us.”

Critics will interpret Harbaugh’s nonspecific answer as nothing more than coach speak, but there is precedent for an effective Pierce — and it’s important to remember his numbers have only been minimally better than Rice’s this season — receiving a larger number of carries that cuts into the veteran’s workload.

Late last season when Pierce began earning his reputation as a physical runner capable of gaining yards after contact, the Ravens fed him the ball 14 times for 123 yards in a Week 16 win over the New York Giants. However, Rice was also effective in that division-clinching win as he gained 107 yards on 24 carries.

The Ravens’ willingness to give Pierce the ball was more evident in the wild card playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts when the carry distribution was nearly even as Rice gained 68 yards on 15 attempts and Pierce rushed for a game-high 103 yards on 13 carries. However, the workload became unbalanced once again for the rest of the postseason as Pierce dealt with nagging injuries.

It’s easy to bury Rice by suggesting the Ravens give the ball to Pierce — who only outperformed Rice substantially in yards per carry for the second time this season on Sunday — and put the veteran on the back burner, but the 2012 third-round pick has been bothered by various ailments in his brief NFL career while Rice has remained durable for most of his six seasons and played four full seasons between missed games at the professional level until he was sidelined with the hip injury earlier this year.

“Both of those guys have to play for us and play well,” Harbaugh said. “You can’t have one back carrying the ball 35 times nowadays, and we don’t need to do that. We think we’ve got two very good backs.”

 

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Is Ray Rice done?

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Is Ray Rice done?

Posted on 11 November 2013 by Drew Forrester

No one around town wants to say it.

A lot of people have been thinking it, but no one wants to actually come out and write it, tweet it or say it.

But, there’s no sense in burying the story any longer.

It’s simple, really.

If Ray Rice ISN’T hurt — and he continues to pledge to anyone who will listen that he isn’t — then his days as a contributor in the NFL are over.

I have no idea how that happened, but it apparently has, right before our very eyes over the last nine games.

Anyone who has followed the NFL knows this is precisely how it happens.  A running back just shows up one day and it’s not there anymore.  There appears to be no explanation for it.  He ran the ball like a demon last year.  This year, his legs don’t work.  How?  Why?  Who knows…it just happens that way with running backs for some reason.

It would appear, unless Rice is hiding a lingering issue, that he’s facing the same sort of abrupt end to his useful days in Baltimore and, perhaps, the league as a whole.

Yes, yes, yes, the Ravens offensive line is horrible.  That’s a certainty.  Bernard Pierce isn’t exactly lighting it up either, as anyone who has watched the games will remind me.

But, even when he gets some breathing room or catches a ball in the open field, Rice just doesn’t have it.  He can’t make tacklers miss with those elusive jukes and dodgy moves we saw from him a few years ago.  Did you see Giovani Bernard run the ball yesterday for the Bengals?  That’s precisely what Ray Rice looked like in 2009, 2010 and 2011.  He hit the hole, quickly, got to the second level, made linebackers miss, and was good for 100 yards of per-game offense with his eyes closed.

I hope I’m wrong, because Rice has been an outstanding contributor to the Ravens both on and off the field.  Few players in purple have embraced the community like he has and his “anti-bullying” efforts with the Baltimore school system is a much-needed message to send from one of Baltimore’s premier athletes.

But…if you can’t run the ball and help the team’s offense, you’re no longer valuable.

Everyone’s been thinking it…

Yesterday’s performance against the Bengals was the moment I went from thinking it to saying it.

Unless he’s hurt, Ray Rice looks finished.

I hope I’m wrong.

 

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Our Ravens/Bengals “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Bengals “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 10 November 2013 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 20-17 (OT) win over the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

Glenn’s Pats…

5. Ed Dickson

 

4. Justin Tucker

3. Torrey Smith

 

2. Elvis Dumervil

1. Lardarius Webb (Pat on Both Cheeks)

 

(Ryan’s Pats on Page 2…)

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Flacco will get the blame, but only if you don’t actually watch the games…

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Flacco will get the blame, but only if you don’t actually watch the games…

Posted on 04 November 2013 by Drew Forrester

The Ravens are 3-5 now after a loss to the NFL’s equivalent of Charlie Brown and, per the usual standards of everyone, it’s time to find a scapegoat.

It’s ALWAYS someone, of course.

I have a feeling this week it’s gonna be Joe Flacco.

I heard a couple of national talking heads blabbering as I was driving in on Monday morning, and they’re already on the “ever since they paid Flacco, he’s stunk” theory.  It’s quite obvious those two goofs do the show from another planet or they simply haven’t watched the Ravens play this season.

Yet, in fairness, there will be people in Baltimore this week who will blame Flacco for the club’s 2013 woes and they actually DO watch the games.

Losing to Cleveland stinks.  No doubt about that.  I called Sunday’s loss in Cleveland “the worst of the Harbaugh-Flacco era”.  I can recall a few games along the way where they’ve played as poorly — road losses in Jacksonville, Seattle and Buffalo, this season, among them — but none of those came after a bye-week, none of those came against a division team you had owned for five years and none of those featured the completely inept performance of the Baltimore running game.

Look, there’s nothing wrong, really, with having “the worst loss…” or anything like that.  Bad games happen.  The other team tries, too, as I always remind all of you.  If you coach for five years or quarterback for five years, you’re bound to have a game that goes immediately to your “worst ever” list.

Sunday, though, was much more than just about Flacco, who clearly had another listless first half before kicking it into gear for a decent final 30 minutes.

It was about Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce not doing anything. Vonta Leach didn’t do anything, either, but he didn’t really play at all because they don’t have  a role for him for some odd reason.

It was about Marshal Yanda and Michael Oher both looking like they thought the game started at 8:25 instead of 4:25.

It was about Tandon Doss coughing up a punt at the absolute worst possible time, with the team trailing only 14-10 and looking like they were going to pull out one of those “a win is a win” kind of victories. As far as individual plays in the game go, that was the biggest one of the game.

It was about the Ravens defense — for the third straight loss now — not being able to get the other team’s offense off the field, regardless of whether it’s 3rd and 4, 4th and 1 or 3rd and 10.  Jason Campbell made a helluva play, granted, on that 4th-and-one throw that effectively sealed the game, but that’s been the Ravens’ defensive M.O. nearly all season.  They’re just not good enough.  They’re not horrible.  But they’re just as much of a liability “under the gun” as the team’s running attack on the offensive side of the ball.

And, lastly, it’s about a team that won the Super Bowl a year ago and the very-much expected “market correction” that comes along with it, no matter what the Head Coach said back in August and anyone else assumed over the last eight weeks.

The margin for error is now slimmer-than-slim for the Ravens, who likely have to go 6-2 at a minimum to qualify for the playoffs.  I can’t see that happening based on the first eight games of the campaign, but stranger things have happened — like the Jets losing by 40 points in Cincinnati one week and beating New Orleans the following Sunday.

Based on what I’ve seen, I’d call a 6-2 run from the club virtually impossible.

They don’t do anything well.

They do a bunch of stuff “OK”, but nothing stands out at all.

They’re just not that good.

Their record proves that.

 

Tomorrow: I’ll share some thoughts on John Harbaugh and his role in this 2013 team.

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After post-bye clunker, “What now?” becomes Ravens’ biggest question

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After post-bye clunker, “What now?” becomes Ravens’ biggest question

Posted on 03 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Coming off the Week 8 bye was supposed to be a chance for the Ravens to start anew after a rocky 3-4 start to the 2013 season.

With the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals losing on Thursday night and most of the AFC wild-card contenders looking mortal, the Ravens simply needed a win — no matter how it looked — to get back to .500 and begin the second half of the season on a positive note. A week off not only gave players a chance to rest but provided head coach John Harbaugh and his staff the time to make much-needed corrections in all phases of the game.

Instead, the Ravens responded with an ugly 24-18 loss to the Cleveland Browns, snapping an 11-game winning streak over their AFC North foe and digging an even bigger hole in their quest to advance to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. Expecting the bye week to provide a much-needed tuneup, the Ravens instead stalled getting out of their driveway as they’re now off to their worst start since the 2005 season.

And the question echoing over and over in the closing seconds as the Browns finished a scoring drive lasting more than six minutes was a frightening one.

What now?

A running game averaging a league-worst 2.8 yards per carry entering Sunday produced only 55 yards on 21 carries with quarterback Joe Flacco accounting for 25 of those on three scrambles. The offensive line was once again dominated at the point of attack and Ray Rice finished with 17 yards on 11 carries, not looking any more explosive or elusive despite claims that he was once again 100 percent.

Though once again plagued with a running game that was a non-factor and suspect pass protection for much of the day, Flacco played poorly through much of the first half, missing several open receivers and throwing a head-scratching interception late in the second quarter. To his credit, the sixth-year signal caller rebounded over the game’s final 30 minutes, but his poor first-half showing was disappointing coming off the bye and was a major factor in the Ravens offense once again getting off to a slow start.

The defense allowed veteran Jason Campbell to throw for 262 yards and three touchdowns and, even worse, wasn’t able to get a stop at a crucial point in the second half for the third straight game — all losses. Dean Pees’ unit hasn’t been the biggest problem this season, but the Ravens defense simply hasn’t been able to come up with a big play when it needs it late in games unlike stellar units of the past that often carried inferior offenses.

Not to be outdone by the first two phases, the special teams were a major problem as well as normally sure-handed punt returner Tandon Doss muffed a punt at his own 11-yard line, setting up the Browns’ third touchdown of the game in the third quarter and putting the Ravens behind 21-10. And punter Sam Koch continued his rough season, failing to pin the Browns inside the 20 on three separate opportunities kicking inside Cleveland territory in a game in which field position loomed large.

Hoping for the light to come on after the bye, the Ravens looked like they did in the first seven games of the season — appearing to be a below-average football team.

How does it get fixed? Can it be fixed this season?

The Ravens are as healthy as they’re going to be until the expected return of Dennis Pitta later this month, but the talented tight end isn’t going to remedy all of the team’s problems. At this rate, the Ravens may not be in a position for Pitta’s return to matter in terms of their playoff hopes for 2013.

General manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh have already trimmed fat on the roster with the jettisoning of veterans Michael Huff, Marcus Spears, and Bryant McKinnie. Many are clamoring for the ax to fall on run-game coordinator Juan Castillo, but there have already been murmurs that his influence has waned since the bye week with offensive line coach Andy Moeller now having a louder voice.

If Castillo were to be fired — a move that would be very difficult to challenge at this point — do the likes of Marshal Yanda and Michael Oher suddenly start winning one-on-one battles that they’ve lost too often this season?

The answers aren’t simple when you have issues all over the place and that’s where the Ravens find themselves as they began the month of November with their third loss in the last four games. There’s a certain amount of understanding that comes with the struggles of unproven players like Gino Gradkowski and veteran newcomers who simply don’t fit, but a number of veterans who have been counted on year in and year out have been even bigger disappointments, which brings greater concern for the future.

Even with the problems along the offensive line, it’s getting more difficult every week to dispute the growing notion that Rice’s best days are behind him. He continues to struggle to break any tackles in the open field and no longer looks like the home-run hitter on which the Ravens relied for years. Rice has three years remaining on his current contract and is scheduled to account for $8.75 million on next year’s cap.

Oher and Yanda have appeared to be shells of their former selves, which might not be as problematic with the former scheduled to become a free agent, but the Pro Bowl right guard has a cap figure of $8.45 million next year and is under contract through the 2015 season.

Top cornerback Lardarius Webb was faked out of his shoes by Browns receiver Davone Bess on a 20-yard touchdown in the second quarter Sunday and has struggled to find his pre-injury form coming back from ACL surgery, but he certainly deserves some benefit of the doubt and should get stronger in the second half of the season. Still, he carries a $10.5 million cap figure in 2014 and is being paid as one of the best cornerbacks in the league.

Having arguably the worst season of his career, Koch carries a $2.8 million cap figure next year, which is a high number for a punter not getting the job done.

And perhaps the most disappointing and concerning of the group of standouts failing to deliver in 2013 is defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who holds a $16 million cap number next season and no longer looks like the game-wrecker he was before the Ravens signed him to a five-year, $61 million contract in 2011. For the third straight season, nagging injuries are limiting his impact in games.

Regardless of what happens over the final eight games in terms of the Ravens trying to rebound to extend their run of five consecutive playoff appearances to a sixth, Newsome and Harbaugh must be in evaluation mode when it comes to the aforementioned players. Some contracts have bigger cap ramifications than others, but it’s a scary proposition to be forced to reconsider your thinking on players who previously weren’t of any concern — and carry huge price tags.

The debate went on through much of the offseason whether the Ravens were rebuilding or simply reloading after a slew of personnel changes. The result to this point has been a flawed roster that will need to go 6-2 in the second half of the season just to give the Ravens a chance at 9-7.

And barring a drastic turnaround in the final eight games, the Ravens will be forced to start thinking about their offseason much sooner than anyone anticipated.

And they’ll definitely have their work cut out for them.

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