The result was pretty much expected and basically what I had predicted (30-13). The Seattle Seahawks totally dominated the Baltimore Ravens and are on their way to the playoffs as the third seed after winning 27-6 yesterday. The Seahawks looked like a team fine tuning itself to be a dangerous challenge to both Dallas and Green Bay, while the Ravens once again looked ill-prepared, confused, lackluster and every other synonym you can think of.
I understand that the injuries have decimated this team and yesterday only added to the pain. Losing Willis McGahee early on and not having Ray Lewis patroling the middle certainly didn't help. However, you still expect the others to play their best and with a typical rookie's enthusiasm, but I just didn't see it. This team's effort just confirms the title it earned last week as the NFL's worst team.
Even with the expected defeat, I still have the same frustration I've been filled with all season, and I still put most of the responsibility on the head coach. While I have to admit the Ravens were provided with what seemed to be poor field position all day long, I still saw the same plain vanilla offense that has been present since day one of the season. The gameplan and playcalling has not changed one iota (did I spell that right?). Don't give me that stuff about having to dummy-down the playbook for the rookie QB, as I'm sure Billick's playbook is pretty easy to digest (the opposition picks it up in just a quarter or so!). You could have easily pulled out Troy Smith and plugged in either Kyle Boller or Steve McNair (or Cullen Finnerty for that matter!) and the result wouldn't have been any different.
You would have thought that they would have taken better advantage of Smith's mobility yesterday with some roll outs, perhaps even a naked bootleg or gasp, a trick play (what have you got to lose at this point?). Trust me, when you saw Smith scrambling yesterday, it wasn't planned, as he was running for his life. The offensive line, including Jon Ogden, provided virtually no time for Smith to set up and find his receivers. While they seemed to run block more effectively, it hurt to lose McGahee with broken ribs early on in the game. At the same time, why was this team still sticking with the run late in the fourth quarter down by three touchdowns!? While I realize that the pass protection didn't allow Smith the time to set up, he did throw a nice TD pass late in the game to keep it from being a shutout (although I did have Seattle as my fantasy team defense!). However, I would have liked to see them stretch the field more earlier in the game. Smith could have rolled out and heaved it down the field for the same reasons I thought they could have tried a trick play.
Running the ball without McGahee was a waste of time, as all season his backups have proven ineffective. Musa Smith looked decent yesterday, but has been unimpressive all season long. Mike Anderson made a surprise appearance in the backfield, but fumbled, perhaps because he's barely had a chance to see what pigskin feels like all season. And the there's Le'Ron McClain. I can't understand what Billick and his coaches see in McClain. Where's the other fullback, Justin Green? McClain's blocking hasn't impressed me and in 7 carries, he's gained 16 yards, caught eight passes for 49 yards and fumbled twice. Yet, he gets up and dances like he's Ray Lewis when he scored his only touchdown this season late in the loss to San Diego a month ago.
Speaking of fumbles, the Ravens lost their 25th fumble of the season, easily tops in the league. In addition, their -19 turnover ratio is last in the NFL this season. Compared with last year's +17, which led the league, it represents the 2nd biggest swing in league history (god help whoever's #1)!
While the coaches aren't on the field running, catching, blocking, throwing and tackling, they are the ones charged with teaching, preparing and planning for the game, and herein the responsibility must reside. Billick seemed frustrated, angry and short-fused on the sidelines and I'm sure the refs certainly note this and act accordingly. The playcalling continues to be so poor and predictable that even the players must be frustrated (see Troy Smith last week with the Ravens on the six inch line with 12 seconds left in regulation). Yesterday, Billick chose to punt on a fourth and two from the Seattle 40 yard line late in the game down 21-0. I just don't get it. What are you looking to do - win the field position battle? You certainly don't get points for that! Of course Bill Koch punted it into the end zone (as he's done all season long in similar situations), giving the Seahawks the ball on the 20 yard line - great play!
The defense was in a bad positon from the beginning without both of its starting corners, facing a team that has turned it's offense from a run-first to a pass-happy machine. However, the replacements still look like they haven't made any progress since they began appearing earlier this season. Might I recommend the IT Technical School as an alternative after the season is over? The pass rush on Matt Hasselback was non-existent, as he had all day to sit in the pocket and pick apart the secondary. Shaun Alexander returned to past year's form as he broke through the line for huge gains.
Finally, my big question for the defense is that after the great years many individuals had last season, where have the following players gone?
Terrell Suggs (2007: 5 sacks, 2006: 9.5 sacks)
Bart Scott (2007: 1 sack, 0 int., 2006: 9.5 sacks, 2 int.)
Dawan Landry (2007: 1 sack, 0 int., 2006: 3 sacks, 5 int.)
They all had career years last season and Suggs is a free agent after this year and is reportedly looking for "Dwight Freeney" money! Yeah, what have you guys done for me lately?
NOTE: Tomorrow we'll open the Christmas presents that I'll be giving to the Ravens players, management. and fans. Can you say, "lump of coal?"