Brand New Season, Same Old Ravens

Did you get the license plate number of the truck that just ran over us?

For some reason, I don't feel nearly as bad after this game as I did the previous two. I guess that's because I expected us to win those games and we should have and could have. This game was over in the middle of the first quarter. Down 14-0 against a passing team, and with us a running team, I told everyone watching with me that it was 'game over' at that point. No way we would be able to generate the drives to not only score more than that, but to hold the Colts scoreless for the next three and a half quarters. Good night, Irene.

This game perhaps was a wake up call for a lot of people, none more important than the coaching staff of the Baltimore Ravens. John Harbaugh really needs to dig deep and see that he is in way over his head. Not only did he throw a Challenge Flag on a play that was obviously the right call, he called our final timeout with 2:02 left in the fourth quarter, saving us a huge two seconds. Of course, had he not called it then, perhaps we would have had time to run one or two more plays at the end of the game that might have resulted in a moral boosting TD. But nope, not happening, John. I guess the learning curve of a rookie QB and a rookie coach is going to make this a long season, eh? Question, John, when Troy Smith takes over for Joe Flacco, who's taking over for you?

Earlier this week, Harbaugh stated that Flacco was the starter for the rest of the season. To me, that is nothing more than a vote of confidence for his rookie quarterback. If he tanks like he did yesterday over the course of the next couple of games, then he will have no choice but to go to Troy Smith when he is healthy. That will only make Harbaugh look like a ........rookie coach one more time. Flacco was never expected to be ready to be the starter right out of the gate, and despite some early season success, which was more based on the ineptness of the teams we beat than the "readiness" of the QB, he has proven his pundits correct. He just is not ready for the speed and intracasies (did I spell that right?) of the pro game.

What the heck has happened to the playcalling? The first couple of games, I really liked the gameplans but the past three, all losses, we have looked conservative and not seemed to play to our strengths. There has been zero plays out of the ordinary and they are so predictable you can only imagine what is going on in the opponents defensive huddle if we fans at home can call out the plays before the team gets to the line of scrimmage. When you have a team that is offensively challenged and need every bit of offensive help you can get, trying a trick play on a regular basis (once a game at least) is not such a stretch of the imagination. Look at the Dolphins, they're probably doing something off the beaten track a few times per game and they can and have for the Dolphins, been game changers. As I said in a previous post, are you getting nervous about the Dolphins gameplan and success this year and the coincidence that Cam Cameron is no longer there? Hmmmm.

Speaking of the Dolphins, while we might have looked at this game on the schedule a few weeks ago as a road win for us, it now looms as another embarassment to go with last season's terrible showing when we became their lone victory of 2007. If they've already defeated the two teams that played in last year's AFC Championship Game, and almost made it three in a row putting up 28 points yesterday in their last second loss in Houston, what makes you think we can waltz into Miami and come out with a victory? I certainly expect the Dolphins to be favored and am very worried I will be mocked and laughed out of the stadium when I make my first career Ravens road trip next Sunday (other than going to SB35 in Tampa).

While I'd prefer not to regurgitate yesterday's beatdown by the Colts, it does show that the Ravens defense is an excellent one - against the run. Teams will be better off abandoning that aspect of the game and just throw the ball 40 times a game against us. Big deal if we pick a couple, as long as the defense doesn't score, our opponents know that a couple of TD's will put the game away for them. The Ravens offense is either poorly ran or we just do not have the players to make an NFL type of offense. We are the only team in the NFL that rarely, if ever, throw to our receivers running towards the end zone. Rather, we throw short to medium passes to receivers either with their back to the end zone or running to the sidelines. I just don't get that! Why, Cameron, why? Please don't tell me that it makes it easier for Flaco to hit his receivers. If he can't hit a receiver running an actual crossing or deep pattern, then what is he doing in there other than keeping the seat warm for Troy Smith!?  Every other team throws longer passes, or even deep bombs, even against the best pass defense in the league (Ravens)! If they can against us, then why can't we against them?

The Ravens running game never materialized against the Colts, who were ranked among the league's worst defenders of the run. Why in the world did we abandon our go-to plays of sending Le'Ron McClain up the middle behind Lorenzo Neal and dominate the ground game? Instead we sent McClain off tackle on counters, which fed right into the Colts' strenght, which is team speed. We sent Willis McGahee on end runs, which never work against a smaller, fast defense and they didn't yesterday. We tried to throw screen passes, which the Colts either ran down, or intercepted on one of the worst throws I've ever seen. Cameron seemed to try to outthink the Colts, who expected us to run the ball down their throats (gee, what a great, novel idea!?) and instead threw the ball way too often and put us in bad down/distance situations that allowed them to rush the QB knowing he was going to throw.

All in all, the strange thing is that we're 2-3 and have a similar record of a lot of teams who are not so unhappy to be 2-3. In fact, if you were told that we'd be 2-3 at this point before the season began, you probably wouldn't have been so discombobulated (is that actually even a word?). What has changed to make us Ravens' fans so upset so early in the season.? To me, perhaps as a fan it was the false hope we got from the first two games, which combined with the early season shakiness of the Steelers, gave us hope that maybe, just maybe, we can pull this off and make the playoffs in a relatively weak division.

Now we're looking at four of the next five on the road and it doesn't get any easier next week. While the Dolphins may not be the Colts, we are no longer looking at this game as an easy win. None of the games will be an easy victory for this offensively challenged Ravens' team. A road victory over a resurgent Dolphins team would go a long way to providing hope for the future, much less for the remainder of the season.

Get well soon, Troy Smith.

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