For weeks, the absence of Brandon Williams from the Ravens starting lineup has been used as an excuse for the defense being shredded by opposing running backs. The climax of the struggles came last week against the Chicago Bears, as Jordan Howard led the Bears to 231 rushing yards as a team. Against the Vikings, Williams made his long awaited return.
The Ravens were gashed by the run again.
The Ravens allowed 169 rushing yards to the Vikings, including 113 on 18 carries to Latavius Murray. This is the third time in the last four games that the Ravens have a allowed 100 yards to a single ball carrier (Le’Veon Bell in Week 4, Jordan Howard in Week 6 and Murray this week).
What today’s game proved is that the problem was not the lack of Brandon Williams in the middle of the defensive line.
If Williams’ return didn’t solve the problem, then what is the common denominator?
The anemic, injured and inept offense.
The Ravens offense has struggled all season, but today it hit a new low. The Ravens started the game without Breshad Permian and Jeremy Maclin on the field, putting a lot of pressure on Mike Wallace to produce.
However, on the Ravens second drive of the game, Wallace was knocked out of the game on the Ravens second possession of the game, leaving the team with just three healthy receivers: Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro and Griff Whalen. Clearly, not a formula for success.
The Ravens totaled 208 yards, including a 68 yard garbage time touchdown drive. 144 yards came via the pass, and the remaining 64 were rushing yards. The Ravens were 6-16 on third down. They only reached the red zone one time. It was behind solely Justin Tucker’s leg that the Ravens stayed in the game before the Vikings pulled away with the Murray touchdown.
Sure, it’s easy to blame this awful display on the depleted receiving group that the Ravens had, but similar themes continued into this game that have been case even with a healthy group of receivers.
In every game that the Ravens have lost this year, the offense has been abysmal. Every loss has had a combination of bad protection, inept play calling and a complete lack of productivity from the majority of the players on offense. This was the case with or without Maclin, Perriman and Wallace.
The offensive line was, at best, bad. The Ravens allowed five sacks and six QB hits. In addition, the Vikings had 11 tackles for loss. Flacco constantly had pressure in his face, and it limited what he was able to do. The hits he took surely didn’t make anything easier. The Ravens were unable to run the ball against the Vikings front, and it led to many third and long plays.
The play calling in this game was awful yet again. In fact, it was insane. As ESPN’s Taylor Twellman’s said in his rant on U.S. soccer, “The definition of insanity is doing the exact same thing, knowing the result.”
No line can more perfectly describe the Ravens offense. Every week, Marty Monrhinweg has the same scheme, and every week it doesn't work. However, he refuses to make a change. The check downs and dumps to the flat are not working, and they are not a mean to produce a successful offense. The Ravens through screen passes to tight ends multiple times on third and long.
Really? You expect a tight end to catch a screen, and then run eight to nine yards up field just to get to the first down marker? That’s insane.
The play calling yet again gave no regard to clock management. At the end of the first half, the Ravens through the ball short over the middle, and then ran it, with no timeouts and seven seconds to play. Suddenly, after a run no less, the Ravens decided they needed to hurry up and rush to the line for a spike. The clock ran out before the Ravens could do so, and the offense came up empty, again.
Whether or not the Ravens have a healthy lineup, they aren’t able to do anything. Sure, today was worse than usual, but the Ravens had the same problems today that they have had with everyone healthy.
Brandon Williams helped in spurts, but his return is not going to save the season. If the Ravens can’t see what the real problems are on this team, then it’s fair to quote Twellman one more time, “What are we doing?”