I can’t explain it, but I am strangely unmoved by the Ravens’ loss to the Buffalo Bills. It could be any number of things. The first thing is that there are a few teams in this league who have played the Ravens tough in recent memory, and on that list is the Bills. We all remember that game three years ago when the Ravens snuck out a win over Buffalo in Baltimore (because Ray Lewis knocked out a ball from a guy perhaps after his forward progress had been stopped, lol). The second thing is that there is a lot of excitement around this young Bills team, and even irrational momentum has a way of snowballing into something real and imposing when a team is playing at home. The third thing is that E. J. Manuel under center is more legit than Kevin Kolb. The fourth thing, and perhaps the biggest thing, is simply that these are the John Harbaugh Ravens, and for some reason this team in the past five years, even with all the playoff games and playoff wins and a Super Bowl, can’t seem to not trip on its own gonads in the week following a big win. I’m pretty sure a large portion, even the majority of Ravens fans looked at the schedule for this year and penciled in the Texans as a (maybe close-ish) loss and the Bills as a (maybe tense but overall convincing) win. When the opposite happened, it seems like no one on the Ravens knew what to do with themselves. As usual. Which, frankly, is a stale, old act at this point.
We’ve had some roster turnover, but at key positions the Ravens this year are anchored by guys who have won a Super Bowl. Our coaching staff is anchored by guys who’ve won a Super Bowl. This game was not how reigning champions who are allegedly looking to repeat should respond after a big win. Why do I get the feeling that, all this week, the Ravens were feeling pretty good about woodshedding the Texans, kiiiind of looking over the historically awful Bills, and prematurely setting their sights on being 3-1? Oh wait, I know why. Because we came out and laid a big steaming wooly mammoth turd on the field–just a few days after a leading receiver who is supposed to be rehabbing got mauled by a stripper on something called a “party bus.” Clearly, our heads are in the right place.
As good as it felt to win that game against Houston, let it be known: The defense and special teams won that game, and the offense basically held serve and game-managed itself into not messing up in the second half. The offense is maybe good enough to be expected to do that–maybe. To tread water and nurse a lead. It is no way, shape, or form good enough to apply pressure on its own. And we saw that on Sunday, when even after the Bills practically begged the Ravens to steal one by turning the ball over at dumb moments and conservative-playcalling all the wind from their own sails, the Ravens failed miserably–disgustingly–to make the most of any opportunity. Mostly because the offense can’t do anything well.
- The o-line isn’t particularly good at run- OR pass-blocking, but it’s so putrid at run-blocking that a professional football coordinator literally had to stop running the ball for a whole half. THAT’S THIRTY MINUTES. The most telling part? I met no fan who even blamed Caldwell for it–that’s how obviously heinous the line is. And since it’s the same line we won the Super Bowl with save Gino, chances are Gino is just that bad.
- The receivers can’t get separation.
- When they do, they can’t catch. Two of Joe’s career-high five INTs came because someone drop-tipped a pass up into the air.
- The routes and play calls are uncreative and do nada to help a struggling offense. Slants? Screens? Rubs? Nonexistent.
Depressingly, all of these problems are connected. If the receivers are old and/or slow and/or bad at catching, then maybe that’s why we always run on first down. If we always run on first down, maybe that’s why the run game looks so bad–everyone knows it’s coming. If we can’t run, that’s probably why we can’t play-action (except on second down, usually after a failed run on first, when NO ONE EXPECTS IT!) At one point, Joe threw a would-be INT to a guy further downfield because the guy open in front of him happened to be Ed Dickson, who had just drop-tipped a pass for a pick. That’s how bad things are. Our QB is making higher-risk, lower-percentage throws because he has such distrust of some of the people around him.
Other Bad Things
- The two plays we called before Flacco’s fifth and final pick–a fade/deep corner bomb and shotgun run–were dumb.
- The secondary without Webb is always confused and out of position.
- We were ONLY in the game to begin with because, until the end when he lost his mind and decided one football player tackling another deserves a flag, Jerome Boger made surprisingly good calls by overruling that Bills TE catch and their TD catch. So the score line is probably less embarrassing than it would have been with a worse ref crew, which is like all the ref crews.
I didn’t mean for this to be a negative tirade when I began. Because, really, I’m not lying: I’m OK with this loss. The Bills are a decent team, road woes are not new for us, letdown games are not new for us, and–frankly–I’m a lot more mellow this season after seeing the Ravens hoist a Lombardi a few months ago. Plus, since the Browns beat the Bengals, the Ravens are technically in first place in the AFC North (because of divisional tiebreakers and the fact the Steelers blow!) … But how bad are the Ravens playing right now? So bad that the Steelers have literally never been worse in four decades and are still only two games away from having as many wins as we do. And for as much crap as we’re giving Pittsburgh for sucking, we have the same issues: bad o-line, no scary receivers outside of one guy, and a run game that lives somewhere between undependable and horrid. The national media will take the easy way out and pin this loss on Flacco and his five picks–I’m sure while smugly grinning about his new contract–but the truth is the whole offense is so bad there’s not much Joe can do.
But I still have hope for this year. Because a receiving corps of Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, Jacoby Jones, and Marlon Brown, with some Clark and Stokley sprinkled in, is nothing to sneeze at, and is in fact good enough to make noise in the playoffs (which I think we eke into). The Ravens will probably still rely on their Baltimore mojo to win most of their home games. And, if I may delude myself further, the Ravens are still a good enough team to have almost won the Bills game, even on the road after having committed five turnovers. That 3rd and 18 conversion ended up not mattering, but it was monster when it happened.
It’s a long season. We’re only a quarter through. … Caw.