Oct 9, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) on the sideline during the game against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
There are plenty of reasons for the Ravens struggles. The purple and black aren’t a good team:
The 2016 Baltimore Ravens are what they are. They are an middle of the road team. The 5-5 Ravens have had an up and down year. Their highest moments were deceptively comforting and their lowest lows have been incredibly telling. The purple and black have seen little offensive success this season. The defense is carrying a big burden. There is a reason the Ravens wins haven’t come against good teams. Against good teams the dam always breaks at some point. When the offense does nothing, one defensive slip can ruin the entire game.
There are certainly worse teams than the Ravens. Baltimore has talent all over the place. That is the reason they have frustrated Maryland sports fans so much. There is no excuse for the Ravens to be a bad team. The defense ranks in the top 10 in just about every significant statistic. The offense just has to be half way functional to get in the win column. An offense that has Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon should be better than this on the ground. An offense with Steve Smith Sr. and the explosive Mike Wallace should be doing more than this in the air.
The Ravens are struggling mostly because one third of their team isn’t doing their fair share of the work. That’s the simple answer. However sports writers are never content telling a long story short. Here are five reasons why the Ravens have five losses.
Nov 20, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) throws under pressure from Dallas Cowboys defensive end David Irving (95) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
1. Joe Flacco Is Struggling
The purple and black are not getting a good performance out of the most important position on the field. The franchise quarterback of the Ravens, Joe Flacco, is playing awful. In his ninth season Flacco is doing things worse than he did in his rookie season. It is clear that there is something wrong. Because the Ravens franchise is committed to Flacco for the long-term, we really need to find out if he is fixable. Flacco has thrown 10 touchdowns in ten games. He has nine interceptions 6.4 yards per passing attempt.
Joe has a healthy completion percentage but that’s misleading. Flacco is playing gun shy. He is not taking shots down the field, the shots he became known for. The veteran quarterback is either not seeing open receivers or he is not pulling the trigger when he does. It is really that simple. Another problem is that Flacco is throwing off his back foot. This impacts his accuracy and his delivery. The throw to Terrance West that hit the Cowboys turf was a great example of this. Flacco is failing at a very fundamental level.
Nobody has beat the drum in support of Flacco more than I have. He is one of the best things that ever happened to this franchise. Without him the Ravens would not have one Super Bowl XLVII. Right now, Flacco is playing some awful football. He is chucking the football as much as any quarterback in the NFL. The Ravens are asking him to carry the offense and he isn’t doing it.
Sep 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta (88) catches a pass over the defense of Cleveland Browns inside linebacker Chris Kirksey (58) during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Ravens won 25-20. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
2. The Offense Is Predictable:
Next Sunday, I want you to play a game from home. Try to predict the play call the Ravens will go with. More often than not, I bet you will be correct. This is because the Ravens offense is that predictable. If I can do it from my sofa, imagine what defensive coordinators can do from the sideline. Going into the game the opponent knows a few things about the Baltimore offense. They understand that the Ravens will be one dimensional (by choice). They understand Flacco crumbles against a pass rush and that the offensive line is a heavily penalized unit. Defensive coordinators also know that Steve Smith Sr. is the one player they have to take away.
This means that the Ravens see the same thing every week. Until the Ravens prove otherwise there is a clear blueprint to beating the Ravens. First you rattle Flacco. Secondly you play tight man coverage. If Flacco has no time, Flacco falls apart. The defense is not going to worry about the run game. The Ravens barely run the football. The defense isn’t worried about the deep passing attack. Mike Wallace is the only dependable deep threat the purple and black have and Flacco doesn’t throw the deep bomb efficiently anymore.
The Ravens offense hasn’t really changed that much since Marc Trestman was fired. Every week of the season the Ravens do half of the opposing defense’s work for them. It is insane to be this predictable.
Nov 6, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Terrance West (28) runs during the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
3. The Ravens Don’t Even Try To Run The Ball
Every time the Ravens abandon the ground game, they lose. It is really that simple. The Ravens ran the ball twice in the second half against the Cowboys, despite averaging over five yards per carry in the game. The offense did nothing. Against the Jets the Ravens had less than ten rushing yards, but to be fair I have never seen them run the ball less. The second things go south, the Ravens offense abandons the running game all together. It is one reason the Ravens are so predictable.
This exasperates every problem the Ravens have. The offensive line has a harder game because they have to drop back in pass protection constantly. The Ravens struggle to throw the football with any efficiency but it seems to be the Ravens solution to everything.
The Ravens cannot continue to have an unbalanced attack. Flacco needs a strong running game to be successful. The Ravens give up on their ground attack quicker than a kid gives up on spinach. If there is more than a little resistance the Ravens just stop running the football. They cannot survive with this lopsidedly pass oriented offense.
Sep 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens center Jeremy Zuttah (53) against the Cleveland Browns during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Ravens defeated the Browns 25-20. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
4. The Offensive Line Stinks:
I wish I had a better way of saying it, but the offensive line stinks. That is probably the nicest way I can say it, and it is so true. The Ravens offensive line hasn’t been good this season. Flacco has spent much of the season running for his life. The run game is inconsistent because of the run blocking. That still is not a reason to abandon the running game though.
Going from left to right the offensive line has questions. Alex Lewis will probably miss the rest of the regular season and he was probably the most impressive of the bunch. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley has had a mixed bag of results. The first three games he did a solid job and exceeded my low expectations for his rookie season. Then Stanley missed four games due to injury. Now it looks like he is getting worse, though he has had just one terrible game this season.
Marshall Yanda is the Ravens rock, he moved to left guard last week. It hasn’t been the best year for Yanda but he is still incredibly valuable. Jeremy Zuttah has been a real problem this year. In fact I think Yanda’s less impressive season is partially due to helping Zuttah. The Ravens have seen a handful of guards play this season to lukewarm results. Vlad Ducasse has been awful. John Urschel has not delivered in the little opportunity he has been given. Ryan Jensen clearly isn’t the answer. Rick Wagner has been inconsistent but is not a bad right tackle. The moral of the story is that it just isn’t good enough up front for the Ravens.
Nov 20, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett shakes hands with Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh after the game at AT&T Stadium. Dallas won 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
5. They Are Scoring Impaired
The purple and black are scoring impaired. They just are. The Ravens are 25th in points scored per game. Just under 20 points doesn’t win a ton of games in the NFL. The Ravens have 16 touchdowns in 10 games, which is not impressive. Justin Tucker is 23-23 kicking field goals, but the Ravens even manage to make setting up the best kicker in the NFL hard. This team is evidently allergic to scoring. Sam Koch has punted 55 times which is the third most punts in the league. The offense cannot stay on the field. The offense cannot score. Face the music, the Ravens offense is horrible.
I refuse to blame the defense at all. Has it been perfect? No. Has it been good enough? Absolutely, the defense has been good enough and then some. Baltimore ranks second in total defense, giving up just 295.1 yards per game. They rank first in rushing defense and seventh in passing defense. The defense ranks fifth in points allowed with 18.7 per game. The Ravens offense is putting up an average of 19.9 points per game. The defense is giving up less than 19 points per game. This means that if the Ravens offense has a bad day (worse than usual) the defense is under an impossible level of pressure.
The Ravens are a frustrating team. Every high moment is followed by a low. Every time you think something is going to click, that feeling doesn’t last long. The short version of the story is that the Ravens offense is sinking the ship. I gave you the long version, to reinforce the unavoidable truth. The Ravens have been a middle of the road team because they can’t do much on one side of the ball.