The Baltimore Ravens have fallen into their longest losing streak under John Harbaugh after their defeat against the 2-5 New York Jets. Many viewed this as a must-win game just before a chance to get healthy during the upcoming Bye Week. Another anemic offensive showing has the Ravens wondering whether they can turn this season around at the midway point.
Early in the year Baltimore looked like it turned its luck around after a disappointing 2015 season. Four weeks, and four losses, later and the Ravens look like a completely different team.
At first glance it appeared the front end of the schedule was a much easier stretch than the second half after the Bye. Losing four of those seven games is a huge problem for a team with their eye on the post season. The team has lost all momentum it gained early in the season and must find answers quick. Here are my main points from yesterday’s game.
What I Liked (Not Much)
- Pass Rush. Matt Judon recorded the first two sacks of his young career, leading the way for a front seven that earned five sacks on the day. The pressure was heavy all day, with the other three sacks coming from interior linemen Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Williams, and Michael Pierce. The interior pass rush has been strong all year, and finally got a boost from the outside with the emergence of Judon. This pass rushing unit has a nice blend of veteran and young players. With the injuries to Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, younger players are getting valuable reps for later in the season. If Judon can keep up the heat going forward the pass rush will continue to be the brightest spot on the team.
- Special Teams Blocks. Baltimore’s lone touchdown came on a blocked punt by Brandon Williams with the recovery by Chris Moore for his first career touchdown. The unit has been making key blocks all throughout the season, many of which have been crucial to each game. This touchdown gave the Ravens an early 7-0 lead, something the team needs to learn how to capitalize on against weak teams going forward.
- Mike Wallace. Wallace pulled in 10 catches for 120 yards for his best game as a Baltimore Raven. His rapport with Joe Flacco has been strong all season (35 catches, 490 yards, 3 TDs), especially on this beautiful throw. He has had a problem with drops, but that can almost be expected from a team that throws almost 50 times a game. Wallace is on pace for over 1,000 yards in his first season with Baltimore.
What I Didn’t Like
- The Run Game. Six rushing yards gained. There’s no excuse for that. The offensive line was missing two starters, but that hasn’t stopped production in the run game yet this season. The run-pass ratio in this game was 12-44. That kind of ratio was one of the biggest reasons Marc Trestman got fired two weeks ago. On one play, a 54-yard rush by Terrance West was negated by an Alex Lewis holding penalty. Other than that, the run game never gained any traction and was abandoned as the Ravens fell behind.
- Inability To Score Touchdowns. Without the special teams’ touchdown, the Ravens scored just nine points on three Justin Tucker field goals. Lately, it appears Tucker is the only hope for any points. Flacco has only thrown five touchdowns in a season which the Front Office felt they gave him enough weapons to succeed. The Ravens need more balance in their offense. Flacco shouldn’t be throwing the ball 44 times and not scoring any touchdowns. This offense has a lot of work to do during the Bye Week.
- Pass Protection. Flacco has taken a beating since Ronnie Stanley left the lineup with an injury after Week Three. His accuracy has been off and he has been throwing off his back foot because defenders are consistently in his face. Yes, starters have been absent, but the Ravens feel their backups are more than capable of filling in. Constant shuffling along the line is leaving no time for them develop chemistry. Flacco will continue to find himself on his back until Stanley and All-Pro Marshal Yanda return to the lineup.
- Giveaways. Just after announcers talked about Flacco’s streak of 176 passes without an interception, he throws a pick on his next two attempts. Flacco has three games with two interceptions this season vs. four games with none. The two picks he threw against the Jets were both on him. The first was thrown to Buster Skrine who jumped the route easily and returned the ball deep into Baltimore territory. The second was a largely overthrown ball that landed right in the safety’s hands. Flacco needs to cut down on bone headed mistakes, especially when he can’t seem to find the endzone. Timmy Jernigan recovered a fumble on the goal line only to return it five yards and fumble it himself. Devin Hester fumbled twice on returns. The Ravens are killing themselves with mental mistakes this year.
- There wasn’t much to be optimistic about after this performance in the Meadowlands. At least in the first three losses there was more to be happy about looking forward. This team seems lost. The defense is above average, but it can’t win games when the offense puts up only nine points. The Ravens have major decisions to make going forward if they want any hope at the post season. One reason for optimism: Baltimore remains in second place in the division and back by only one game from the Steelers. No one seems to be running away with the AFC North crown this year.
Week Nine Preview
- The Ravens follow their fourth straight loss with a much-needed week off to get rested and healthy. Following the Bye Week, the Ravens have two home games against division rivals Pittsburgh and the Browns. The Ravens can find themselves in good shape in the division if they pull off two division wins. That would put them at 3-0 in the division, which is a very attainable goal against an equally beat up Steelers squad and a hopeless Browns team.