Okay, I know I stole this great quote from former Cardinal Coach Dennis Green, but it seems to fit the Ravens really well this season. What we've seen from this team during the current five game losing streak has been painfully obvious from the first game. While I normally leave the statistics for the mainstream writers, I heard that the Ravens have scored only 13 points in the first quarter this season. This means the team has most likely been playing catch up almost every game. The offensive shortcomings even showed through during the team victories, as the bulk of the scoring was achieved via field goals (five vs. St. Louis, four vs. Cardinals, three vs. SF) or turnovers. Unfortunately, the bulk of the turnovers forced by the Ravens have come during their four victories, which is a good indication as to one of the main reasons for their current streak.
Since New England has more than doubled the Ravens scoring output and has surrendered almost 60 less points, Monday night's game looks like an easy victory for the unbeaten Patriots. And it certainly should be, even with the Eagles well-executed gameplan this past Sunday night in their 31-28 loss, despite being 24 point underdogs. The Ravens are 20.5 point 'dogs at home on national TV, which has been their Achilles Heel since late 2005. All Baltimore fans cringe when they see a national TV game on the schedule, as this team seems to save their worst for the prime time stage.
There are so many things that could be pointed at for the reason the team has failed on both sides of the ball. The main issue has been the overwhelming amount of injuries at key skill positions. During the Ravens 13-3 2006 season, they avoided any significant injuries. This year, the entire offensive line has been decimated, Todd Heap has spent more time on the sideline than in the huddle, and the defensive line has sorely missed the QB pressure and sacks from the injured Trevor Pryce and lost to free agency Adalius Thomas. (On a side note- why is it that Thomas has been virtually invisible on the Patriots defense, other than his interception return for a TD against the Chargers way back at the beginning of the season?)
As I stated in an earlier posting, the key to victory and the reason for losing begins in the trenches. If you protect your QB, and your defensive front four puts pressure on the opposing team's QB, you have the basis for victory. If not, it really doesn't matter if the opposing signal caller is Tom Brady or even Trent Edwards. Given enough time, any NFL quarterback will pick your defensive secondary apart. Especially if it is the Ravens secondary, where both starting cornerbacks have been ill or injured and their backups have been less than supportive filling in.
The play calling has been horrendous, especially in critical situations, where the next call can make or break the game. Every time, it seems Billick makes the wrong call, which either sets the table for the opposing team to win, or pulls the tablecloth right out from any opportunity the Ravens did have to pull out a victory.
These ingredients have proved the perfect recipe on how to turn a Division Winner into a Division Basement Dweller. Nothing should change between now and the end of the season, baring a total unforeseen turnaround. If it does, I'll be the first to bow down and chant to the leader. However, Dennis Green had it right: "They were who we thought they were!!!"