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Digesting Ravens' Loss & Discipline

..or the obvious lack of it. In the Baltimore Ravens last two losses (Green Bay, Pittsburgh), the team has "earned" over ten penalties totaling over 100 yards of free yardage to the opposition. Is it safe to say that the Ravens win when they don't commit a lot of penalties and lose when they do? If so, then isn't that the classic definition of a team with a major lack of discipline? While the Ravens do not lead the league in the total number of penalties committed, they do lead in penalty yardage received Why is this, you ask? Obviously, while other teams may have built up those false starts and holding penalties, the Ravens are well known all around the referee circles as the leading pass interference penalties, all down field for huge chunks of yardage handed to the opposition.

Where does the responsibility lie in dealing with this issue that has plagued the team over two head coaches and frustrated the fans for so many years?

When Brian Billick was head coach, the problem was noticeable and never seemed to be dealt with. Once he was fired and John Harbaugh hired, it seemed that these issues would be resolved as he gave out a higher standard of expectations as evidenced by not taking any stuff from a certain cornerback that lots of Ravens fans think should have been re-signed to the team last week. However, that not only hasn't happened, it seems to have even deteriorated into something a lot more obvious and worse as the season and his tenure has progressed.

The combination of the team's conservative and bland playcalling and the lack of ability to control emotions and hold back from making the stupid penalties at such inopportune times makes one wonder if the leadership of the team is legitimately in question. What goes on behind closed doors is something we can only speculate about How bad Harbaugh tears into the team and individual players will never been seen or heard about by anyone not employed by the Ravens. However, when you see the same thing happen over and over, many times by the same player(s), you just have to wonder if the message is getting through and is the respect for leadership even there?

Mind you, we haven't even gotten to the playcalling, the lack of the killer instinct, the seemingly desire to play for the tie rather than go for the jugular with the big play. The trend of clamming up offensively more whenever the game is on the line or even throughout the whole game against the better teams is another issue for another time.

This offense was once feared and solid. They made the plays legitimately and even though the penalties were there, they were not as bad and were covered by the consistent defensive dominance. Now, the defense is far from feared and they cannot cover up their mistakes with solid defense. An overaggressive defense usually makes the plays and at times is a bit too overaggressive, which can result in penalties. However, a defense that has to commit penalties and hope it is not flagged while doing so and then cannot overcome its mistakes is just a trainwreck waiting to happen.

In the easy games, there is no real reason to be that overaggressive in order to win and besides, we can count on the opposition to screw up enough to cover up our issues. However, in the tougher game the feeling is that unless we play so aggressive and risk these penalties on both sides of the ball, we seem to believe that we cannot win straight up against those good, playoff caliber teams. That is what disturbs me so much and has frustrated fans all season long.

The same players, over and over again, commit these fouls, yet continue to be in the lineup when the game is on the line and then just do it again. The response from the team is that there is no one else and I, for one, am just not willing to continue buying that response. At some point, it seems painfully obvious that anyone else can make those penalties and perhaps anyone else will learn how to make the play, not the foul. Yesterday, I was actually hoping to see Corey Ivy in there at DB in Frank Walker's place as everyone knew what would happen and you can be sure that Ben Roethlisberger was throwing at him with the game on the line!

The Ravens have an excellent chance of still making the playoffs even though we know they won't go far once they get there. This is far from a contending team in its present form and if they think the Oakland Raiders will just lay down for them, then they will find themselves sitting at home watching the other teams, including, gasp, possibly the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs.