A win is a win, especially in the NFL, and that is a phrase every Ravens fan has found themselves uttering after every Ravens win so far this year. Beating the Steelers and taking over first place in the division is nothing to sneer at, yet I still come away from this game with a bad taste in my mouth. That taste is the stench of the Ravens offense, and it’s not getting any better.
I don’t want to take anything away from the defense, as they played a superb game against a great offense. Granted Big Ben was a shell of his normal self, but regardless they dominated the Steelers. Any day you hold Le’Veon Bell to 32 yards on 14 carries, and Antonio Brown to just 85 yards receiving, it’s a successful day. But let’s face it, Ben was off all day, as his accuracy was atrocious. He repeatedly missed open receivers, and it wasn’t because the Ravens pass rush was all that effective. I remember two instances when Sammie Coates beat his coverage from Jimmy Smith down the sidelines, and Ben overthrew him. They need to tighten up their coverage because Ben won’t be missing those throws on Christmas night.
One qualm I have for the defense is to catch the damn ball! How many times did the Ravens have easy interceptions in their hands and couldn’t complete the catch. Webb, Mosley, and Weddle all had potential picks go through their hands yesterday. These are the plays that separate good teams from average teams. You wonder why the Ravens play so many close games, and it’s because they don’t take advantage of other teams mistakes.
Moving to the offense, and I do so reluctantly because I don’t have much nice to say. If you look at the box score, you see Flacco went 18-30 for 241 yards, with one touchdown and one pick. Not bad numbers at a glance, but anybody who watched the game will tell you Joe played poorly. You take away the 95 yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace where he took an eight yard slant pass 87 yards after the catch, and you are right back to the abysmal 5.03 yards per attempt for Joe Flacco. It’s just hard to watch this offense because they have no rhythm whatsoever. Flacco’ s footwork is so bad that I can’t believe the Ravens employ a quarterbacks coach. What is it gonna take to get the guy to step into throws rather than falling back and throwing. For a guy who makes north of twenty million a year, he looks pretty bad on a lot of throws.
I will commend them for sticking with the run game this week. Granted the game flow dictated that the Ravens run the ball more because they were ahead the whole game. Still, it’s crazy how often more rushing attempts correlates into victories. They only gained 50 yards, but it’s the 29 rushes that’s the important stat. The more you run, the more the time of possession is in your favor, the less time the opposing offense has to run their offense. It’s a simple and proven formula for winning in the NFL.
Once again, I want to highlight a huge coaching error. At the end of the first half, the Ravens got the ball back first and ten at their own 26 yard line with 1:44, remaining up 7-0. The first play was a 9 yard completion to Steve Smith, setting up a second and one from the 35 yard line. They run a draw play that gets dropped for a two yard loss setting up a third and three from the 33 yard line. Up to this point I have no problem, but they had let the clock run all the way down to 50 seconds, then looking confused and unorganized, Flacco calls a time out. It’s third and three and they complete a three yard pass in bounds for a first down and call another time out with 42 seconds left. At this point it’s taken them over one minute and two timeouts to go twelve yards. This is what I don’t understand, why most NFL offenses can execute a two-minute drill, yet the Ravens have so much trouble. They almost always run out of time because of mismanagement of timeouts, or bad play calling. They did, with the help of Steeler penalties, get into Justin Tucker range to add a field goal before the half. But a good team would have been aggressive and try to score a touchdown rather than rely on Tucker and their over achieving defense.
I’m happy the Ravens are in first place, but I see the writing on the wall. They are an average team at best that cannot compete against the better teams in this league until the offense gets their shit together. Lucky for the Ravens, they have played either bad teams or average teams playing at their worst which was the case Sunday. Hopefully they will play up to their competition as the season progresses and stay alive in this wide open division.