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3-0 feels like an eternity ago.  The Baltimore Ravens dropped their third in a row against a New York Giants squad that was coming off their third straight loss.  A rash of injuries, penalties, and questionable decisions set the tone for Baltimore this week against another team they felt they could’ve beaten.

This Ravens team is hard to watch.  During the 2014 season, the Ravens’ lone play-off season since their Super Bowl victory, I had a weird feeling before each game.  I never knew which Ravens team would show up.  Would it be the team that traveled to Denver and beat the number one seed in the AFC?  Or would it be the team that loses four of the last five before making a Super Bowl run?

The difference between these Ravens and the 2014 Ravens could be that this year doesn’t end in the post season.  If this team can get healthy quick, and stay that way, they could turn it around.  Here are my main points from yesterday’s defeat.

What I Liked

  1. Jimmy Smith Pre-Injury.  The No.1 corner for the Ravens backed up his pregame talk about Odell Beckham Jr., before getting knocked out of the game with a concussion just before half time.  When Smith was in the game, Beckham had two catches for 11 yards.  Without Smith on the field: six catches for 211 yards and two touchdowns.  The secondary is average at best without Jimmy Smith.
  1. Terrance West Yet Again.  Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg showed a greater commitment to the run game in his first game calling plays for Baltimore.  West delivered another solid performance for the third week in a row.  He gained 87 yards and scored two touchdowns on 23 carries along with 36 yards on four receptions.  Baltimore is going to need this type of production late in the season as the weather gets colder.
  1. A Few More Deep Shots.  Along with commitment to the run game, the offense tried getting the vertical game on track as well.  Flacco completed almost half as many deep shots (four) in one game with Mornhinweg than five games with Marc Trestman (11).  When Steve Smith Sr. and the injured offensive linemen return, this offense could finally live up to its potential.
  1. Played A Close Game Despite Injuries.  Baltimore was missing eight starters by the end of the game, yet played it close until the final minute.  The Ravens are lucky they only have one more game against an underachieving New York Jets team before their bye week.  Some injuries will take more time than others to return, but the Ravens welcome the rest.
  1. Turnovers.  Through six games Baltimore has already intercepted more passes than all of last year.  Secondary Coach Leslie Frazier came to Baltimore this offseason and put an emphasis on picking off more passes, and it is working.  The forced fumble by defensive captain Eric Weddle on the first defensive play of the game helped the Ravens pull ahead 10-0 early.  Baltimore needs to figure out how to play offense more consistently as the year goes on in order to win tough games.

What I Didn’t Like

  1. Injuries.  It is becoming a yearly concern that the Ravens are being plagued by injuries to starters.  Is it just bad luck?  Or is there something that can be done about it?  C. J. Mosley has been dominant all year long, and the Ravens missed him dearly in New York.  Smith Sr. is the heart and soul of the offense, without him they’re not as tough.  When Jimmy Smith went down, so did the chance of containing Odell Beckham.  Baltimore was missing its three best players on the offensive line as well.
  1. Questionable Coaching Decisions Becoming Frequent.  Baltimore elected to run the ball on 4th and goal down by only four points early in the 4th quarter.  This was an aggressive decision and one that most head coaches would have probably made at the time.  Had Baltimore gone with the field goal, they would’ve only needed another field goal on the final drive instead of needing a touchdown to win.  Decisions like this ultimately decide the fate of a head coach at the end of a losing season.
  1. Penalties.  The Ravens committed 15 penalties for 111 yards in the Meadowlands.  If you want to win close games, constantly committing penalties is not the way to do it.  John Harbaugh’s Ravens have had trouble with penalties throughout his entire tenure.
  1. Weak Red Zone Offense.  The offense is still a work in progress, but it is getting to where it needs to be.  The biggest concern now is fixing its season-long woes inside the 20-yard line.  Although Terrance West scored two short touchdowns, he was also stuffed on the 4th down run.  Those are necessary points.  Mornhinweg has the offense on the right track after one game, but Flacco needs to put the ball in the end zone more.
  1. Weak Outside Pass Rush.  Terrell Suggs recorded the only sack of the day for Baltimore, and tore his biceps doing so.  Suggs is only expected to miss a short amount of time, but he won’t be 100% for a while.  He leads the team with five sacks, but no other outside linebackers have recorded one yet.  The interior pass rush has been decent, but the younger players need to step up on the outside.  A once promising pass rush unit only has 11 sacks through six games.

Overall Opinion

  • The Ravens have dropped three in a row, but it could be much, much worse. In 2009, the Ravens started the season with three straight wins followed by three losses and still made the playoffs.  This team is better than that one.  In order to get it together they need to get healthy, fix their red zone offense, and stop committing penalties.  It is no easy fix, so lucky for Baltimore the NFL season is long.  This team plays tough no matter who is on the field.

Week Seven Preview

  • As of right now, the New York Jets are 1-4. Tonight they play in Arizona against a team playing well below expectations.  Baltimore should feel comfortable playing in the Meadowlands for the second straight week in a row next Sunday.  If the Ravens can get a win against the Jets, they will be able to carry momentum into a bye week before playing its first game against a similarly banged up Pittsburgh Steelers squad.