There’s losing and then there’s strolling around while you’re losing and looking as if you don’t really care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game.
I watched the second half intently on Sunday afternoon as the Ravens were getting punked by the Broncos and you know what I saw? Strolling. Lack of interest. No attention to detail. Stupid penalties. Not owning up to it afterwards.
As the teams came out for the second half with Denver up 17-0, I settled in my press box seat and said to myself, “This is going to be a great opportunity to see what these men are made of…because they’re almost never down 17-0 to a good team, home or away.”
So, I made a particular point to watch individual players and coaches in the final 30 minutes and I followed them with one word in mind: Effort.
You know what I saw? A general lack of trying-real-hard. A lack of thinking. A lack of concern with how it all looked to the people who paid good money to sit there and watch their team lollygag through a second half of football.
Like I wrote above — there’s losing, which happens to the best of them, and there’s not being concerned with losing, which shouldn’t ever happen. But it did yesterday in Baltimore.
We all know how the game got out of hand in the first place. The Ravens defense played well enough in the first half, but the offense was horrible. They only managed four first-downs in 30 minutes and when they did manage to somehow maneuver down the field late in the first half, the quarterback threw the ball to the other team and changed the game. Instead of going to the locker room down 10-7, they stumbled in trailing 17-0.
That’s when I started watching more closely. I didn’t necessarily watch the football game. I watched the players and the coaches, specifically, without concern for where the ball might have been.
And here’s what I saw, in no specific order of importance.
One of the big mistakes occurred in the first half, but most of them took place in the final 30 minutes. The decision to not call a time-out late in the 2nd quarter with the Ravens driving for a touchdown was just not smart. With Jim Caldwell making his debut as the offensive coordinator and the ball on the four yard-line, a time-out there would have given everyone the chance to set up a two or three play game-plan to make sure it was 10-7 at half. We know what happened. No time-out was called and Flacco tried to quick-snap and catch the Broncos napping. Afterwards, there was some discussion about not wanting to leave time on the clock for Peyton Manning as the main reason for not calling a time-out. Well, I’d think it’s far more important to first get your own seven points and not worry all that much about the other team’s quarterback having 30 seconds to finish out the half. Any way you slice it, not calling a time-out there was a mistake.
It turned into a Keystone Cops routine in the second half. A mysterious third-quarter challenge by John Harbaugh was the least of the Ravens’ worries. I have no idea what John thought he saw on the Torrey Smith catch – maybe he was just shocked that Smith actually ran a route to its completion – but virtually everyone in the press box and the stadium went “Huh?” when he tossed the red flag. That mistake, though, paled in comparison to a few others in the second half. Not going for two points after the Pitta touchdown with four minutes to go – trailing 34-16 – was just unacceptable. And as much as I’m going to beat up some individual players for “not thinking” and “not caring”, it’s hard to say the coaching staff was thinking when they kicked the extra point to make it 34-17 instead of trying to narrow the gap to a two-score affair with the two-point conversion attempt.
There’s more, though. Plenty more. Why did Terrell Suggs play throughout the second half when the team was losing 34-10? I get it. Someone has to play. But when you have a star player suffer what we were all led to think was a serious injury just two weeks ago, why would you have him out there down 24 points with six minutes left in the game? Head scratcher, to say the least. And then, with fifty seconds left in the game, the ultimate lack-of-thinking took place when Joe Flacco was forced to run for his life when Jim Caldwell inexplicably called for a pair of pass plays and then watched in horror as Michael Oher didn’t try on either one. The result? Two sacks, both from Flacco’s blind side, and on each occasion the team’s quarterback could have suffered a serious shoulder injury as he was driven to the ground.
It’s one thing to press the team and the players to put out the maximum effort in the 3rd quarter when they’re losing 24-3.
It’s another to be smart with a half-minute to go and say, “We’re not going to risk anything now. The game is over.”
What happened on those final two plays was a complete lack of smarts by the coaching staff.
Oh, and speaking of Caldwell, his debut as the play caller included twelve carries from Ray Rice and not one touch from Rice on a third down play. Can you imagine the outcry if those two elements were part of a Cam Cameron-called game in a 34-17 home loss to the Broncos?
Coaches are human. None – including the “genius” in New England – are perfect. But Sunday was a low point for the Ravens coaching staff and the head coach, in general.
Here are some others who deserve their share of blame for Sunday’s woeful effort:
(Please see next page)