Bye week does Ravens no favors

Bye week does Ravens no favors
November 3, 2013, 11:00 pm
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Frustration builds in Ravens' locker room

CLEVELAND – So much for the bye week solving the Ravens’ problems. 

So much for the Ravens never losing to Cleveland.

Let’s be real. People in Ravens country know what a contender looks like. And halfway through their 16-game schedule, the 2013 Ravens (3-5) don’t look like contenders. 

Put all talk about getting back to the Super Bowl on the backburner. In fact, put talk about getting back to the playoffs on the backburner, unless the Ravens get back to .500.

The Ravens had a bye week to make adjustments, regroup, and show themselves and everyone else that things would be different. So what happened? The Ravens looked so terribly familiar, losing to the Browns, 24-18. The Ravens’ running game was still inept. Joe Flacco still took way too many hits. The special teams unit still made a crucial mistake. The defense still couldn’t get off the field late in the game.

Neither linebacker Terrell Suggs nor running back Ray Rice wanted to speak with the media after the game. Suggs said before the bye that the Ravens were in a state of emergency. He was right.

The Ravens have dropped three straight, and four of their last five. Their situation keeps getting worse, not better. Here are three things that didn’t change after the bye, as the Brown (4-5) halted their 11-game losing streak against the Ravens.

1. The Ravens can’t run the football.

Ray Rice had 11 carries for 17 yards. Bernard Pierce had six carries for 11 yards. The running game has gone beyond bad. It’s embarrassing. Think any opponent respects’ the Ravens’ running game? The Browns ignored the threat of Baltimore running the football, and teed off Flacco, sacking him five times, hitting him repeatedly, forcing him out of the pocket, and disrupting the timing of the passing game.

At this point, you have to question if the Ravens will have a running game this season. They haven’t been able to fix it, and the season is half over.

“I’m not really sure what the problem is,” said left guard A. Q. Shipley, making his first start in place of the injured Kelechi Osemele. “We go back to the drawing board every week. We think we have it figured out. Nothing’s really making any progress.”

If they Ravens can’t run the football any better than they have shown, they aren’t making the playoffs. Period.

2. The Ravens can’t protect Flacco well enough.

Flacco should not be let off the hook for how he played Sunday (24 for 41, 250 yards, two touchdowns, one interception). He threw a couple of terrible passes in the first half, missing receivers that were open. However, Flacco spent too much time either being hit, or running to avoid being hit. The Browns kept blitzing, kept bringing pressure right up the middle, and the Ravens could not make the Browns pay.  

3. The Ravens can’t make enough big plays on defense.

They had a fumble recovery, but the Ravens couldn’t stop the Browns when they needed to most, late in the game. The Browns took more than six minutes off the clock on their final drive, almost running out the clocking, and kicking a field goal to take a six-point lead. As sporadic as the Ravens are offensively, they need a dominant defense to carry them. The Ravens don’t have a dominant defense.

So where does that leave the Ravens, heading into their Week 9 home game against the Bengals? It leaves the Ravens at their lowest point since John Harbaugh took over as head coach six seasons ago.

Harbaugh has never missed the playoffs, but then again, he had never lost to the Browns until Sunday. Past success guarantees the Ravens nothing. As for the present, the Ravens are in serious trouble.