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Penalties have been the difference in wins and losses

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens are at their worst record in franchise history, a misery filled 1-4. Yet, every loss so far has been by six points or less and a failed last minute drive by the defense or offense from being a win. The Ravens could easily be undefeated right now had the ball bounced a different way once or had the Ravens played cleaner football.

After five games, the Ravens are tied for sixth place in the NFL with 42 penalties. On their 42 penalties, they have a total of 368 yards lost because of it, which ranks fifth in the NFL. Per game, that boils down to 8.4 penalties and 73.6 yards. When you think about most teams starting from the 20 yard line, those penalties would give them the ball on the 6 yard line!

Even more amazingly is that the only win on the season comes against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Monday Night Football, in Pittsburgh, a season on the line.... 4 penalties for 30 yards. That alone should show that penalties have been the difference between wins and losses for the Ravens this season.

Just to do the math, that means that in four games, the Ravens have averaged nearly 10 penalties per game! Of those penalties, the Ravens average a loss of 84.5 yards per game! Again, if you take the typical starting point as the 20-yard line, that gives the opposing team a touchdown and then another five yards just in case.

Head coach John Harbaugh clearly knows that penalties are hurting his team and limiting his chances to get wins. When asked about it on Monday, he was direct with his answer and even pointed to a neutral zone penalty that might have ended the career of linebacker Jason Babin in Baltimore.

It’s not helpful. We’re not advocating penalties. It’s not something that we want to see. The ones that were most hurtful were the offsides, where we lined up in the neutral zone, twice in the same drive. That was unfathomable. But as far as coaching penalties, you look at them one penalty at a time and you try to coach through them. Some of them are the cost of doing business, some of them are tough, technique penalties, and some of them are inexcusable penalties. We look at all of them.

The Ravens are a young team, ranking in the 15th spot at the beginning of the season at an average age of 26.04 per player. Part of the penalties can be explained due to inexperience and players still trying to get used to the speed and game of football at a professional level. Some of the penalties can be caused by players with limited or diminishing skill sets being out on the field due to injury.

The Ravens face 15 players currently either out due to injured reserve, PUP list or on the injured report. Meaning that backups and practice squad members have to step up and take their place. Look at the running back position for instance as the Ravens have lost a rusher and have another on the injury report, so they picked up two udrafted free agents to help add some depth to the position. When you have young players and inexperienced players take the field, you are bound to get some yellow flags thrown around.

However, as a veteran coaching staff, the Ravens have to do a better job of getting their players to play within the confines of the game. Too often this season we have seen a stupid and unnecessary penalty come in the closing minutes of a contest that allows the opposing team to keep marching down the field or causes the Ravens offense to sit in a third and long that is difficult to get out of.

For the Ravens' sake, hopefully they can clean up their play for the remainder of the season and turn those close losses into close wins.