Dec 29, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) is hit in the backfield by Cincinnati Bengals free safety Reggie Nelson (20) and defensive end Carlos Dunlap (96) during the second quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens Loss – A Microcosm of the Macro Problems

The Baltimore Ravens will have the unusual experience of spending New Year’s Eve at home without game preparation concerns for the first time in recent years. After a 34-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Football Birds of the Baltimore Harbor will watch the playoffs on TV – a first for Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh.

The final game of 2013 was a full-fledged display of all the difficulties the Ravens have faced over this season that never really seemed to get uncorked. It was a microcosm of the whole list of macro problems about which have been written in this blog and in every media source covering the team.

The List:

The inability of the offense to score touchdowns, especially within the red zone – There have only been three touchdowns in the past 45+ possessions by the offense. Though it goes without saying that Justin Tucker had a fabulous year, he was able to amass record-breaking points, not because he kicked so many PAT conversions, but because the offense sputtered so frequently.

Flacco interceptions – Add three more today to the career high total. I won’t blame him for the first two – a deflection and a deep 4th-and-10 throw in the face of a nasty blitz. But the final pick-six throw was simply bad – behind the receiver.

A weak offensive line – Along with the inability to consistently open holes or control the line of scrimmage in short-yardage situations, the porous offensive line contributed much to Flacco’s discomfort and passing complications this season. On this day they were helpless against packages that ran varied blitzes.

An insufficient running game – The precipitous drop-off in rushing yardage from previous years is absolutely startling. This is the product of the item immediately above, though it certainly never appeared that Ray Rice was the same person as before.

Bend, bend, bend and snap defense – Though the 2013 defense played well overall and maintained a top-10 ranking into this last week, there were more than a few times where they seemed to wear down and get suddenly beaten on a play or manhandled on a particular drive.

Timing not calibrated – The crispness that marks a championship outfit in the NFL … and the fine-tuning of a team successfully playing on the winning side of the narrow margins in a fast-paced sport … connecting on passes, defending in the gaps between corners and backs, etc. … all of this was fractionally OFF for the entire season.

It is not a total disaster. When the Ravens were 3-5, and then 4-6, it looked pretty bad for the team to win four in a row and get back into contention. But they did it. And then came weeks 16 and 17.

This team has many strengths and fine players. It also has a roughly equal number of weaknesses and marginal players. Accounting for losses of players from the championship season of a year ago, along with factoring for injuries, etc., this is a squad that is a decent team at the middle of the pack, or slightly better. It is a team that could have reasonably been anticipated to contend for the playoffs, but is honestly a team you would expect to go about 8-8 … or 9-7 if many circumstances worked out well.

Where do the Ravens go from here to make the team better for 2014?  That will be what we will be writing about for the next six months.



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Tags: Baltimore Ravens

  • John Kelso

    Steve Bisciotti, John Harbaugh and especially, Joe Flacco owe the rest of the team and the City of Baltimore a major apology for this fraud of a season. I don’t care how many excuses are made about a poor offensive line, Joe Flacco simply had no command of the game either as a quarterback or a ‘leader’. The Ravens have a corps of receivers that can be matched head-to-head with most any in the top tier of the NFL, Joe Flacco simply could not connect. He more often than not, grossly over threw or under threw time after time. He has no pocket awareness and no ability to read defenses and adjust accordingly. I for one have had enough of this ‘elite’ talk and the excuses from Flacco and Harbaugh. Flacco needs to be released and his contract voided. any talk of firing Jim Caldwell is pure garbage and nothing short of an insult to the man, the team and the fans. He in no way is responsible for Flacco’s inability to target receivers with consistency. Last year was a fluke owed simply to the acrobatic play of Boldin, Pitta, Jones and Smith. Without them making circus catches, Flacco would have taken the Ravens to the cellar. Give the money back Flacco, you did not earn it.

    • Randy Buchman

      Hey there John – Your sentiments are certainly not rare nor isolated. I heard just about every piece of it at various times today. Winning it all is difficult for sure. There are indeed many things to address. Of course, Flacco will be back, and we can hope for better performance, and yes… expect it too… thanks for reading and checking in with us.

  • Aaron B. Hopkins

    Going to have to disagree with John. Although there was rarely a pocket, Flacco’s pocket awareness is one of the few bright spots this team had this year. Once his knee was injured the story was completely different. The blame is on the offensive line, Calwell and Catillo are a major component of it. This team had no running game whatsoever…and Flacco carried this team with no protection. Sure he had more interception this year than ever…and he did miss some throws…but he led this team way farther than it should have gone. As far as last year’s playoff run…you can say that was a fluke…no way. You don’t break a post season Joe Montana record which was still there after Marino, both Mannings, Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger all had their chances to break earlier. Sorry. Now could Flacco do better…you bet! And we just might live to see it!