Where do we start? Perhaps this story might be a lot shorter if we just talk about what went right. The Baltimore Ravens Lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 17-14 yesterday and there were so many things that went wrong that my fingers might give out before we list everything.
So let's just summarize and break it down by offense and defense. Offensively, the Ravens could only muster 257 total yards, easily their lowest output of the 2009 season. Joe Flacco threw for 186 of those yards but it was another Red Zone interception on a poorly thrown ball off of a bad decision that cost the Ravens points for the second straight week. Without the amazing run after the short catch by Ray Rice, the offense would have been shut out by the Bengals surprising defense. After throwing what seemed too much last week in the loss to the New England Patriots, the Ravens made so many questionable choices to run at inopportune times in key situations, most notably a three and out in the third quarter when they ran the ball three straight times including a third and four. The subsequent series gave the Bengals their first score on a long Cedric Benson run. The playcalling was boring, the execution inefficient, and the field was reduced to sideline passes and dump offs, resulting in lost opportunities.
Where was Derrick Mason all day? Until the last drive, where was the over the middle throw to Kelley Washington? Was Willis McGahee playing at all? What about L.J. Smith? So many key contributors from our three wins were absent either physically or spiritually from yesterday's gameplan. How many times did it seem like both Brian Billick and Matt Cavanaugh were calling the plays? I heard a unnamed newspaper columnist say after the Patriots loss that our offense has to take what the defense gives it. I totally disagree with this as good offenses force the defense to compensate, not the other way around. Perhaps this team has such a long history of a weak offense that even they believe that they can't determine what the defense is doing and it must stay the other way around, which is never what you hear from the better offenses in the league. I guess we're still just not up there with them despite our early success this season.
Defensively, you can say that we held them to ten points for the first 59+ minutes of the game and even I predicted they would only score ten points yesterday. Of course, all Ravens fans would have walked away real happy if that was all the Bengals scored. However, when the opposition can roll 80 yards for the game winning score with seconds left in the game on what is supposed to be an opportunistic defense, as it was for one play in the first half, then nothiong else needs to be said.
Blame the refs, the poor penalties, the offensive shortcomings, this team had the lead and where they wanted the Bengals with two minutes left in the game. Our cornerbacks couldn't cover a sleeping homeless guy with a blanket. At the same time, the lack of a pass rush makes it so difficult to cover a guy for that long. Notice that a lot of Carson Palmer's completions came after he had a long time to sit back and wait for his guys to get open for the catch. Until this team (and it's fans) stops whining about the refs and stop causing so many inopportune penalties, the league will continue to sit and wait for us to screw up so they can throw the flag. That is not targeting us in a league conspiracy, it's just knowing that this team is prone to committing penalties and are among the league leaders year after year.
Our cornerbacks remain a huge issue this year as we cannot match up much less cover the opponents receivers. The key mismatches are seeming to come on the nickel and dime packages as the opponents' #3 receivers are burning us over and over. We saw this yesterday when third option Andre' Caldwell caught the game winner with, who else, Chris Carr lying on the ground watching his cross the goal line. Carr has not played anywhere near the guy we thought he would be when we signed him as a free agent in the off season, as a DB or in the return game.
Face it, the days of the Ravens dominating defense appear over. While we still have some great players, this team is not going to win games by themselves and other than the occasional amazing play, do not expect us to shut down the better teams and win the close games unless the offense picks up the slack. That certainly did not happen yesterday and you have to give partial credit to the Cincinnati Bengals who proved you can win all your games in the last seconds as long as you win,which is why they sit at 4-1 and atop the AFC Norht, while we are in what Tom Petty sings in his hit "Free Fallin'" and are now headed for Minnesota and a real tough game against an undefeated Vikings team next Sunday.