The Baltimore Ravens had their biggest game of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas. However, they blew it in the final seconds of the game.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made a throw straight down the middle of the field to wide receiver Antonio Brown. Brown reached his arm across the plane to score a touchdown, with just :09 seconds left in the game.
The Ravens were down 31-27 and got the ball back. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco pushed the ball downfield, with his first pass hitting tight end Dennis Pitta. Pitta would get to the Ravens’ 41-yard line and Baltimore lined up for a play with just four seconds remaining in the game after a timeout. In a questionable call, Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called a “hook and ladder” play.
Flacco has one of the strongest arms in the NFL, but he made a throw across the middle that was picked off. Which leads into the biggest issue that the Ravens have had all season:
Mornhinweg has been one of the worst playcallers for the Ravens (not to say that he was worse than Marc Trestman, but he’s been pretty bad). The biggest knock against Mornhinweg has been the lack of aggressive play calls and the situational lapses that he has. For example, Morhinweg got into a meeting room spat with Flacco over how “conservative” the offense was, which took place earlier on in the month. Another example of Mornhinweg making horrible decisions is when he decided to throw the ball late during the matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, which led to an interception. The Ravens had the lead and were milking the clock, yet Mornhinweg decided to go for it.
Flacco also had the second-lowest yards per attempt stat of his career, sitting at a measly 6.5 yards per game. In addition, Baltimore leads the NFL in pass attempts, with 41.9 per game. Baltimore ranked 28th in rushing attempts per game, at 23.4 attempts per game. This is reeks off an offense that is very imbalanced.
It doesn’t end with the offensive blunders though.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has made his fair share of mistakes during this season as well. He called arguably the worst-designed play in Ravens’ history, when he allowed kicker Justin Tucker to line up left-footed on a fake field goal. Remember, Tucker is a right-footed kicker. Not to mention all of the awful attempts on fourth down throughout the course of the season.
Baltimore also ranked second in penalty yardage this season (1070) and sitting only behind the Oakland Raiders (1122). It just baffles me as to how the Ravens were going to succeed this season, with that many crushing penalties. To make matters worse, they didn’t have any game-breakers on offense or defense.
In addition, they had too much pressure up the middle due to the rotating offensive line. Marshal Yanda has done a commendable job this season after being switched from right guard to left guard because of shoulder injury. The same can’t really be said for center Jeremy Zuttah, who has been pushed into the backfield all season.
Yes there is a game to be played on New Years, but does it honestly matter?
It does. It matters because of guys like John Urschel, who will potentially be evaluated for a starting position at center next year. It matters for Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon, who want to show that Baltimore doesn’t need to draft another running back. It matters to Vladimir Ducasse, who could possibly be back on the team as the starting right tackle, with Rick Wagner entering free agency.
Things To Improve On
The secondary needs as much help as possible. Jimmy Smith is a very good cornerback when he is healthy, but he often isn’t. Tavon Young is a rookie who has taken his starting position and ran with it, but he’s better in the slot corner position. Having Smith opposite of him assists his game in a way that makes the Ravens defense great. Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb are solid at safety. Well, Weddle is very good. It doesn’t seem like the worst position to be in, in the world, but they don’t have any depth.
Once one starting defensive back gets hurt, the defense goes kaput. Things fall apart faster than an old car. This is why the Ravens must draft for depth at those positions. They also need to add a playmaker in the secondary. It would help so much to have a guy that can change games in a heartbeat for Baltimore. This team hasn’t had anyone in the secondary like that since safety Ed Reed was there.
Baltimore attempted to correct things on offense this season by signing Mike Wallace. Wallace has been a nice complimentary player, but he didn’t live up to the lofty expectations (which were frankly unfair) of Ravens’ fans. Smith Sr. is retiring after Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He was also one of the Ravens biggest targets, not physically speaking, but when it came to heart, Smith laid it out on the field.
In addition to playmakers on the defense, the Ravens need a guy on offense that just put the ball in the endzone. If Baltimore could get a big receiver, that Flacco could just get the ball up to or a guy that can obliterate defenses with speed and all out range, it would be huge. Breshad Perriman may develop into that guy eventually, but the Ravens need something or someone right now.
If the Ravens want to succeed on improving their offense from this year’s debacle, they’ll hire Norv Turner. Turner is familiar with the vertical offense, that Flacco flourished in during his Super Bowl run. Turner was a heck of a coordinator back in the 90’s with the Dallas Cowboys “Triplets”. The Ravens will push the ball downfield in his offense, as well as run the ball.
So what now?
Move on from the loss and go back to the drawing board. They cannot afford to have another mediocre season next year. Baltimore must make the playoffs in 2017 or it could cost Harbaugh his job.