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Ravens Fall Back To Earth With Thud

With a resounding thud, the high-flying Baltimore Ravens were given a hard slap across the face and returned to the reality of the National Football League's mantra, "on any given Sunday..." After an over-whelming week one 35-7 thrashing of the Pittsburgh Steelers had many Ravens fans thinking about making Super Bowl reservations, the team must have thought the Tennessee Titans would cower in the face of the approaching Ravens. Instead, they re-grouped from their own poor showing in their 16-14 week one loss at the Jacksonville Jaguars and put a 26-13 old-fashioned whooping on the Ravens in front of their hometown fans.

The abysmal performance by Baltimore looked a lot more like the offensively-challenged team of 2010 than the new, re-vamped, dangerous offense that moved the ball with ease in the air and on the ground against the vaunted Steelers defense last week. Against the Titans, the rushing game could only muster 43 yards on the ground by RB Ray Rice and just under 200 passing yards by QB Joe Flacco on a 15 for 32 performance, with two interceptions and an embarrassing 51.2 QB Rating.

With virtually no previous game-time experience last week, left tackle Bryant McKinnie played great in protecting Flacco's blind side against LB James Harrison and the Steelers. Sunday, he seemed slow and got beaten more than a few times. Right tackle Michael Oher was back to his old ways, getting called for two false-start penalties, backing up the offense in critical situations.

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens opportunistic defense that forced a franchise record seven turnovers last week got a single interception and let Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck rip them apart for over 350 passing yards, including 16 completions to his wide receivers versus only five for Baltimore's Flacco. Rolling up well over 400 yards of total offense on the Ravens, it made one wonder what happened last week to both the Ravens as well as the Titans, as neither team looked as good nor as bad in yesterday's game.

Proving that every game in the NFL is a tough one to win, especially on the road, the Ravens will need to re-group and figure out what went wrong real quick, as they remain on the road next week at the St. Louis Rams. The Rams will be coming off a short week due to playing tonight on Monday Night Football at the New York Giants. While that should be construed as an advantage for Baltimore, the Rams will be the home team and play in a dome, where the Ravens are just not as used to as St. Louis obviously is.

Hopefully, this loss will serve as a wake-up call to Baltimore, who now know their fearsome defense is not as intimidating as it appears. If the Titans could pick up Matt Hasselbeck off of the Seattle Seahawks scrap-heap, then young Rams QB Sam Bradford should get all the more respect for what was a great rookie season in 2010. Bradford could easily repeat Hasselbeck's performance unless the Ravens impose more of a pass rush that did not allow them to sack the Tennessee QB even once on Sunday. Regardless of the state of the Ravens injuries in their secondary, the lack of a pass rush won't change anything even if Baltimore cornerbacks were all healthy.

Even safety Ed Reed was soundly beaten due to all the time Hasselbeck had to find an open receiver. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is a solid tackler against the run, but is frequently targeted by opposing quarterbacks in pass coverage. Domonique Foxworth always seems to be at least a step behind his man and even Cary Williams had a tough time marking Titans best WR Kenny Britt. It wouldn't have mattered if rookie Jimmy Smith was healthy, much less veteran Chris Carr, because when any NFL QB has that much time to go through all of his reads, someone is going to be open, as the Titans receivers were all day long.

A full week of practice after a couple days of rest could make all the difference in the world to the Ravens and they could easily go into St. Louis and put a week one type of beatdown on the Rams. On the other hand, right now there is no reason to guarantee that they will not put out another dud of a performance like they did this week in Tennessee. Consistency, or the lack thereof, is the difference between a Super Bowl contender or Super Bowl pretender. After two weeks of the 2011 NFL regular season, which one of these two the Baltimore Ravens are currently remains unclear.