With the Ravens winning the second Super Bowl in franchise history earlier this month, it seems odd to suggest areas they have many areas to improve for 2013. They got hot at the right time -- much like the New York Giants before them when they won the championship the year before -- but still have glaring weaknesses that must be fixed in order to have a chance at making the playoffs again. Repeating? That’s another issue.
Problem No. 1: Penalties.
When it came to drawing flags and penalty yards, none was better than the Ravens. They finished the regular season with 121 penalties for 1,127 yards. Only the St. Louis Rams drew more flags (130) and the Ravens were one of only two teams with 1,000 more penalty yards (Cleveland Browns).
The Rams and Browns were not playoff teams. The reason the Ravens amassed so much yardage was because they had an NFL-high 35 personal foul calls, particularly with safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, that cost them 15 yards or more.
In winning four postseason games, however, they were able to reverse that trend. After starting with nine flags for 70 yards in a 24-9 wild-card win vs. the Indianapolis Colts. They had eight for 56 yards in a 38-35 double-overtime win at the Denver Broncos, five for 60 yards in a 28-13 AFC championship win at the New England Patriots and just two for 20 yards in beating the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 in the Super Bowl.
A personal foul call on linebacker Paul Kruger led to the Pittsburgh Steelers ending the Ravens’ 15-game home winning streak as they got into field-goal position on the final drive to win 23-20 as time expired.
The biggest issue was the helmet-to-helmet hits on defenseless receivers by Pollard and Reed. A defenseless receiver is defined as a pass-catcher who has yet to become a runner and is still in the process of the catch.
It has been a tricky situation to say the least as Reed was fined more than $100,000 by the NFL for two hits. Pollard admitted that he has to lower the target from the chest area to the midsection so when he follows through on the hit the helmet contact is eliminated.
The Ravens have to re-program themselves in this area and make their postseason good behavior the rule and not the exception. A few 15-yard penalties can be the difference in being 10-6, which is how the Ravens finished this past regular season, and 8-8 and out of the playoffs.