Be Still and Know: A Ravens-Jaguars Review
No, that two word description is not my opinion of the new Metallica/Lou Reed album (although its close) but of the Baltimore Ravens performance last night against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Ravens embarrassed themselves on a national stage last night against a team they should have throttled by three touchdowns. By the end of this debacle I felt sorry for those Raven fans that spent their time and hard-earned dollars traveling down to Jacksonville (not exactly San Diego) to watch that farce of a performance.
The Ravens team that stepped foot on the field last night looked more like a contender in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes than a Super Bowl contender. Baltimore isn’t going very far with performances like that.
The debacle in Jacksonville was like stepping into the hot tub time machine and going back to 2003-05, when Brian Billick’s Ravens would routinely follow big home wins by going on the road against a sub-.500 team like Oakland or Cleveland, lay an egg and lose to a team they should beat every day of the week.
Just like those Billick teams, last night the Ravens played undisciplined football, took an absurd amount of penalties, the defense gave up just enough points to lose and the offense set a new low for badness. The only difference this time is there’s no Kyle Boller or Matt Cavanaugh around to blame.
This loss stings, not just because it allowed Pittsburgh and Cincinnati to get into a tie for first in the AFC North, but also because the Ravens unraveled every way you possibly could. There’s going to be a whole rash of new questions about the receivers, the offensive line and the quarterback. The nattering nabobs of Baltimore sports talk radio, always apocalyptic after big losses, have set phasers to ROAST in the case quarterback Joe Flacco and the coaching staff.
Football is a team game and this loss was in the truest sense of the term, a team effort. The offense was absolutely abysmal, the defense got pushed around at times, the special teams came up short and the coaching was extremely suspect. No one is going to want to watch this game tape. It’s a horror film of “Audition”-like scariness.
---Did somebody switch Ray Rice’s body with Jason Brookins like in “Freaky Friday?” Rice, the Ravens best offensive player, looked like his head was somewhere else, certainly nowhere near Jacksonville. Mighty Mouse dropped passes, fumbled the ball and got run over by the Jags Daryl Smith picking up a blitz. Rice hadn’t fumbled in the regular season in nearly two years, yet he put the ball on the ground twice in this one. It got so bad, the Ravens took Rice off the field for a series or two.
When he did secure the ball, Rice had no holes to run through, thanks to…
---…An offensive line that made the Jags defense look like the 1985 Bears. Michael Oher took two holding penalties and was constantly beat around the edge. Matt Birk and Andre Gurode allowed too much penetration up the middle. Bryant McKinnie looked slow and didn’t get any push on run plays. Flacco – we’ll get to him in a bit – will take a lot of the heat, but this line had him running for his life far too often. Joe was getting hit or rushed almost as soon as he hit the fifth step in a five-step drop.
---Was that Clarence Moore, Mark Clayton and Randy Hymes lining up at wideout last night? The Ravens receivers got ZERO separation from Jags defenders and made Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox look like Deion Sanders and Darrell Revis. Some of Flacco’s troubles can be attributed to the fact that the receivers got so little separation that Joe had nowhere to throw the ball and if he did throw it, he’d have to put it into a very tight window.
---Of course, no one was helped by Cam Cameron’s game plan, which looked very uninspired. But more than that, Cameron didn’t adjust at all to what the Jags were doing. He didn’t find ways to get Rice, Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin the ball in space. He kept running Smith down the field on deep routes even though Cox was playing Smith on the fly pattern all the way. Cameron never adjusted to have Smith run a deep comeback route to take advantage of Cox’s aggressiveness. There were no trick plays and the no-huddle didn’t come out until the end of the game when the Ravens were desperate. No attempt was made to loosen the Jags defense up. Flacco wasn’t put in the shotgun consistently in order to give him a little extra time.
The result: one of the most putrid Ravens offensive performances it has ever been my displeasure to see. I’ve lived through Stoney Case, Scott Mitchell, Jeff Blake and Kyle Boller, so I’ve seen them all. The Ravens didn’t get their first first down of the game until the middle of the third quarter. The biggest play was a 50-yard pass interference penalty.
In the words of Roger Ebert, this offensive game film should be cut up to provide free ukulele picks for the poor.
---I hate it when Ravens fans complain about the officiating. The refs were not the reason the Ravens lost last night, the Ravens crappy play was.
That said, that was one of the worst officiated games I have ever seen. On one play, Jags tackle Guy Whimper got beat by Terrell Suggs. Whimper turned around and tackled Suggs to the ground. No flag.
Then there was quite possibly the worst call I’ve ever seen in all my years playing and watching this game. Ravens safety Bernard Pollard lit up a Jags receiver on third-and-short with a tremendous hit. Pollard gets up to celebrate getting off the field and out comes the flag for unnecessary roughness. Pollard hit the guy with his shoulder, no head contact whatsoever. It was the sort of form tackle you teach your kids to make. The ref that made that call should immediately cease officiating games and send in his resume to FIFA. Just a pathetic call.
Then, the flag-happy refs bailed the Jags out of another third down on the same drive. Brendan Ayanbadejo got tied up with Whimper and the two started pushing and shoving. Ayanbadejo slapped Whimper on the facemask and out came the flag. Ayanbadejo got kicked out of the game for throwing a punch and the Jags got a new set of downs.
Of all of them, this call was the most excusable; it was an unnecessary and undisciplined play by Ayanbadejo. But it was a love tap, a shove. I can see the 15-yard penalty, but kicking Ayanbadejo out of the game?
Finally, there was the kickoff call at the end of the game. The Jags only had 10 men on the field for the kickoff and the play clock was running to zero. With one second on the play clock, the refs blew the whistle to allow the Jags to get the extra man on instead of assessing the five-yard penalty and moving the kickoff back.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh rightly went ballistic on the sidelines. Those five yards could have allowed the Ravens to set up a return instead of having the ball at the 20 to start their last drive. Why no flag there? Did we have to get the Jags permission before they kicked off? Awful and disgraceful.
---Speaking of Harbaugh, you have to wonder about his decision-making going for the onsides kick down by two with 2:02 left in the game. The Ravens basically had three timeouts – two of their own and the two-minute warning – why take the chance that the Jags recover and are already in Josh Scobee’s field goal range? The extra three meant the Ravens had to score a touchdown instead of a field goal.
---You also have to wonder what’s going on as far as motivation with this team. In the Harbaugh Era, the Ravens have feasted on sub-.500 teams but they’ve now twice lost winnable games against AFC South opponents where they looked unprepared and unmotivated.
---Finally, if I’m Ozzie Newsome, I wonder about whether Joe Flacco is the man that can take this team where it wants to go.
No, I’m not advocating a quarterback change – I’ll leave that to the reactionary, talk-radio crowd – because there’s no one on the roster now that’s better than Flacco. What I’m referring to is the long-term. Flacco’s contract is up soon and Ozzie will have a decision to make. Personally, I question whether Flacco is a guy you invest big money in. Right now, he’s not.
On the plus side, Flacco’s numbers have gone up every year, he’s won four road playoff games and he’s the best quarterback this franchise has ever had.
On the downside, he’s been bad in some big spots (2008 and 2010 in Pittsburgh, 2009 in Indianapolis), he hasn’t taken that next step into being a great quarterback despite being surrounded by Pro Bowl-caliber talent and, this year in particular, he’s been wildly inconsistent.
Hot and cold may have been a hit song for Katy Perry but it’s not a good recipe for quarterbacking in the NFL. This year, Flacco has played great in wins against Pittsburgh and St. Louis. I give him a pass for the Tennessee game because the offensive line was so bad. He was OK against Houston. Against the Jets and Jaguars, Flacco was horrible.
Great quarterbacks – Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rogers – figure out how to make plays even when things aren’t working. They can improvise, take charge, make adjustments and they beat teams they should beat. I guarantee you Rogers doesn’t lose to a 1-5 Jags team, even if the Jags were better than their record.
Ben Roethlisberger is a great quarterback because he can improvise to create big plays. Brady has won championships with nobodies like David Patten and David Givens as his wideouts. Rogers and his receivers find a weakness and go at it until they kill you.
And if you doubted Manning’s greatness, look at how Indy was with him in the lineup and the disaster they are this year. Same group of supporting players, but with Manning they’re Super Bowl contenders; with Curtis Painter they’re 0-16 contenders.
What’s maddening about Flacco is that he’s got the skill set to be there. He has some maneuverability, he throws a great deep ball and has the respect of his teammates. But he’s too inconsistent; he can be great one quarter and tossing jittery heaves into double coverage the next.
At some point, this is going to cease being about the receivers, the scheme, the offensive coordinator and the line and will be about the simple question of whether Joe Flacco can get you an “America’s Game” episode. Based on performances like last night, the answer is sadly, no.