If the Baltimore Ravens couldn't hold leads late in the games against the past two teams, both who have had offensive issues, how in the world do they expect to hold one, much less even get one, when they visit the Indianapolis Colts this weekend? The Ravens had a ten point lead into the second half against the Steelers two weeks ago, and were all over the back of QB Ben Roethlisberger, who had a suspect offensive line and injured throwing shoulder and hand. Yet, they let them back into the game and couldn't get close to him late in the game and into the overtime period when he patiently drove them down the field for the game winning field goal. Last week, they had Tennessee on the ropes with a seven point lead and were driving for a field goal that might have put the game out of reach or at the very least sent it to OT, but couldn't get the last 5-10 yards to get into field goal range. The Ravens couldn't sack Titans QB Kerry Collins even once and gave him too much time to get his act together and improve on his horrible first half by carving up the Ravens defense with short, accurate underneath passes that underscored our defense's glaring weakness.
If we are having obvious problems getting to the QB (zero sacks last six quarters), any QB will be able to pick us apart regardless if C-Mac and Ed Reed are healthy and looking for the interception. Our linebackers are aces against the run, but cannot seem to cover the tight ends and RB's out of the backfield running those short underneath crossing patterns. Opponents wait to see which LB is rushing the passer and then flood that side of the zone with the underneath routes. Someone is bound to be open and our LB's just can't catch them. Collins did that to perfection on those final two drives and virtually ignored his wideouts once he realized what was available.
One can only imagine what the Colts' Peyton Manning will do if he sees this happening again Sunday afternoon. Tight end Dallas Clark and RB Joseph Addai figure to have field days against us (at least I have Addai on my fantasy team), as both can outrun any of our LB's in the open field. The only reason we have ever been able to play the Colts close is that our scheming and changing defense has been able to play a great chess match with Manning. If he is able to figure us out and win that battle, we have no chance of keeping up offensively.
Speaking of the offense, while it may be improving and has nowhere to go but up, we have relied way too heavily on the notion to get get us into field goal position and let placekicker Matt Stover put the vast majority of points on the board. However, Stover has been anything but automatic this season, as he has been below average so far, hitting only four of seven attempts, including none of three from beyond the forty yard line. Last week he missed a 45 yard attempt that would have given us that ten point lead I spoke about earlier. According to Rototimes, he is only 26 of 38 from 40+ yards since 2004, including only one 50+ yarder during that same stretch. Now I understand that Stover is one of the most valuable Ravens since they came to town and deserves to be in our Ring of Honor upon retirement, but right now it also appears that he deserves to be in the unemployment line. The combination of his inaccuracy and weak leg has hurt us on the obvious field goals, but also on his inability to pin the opponents back on kickoffs, as he consistently only kicks off to the 10 yard line and rarely gets touchbacks. At some point, hopefully sooner than later, the Ravens need to bring in younger, stronger legs to, at the very least, combine with Stover to hit the longer kicks as well as the gimme's, as most any other kicker in the league can seem to do, and take over the kickoff duties asap.
So therein lies my big concern. If we have problems stopping the pass, and cannot put points on the scoreboard through Matt Stover, then the rest of our team's strong points may not matter, as the Colts will put more than enough points on the board to make it way too hard for us to keep up with.
More to follow the rest of the week. Your thoughts?