Joe Flacco: 'I gotta be better and we all have to be better'
RAVENS UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Ravens are back at .500, (3-3), which sounds about right for a team that shows flashes, but not consistency.
This is a huge week for the Ravens as they prepare for Sunday’s road game against their archrivals, the Steelers. The Ravens have a bye after Sunday’s game. They want to enter that break with a winning record, and deliver a huge blow to the 1-4 Steelers.
However, if the Ravens lose to Pittsburgh? As badly as they felt after Sunday’s loss to Green Bay, the Ravens will feel even worse if they enter the bye with a losing record, riding a two-game losing streak.
Here is the good and the bad facing the Ravens, as they start getting ready for Pittsburgh.
1. The Ravens’ pass rush.
They have more sacks (22) than any team in the NFL except the Chiefs (31). Even with Terrell Suggs (seven sack) held without a sack against the Packers, the Ravens got two sacks from Elvis Dumervil, and one from Arthur Jones. That is the beauty of the Ravens’ pass rush. They have a multitude of players who can pressure the quarterback. That is a key defensive ingredient that the Ravens should be able to count on all season.
2. Red zone defense over their last five games, the Ravens have only surrendered five touchdowns. The defense has stiffened as offenses have moved closer to the end zone. That is a carryover from last season. Green Bay’s lone touchdown Sunday came on a big play, a 64-yard touchdown strike from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson. But the Packers were 0 for 4 getting touchdowns on their trips inside the 20.
3. Finishing kick: The Ravens have outscored their opponents, 53-27, in the fourth quarter. That speaks to the Ravens’ conditioning, and their ability to persevere through adversity. The Ravens have gutted out plenty of games during the John Harbaugh era. This year’s team may have that trait as well, but again, they have to play better offensively for their resiliency to pay off.
1. The offensive line.
This group is getting plenty of heat, and deservedly so. In the running game, they are not created enough holes. In pass protection, they have allowed too many holes. The Packers had five sacks Sunday, led by linebacker A .J. Hawk (three sacks), who did a terrific impersonation of injured teammate Clay Matthews. On one sack, Hawk cut right between center Gino Gradkowski and guard Marshal Yanda. New left tackle Eugene Monroe was also beaten for a strip sack that led to a Joe Flacco fumble and a Packers field goal. The entire offensive line has not played up to its potential, which means the problems may not be easily fixed. Gradkowski beat out A. Q. Shipley for the starting job at center, so the coaching staff thinks Gradkowski is the better player. Monroe has already replaced Bryant McKinnie. If there are no more lineup changes, maybe run game coordinator Juan Castillo and the staff will adjust blocking schemes, and find a small package of run plays that work effectively. But with Ray Rice averaging a paltry 2.8 yards per carry, the Ravens’ lack of a running game is their most serious issue.
2. Sluggish offensive starts.
The Ravens have gone five straight first quarters without scoring a touchdown. Twice this season, they have been shutout in the first half. Expect Flacco and offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to have plenty of discussion about what can be done with the game plan to jumpstart the offense sooner. If the Ravens keep playing from behind, they are asking for more trouble.
The Ravens have been called for 40 penalties, tied for 14th most in the 32-team NFL. However, the Ravens are not playing well enough to overcome penalties. The Ravens had four false start penalties on Sunday. If they do not reduce the penalties and the sacks, their offense is not good enough to overcome long-yardage situations.