Well, here we are again. The Ravens played down to an inferior opponent. We do this every year. The pattern is easy to identify. We play a great game at home and then lay an egg on the road the following week. This is not what well couched teams do. Well coached teams win when they are the better team.
How long are we going to suffer through the Juan Castillo experiment? I fear it is going to be several more weeks. We suffered through Cam Cameron for almost two years longer than we should have. I appreciate John’s loyalty to his friends but this is ridiculous. After we brought McKinnie back at left tackle and moved to our current O-line configuration, we dominated the best teams in the NFL. Now, our line is playing so bad that we ran two times in a half against the second worse run defense in the league.
I always look forward to getting to and beyond week four. This is when the rust is gone and you are able to see where you are as a team. The Ravens look abysmal. After Pitta went down, we all knew that we were going to struggle a bit in the passing game. I wasn’t worried because with Rice and Pierce we have one of the best running back tandems in the league. We would be able to lean on the run game while we worked in the new vets and the young guys. The decision to change the blocking scheme has absolutely hamstrung this team.
So, we can’t run the ball. Fine. What have we been doing to improve the passing game? The same thing that hasn’t been working the entire season. Dickson’s hands are made of stone yet we continue to send him out. We keep forcing the ball to Dallas Clark like he’s a year three guy. Is it that hard to dial up a quick slant or two when your number one receiver is super-fast and you’re having issues with protection? Have we even tried a screen pass this year? Not to worry, guys are coming back from injury.
It was nice to get Deonte Thompson out there. He had a couple of nice catches before he got hurt. Was anyone else puzzled by the fact that he picked up returns the week after Tandon Doss shined so bright in the return game? Doss has never been a great WR. Why do you take away the good part of his game and send him back to a role where he struggles? To crush his spirit? Deonte did well with return duties but, again, we made a move to fix something that wasn’t broken.
My biggest problem with our offensive strategy so far this year is that we have not tried to give guys that are currently active on the roster a chance to contribute. The tight end position and middle stuff in general has been really bad. Billy Bajema has rarely been given a chance as a receiver. The handful of times we have thrown his way he has made the catch. He deserves a chance. I’m becoming a broken record on the next guy – Juice. He’s been active every week but I have yet to see him play a snap on offense. He has great hands and should get a chance. Billy and Kyle could not possibly do worse than Ed Dickson.
Personnel decisions aside, game management has been atrocious and play calls have been suspect. At the end of the first half, down by 13 we had three time outs. Buffalo failed on third down and there was 1:50 on the clock. They held on the fourth down attempt and burned the clock down to 1:17. After the punt – 1:10. Torrey makes a big play – 1:02. Incomplete pass - :57. The next two plays were completed over the middle. We were at :50 and :32 respectively after the two completions, yet we let the clock bleed down to :03 before calling our FIRST time out. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?
Fourth Quarter – 3rd and five inside the ten yard line. Torrey and Marlon are split wide. Dallas Clark has obviously not gotten the play and is looking back a Joe for some kind of direction. He turns to the sideline and maybe gets the correct route but who knows. What do we do? Let the play run and try to hit our 5’8" running back across the back of the end zone (who is doubled) while our tall receivers had a good chance of converting the first down. Execution was poor by Joe but the play should have never been run.
You can say what you want about the numbers that our defense gave up but we held that team to three points in the second half. We continue to make the same errors repeatedly. Put the same guys out there to make the same bad plays. Keep the same broken blocking scheme in place that has been the issue since week one.
I think one of my biggest problems with Harbs is his inability to take responsibility and to hold players accountable. Sure he said, after the game, that it fell on him but it fell on him after similar performances EVERY YEAR SINCE HE TOOK OVER. Maybe try to approach these games a little different. When you go on the road, your guys need to be breathing fire right away. You can’t allow a proud fanbase like Buffalo to stay in this game.
Now we come to the final nail in the coffin. The Suggs roughing call. Did he rip off Manuel’s helmet? No. Was it a tickey-tack call? Yes. Was there any need for Suggs to do anything but touch the QB? NO. Harbs comes out and defends the play like we got wronged in some way. It was absolutely un-necessary roughness and a kind of a stupid play by Suggs. "I’m just disappointed Terrell wasn’t able to cause a fumble there," Harbaugh said. "He definitely did the right thing in that situation." They had done the same thing since first down. They were resigned to playing for the punt. We need to play smarter than that and that should be the point in hindsight.
Let’s face it. Webb going down sealed this game. My problem is that we allowed it to. Our D was able to recover and play well in the second half. Rather than going back to a workable run blocking scheme we chose to abandon the run and rely on the new system’s sub-optimal pass protection. No play action, no big strikes down the field. Period. We don’t have the talent in the receiving corps to just throw it on every play. Harbs does not have to fire Castillo, he just needs to end this experiment. NOW!