Lots of analysis and knee-jerk reactions this morning after the Ravens’ third straight loss. The team’s frustrations are mirrored by it’s fan base, who’s getting more and more divided on what’s wrong as the losses continue to pile up. Case in point is when coach John Harbaugh once again eschewed a gimme field goal as Terrance West fell short of the goal line on 4th down and a long yard. I didn’t like the call last week but I did not have a problem with this one. The team’s best cover corner (Jimmy Smith) was out with a concussion and the only chance of winning was to stay aggressive on offense and ahead of the Giants. Since the Ravens did not have an answer for and could not stop Odell Beckham Jr., their best chance of winning was to outscore the Giants.
If I had to pin the loss on just one thing, it would be the penalties. An NFL team cannot consistently win when it amasses in excess of 100 yards in penalties in any game. Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells is on record saying that 100 yards in penalties are equal to 7 points, and in the NFL where the margin for error is razor thin, a team simply cannot afford to give up field position, first downs and touchdowns as a result.
The Ravens need to go 7-3 from here on out, and if they’re going to give themselves a chance to do that, they absolutely have to clean up these penalties. This falls on the coaching staff as well as the players, as they are both accountable for the results.
The second biggest reason for the Ravens loss was Jimmy Smith leaving the game with a concussion. It is time for the Ravens to invest in a shut down corner with their first pick of the 2017 draft. Smith has had an up and down career with the Ravens that has recently been marred by injuries. He was still feeling the effects of the Lisfranc injury he suffered a couple of years ago, and had screws removed from his foot this past off-season. After he exited the game, there was no one left on the team that could match foot speed and stay with the Giants’ mercurial Odell Beckham Jr.
With teams around the league coming out in a nickel formation – the Ravens’ being no exception – as their base defense, cornerbacks right now are more valuable than ever. Their fourth round draft pick out of Temple Tayvon Young has flashed and had a very nice interception yesterday. Hopefully he continues to develop and the Ravens add talent around him. A ball-hawking free safety to replace Lardarius Webb would also look nice right next to Eric Weddle, who has been as good as advertised. We all saw Weddle sniff out at least 3 plays yesterdays, and they were all pre-snap.
I’ll end this article with some random thoughts:
- The absence of a pass rush is disheartening. It’s great that teams have all but given up running the ball on the Ravens. That’s the idea, in terms of making their opposition one dimensional. That’s what you’re trying to achieve on defense, and the Ravens have succeeded in that regard. If you can’t stop the run, it’s going to be a very long day for your defense. They just haven’t advantage when they know teams are going to throw on them.
- Dean Pees has been scrutinized for not blitzing enough. The Ravens can barely cover with 5 or 6 defensive backs. It’s tough to imagine blitzing and leaving those guys on an island by themselves. The current talent level of the defensive backfield limits Pees’ ability to commit additional players to get after the quarterback. Marvin Lewis won a Super Bowl by running a base 4-3 defense and he never blitzed, because he had a defense that could stop the run, pressure the quarterback with its front four, and stay disciplined. They didn’t beat themselves, and they beat people up. Dean Pees would have accomplished the same thing with that group.
- Joe Flacco has not lived up to his contract. Under his rookie deal the Ravens had plenty of cap room to not only extend their key players but to also bring in impact type of free agents. That is no longer the case, and he has to carry the team. He does have the weapons, and he needs to make them better. That’s what good quarterbacks do.
- It was refreshing to see Marty Mornhigweg calling the plays. He displayed a good feel for the pace of the game, and his commitment to the running game paid dividends. If I were him I’d keep calling deep shots. With today’s passing rules, you’re guaranteed an unfair share of pass interference calls. In Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore, he does have 3 guys that can get deep, and needs to take full advantage of their top end speed. Either they catch the ball or it’s pass interference. Sure Flacco will throw a pick here and there, but the reward far outweighs the risk.
- Coach Harbaugh would love to win with a bunch of choir boys, and that would be great. But he won a Super Bowl with at least four outspoken players on that team – Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin and Bernard Pollard. Football is a tough man’s game. Hat on hat, mano a mano. Having been a huge fan of the league since 1973, to me the team that wins the Super Bowl every year is the toughest team in the league – particularly on defense. It is my belief that if you would lock in a room all 32 teams and have them fight, the team that would come out would be the same team that would win the Super Bowl. It is heart, guts and physicality. The Ravens need players with a bit of swagger, confidence, and a massive chip on their shoulder. They need some Steve Smith Sr. types, and the more they get the better off they’ll be.