On Friday night, I dislocated my knee while swinging a bat during a coed softball game. I ended up on the ground in the fetal position literally screaming at the top of my lungs in pain while waiting to be carted off the field on a stretcher.
That’s how my weekend started.
What a fitting end to the weekend, then, that the Ravens would have me figuratively screaming at the top of my lungs as I watched them completely embarrass themselves in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football.
However misguided and unfair they may be, there have been comparisons of this year’s Ravens defense to the 2000 squad that ended up winning Super Bowl XXXV and going down as one of the best of all time. Perhaps feeling left out, the offense did their best impression of that 2000 team – you know, that one that went five games without scoring a touchdown – last night, failing to pick up even a first down until late in the third quarter.
That’s right, the Ravens’ first nine drives went like this:
3 plays 4 yards PUNT
3 plays -2 yards PUNT
1 play 3 yards FUMBLE
3 plays 3 yards PUNT
3 plays 3 yards PUNT
3 plays 3 yards PUNT
3 plays -33 yards (yes, they faced a 4th and 43, thanks to penalties) PUNT
3 plays 2 yards PUNT
3 plays 5 yards PUNT
They punted EIGHT TIMES and turned the ball over on a fumble before the first time they even THREATENED to pick up a first down, which finally came with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter. Forty minutes of game time elapsed before the Ravens’ supposed high-powered and efficient offense managed to move the chains even once.
Utterly pathetic and embarrassing, on every level.
The numbers don’t even really do the Ravens’ level of SUCK justice though. They looked completely out-of-sorts in every facet on offense, from the offensive line’s inability to hold a block in either pass protection or in the run game, to the quarterback’s complete dearth of emotion and glassy-eyed incompetence, to Ray Rice putting the ball on the turf for the first time in a regular season game in nearly two full calendar years.
I’m still convinced, though, that it all starts with the man in charge, that pariah of Baltimore football scorn, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
Never was this more evident than just two plays after the Ravens had picked up that aforementioned first first down of the game. Facing a third-and-2 following an 8-yard completion to Ed Dickson, the Ravens were forced to take a timeout as the play clock ticked down while they had several different personnel grouping trotting on and off the field. The ESPN cameras showed Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin staring incredulously at the sideline, exasperated with Cameron’s inability to get a damn play in on time.
Same thing later in the game…
Once the Ravens FINALLY decided to play with some sense of urgency on offense – trailing 9-0 with just over 5 minutes to go in the game and taking over from their own 10-yard line – running a version of the no-huddle in an attempt to stage a late comeback, they were STILL taking the play clock down under 10 seconds on most snaps.
What the hell kind of “hurry up” is that?
The result was getting the ball into the end zone with just over two minutes left, forcing coach John Harbaugh to make what would ultimately be the wrong decision to attempt an onside kick. Had the Ravens gotten the score with 3 or more minutes remaining – as a true championship-caliber team would have been able to do – the decision to kick the ball deep and try to force a 3-and-out by the Jags would have been much easier.
The fact that Flacco is not allowed to call his own plays during the hurry-up offense in this, his fourth year in the league and his fourth in Cameron’s system, just reiterates what a complete control freak Cameron remains, to the detriment of the team’s growth and goals.
Part of me wants to be mildly encouraged by the loss. As awful and inept as the offense was for 55 minutes of the game, they still had a chance to win it at the end, and were it not for a few inches here and there (Cundiff’s onside kick attempt going 9.9 yards instead of 10, Lardarius Webb missing the block on the Jags’ final field goal by a fingernail), the outcome may have been much different.
Unfortunately, the fact remains that the Ravens still lost, and did so to an inferior opponent that was starting a rookie quarterback (who picked up his first NFL win, by the way). The Ravens’ defense did their job, making the Jags offense look just as inept all night – they got 9 of their 12 points on 50+ yard field goals, and equaled the Ravens’ 0/8 mark on 3rd downs in the first half.
As always in B’More, it was the offense that held the team back.
One defender in particular, Terrell Suggs, voiced his displeasure with the offensive game plan in the locker room following the game:
Cameron continues to be enamored with the potential of the passing attack, which time and again refuses to live up to said potential. When #27 touches the ball, good things happen. Rice must have said something to get under the skin of either Harbs or Cameron though, as he sat for two straight series following his fumble. At one point, he was shown alone on the bench looking none too happy.
Eight carries for Rice in a game where the Ravens didn’t trail by more than a single score until midway through the third quarter, and even then were still down by just nine, is absolutely inexcusable.
Maurice Jones-Drew averaged only 3.5 yards per carry, and put the ball on the turf seemingly every time he touched it, but the Jags still kept giving it to him and as a result he ended up with a 100-yard day.
Rice had an equal 3.5 yards per carry, and far fewer fumbles, but was only handed the ball eight times all night.
I don’t get it.
Oh, right, yes I do. Cam Cameron sucks.
Of course I’d be remiss to not mention the fact that Flacco took over at his own 20-yard line with 1:43 remaining, needing only a touchdown to win the game and help build his legend in Baltimore…and managed all of zero completions and zero yards before being intercepted to end the game.
The Jaguars were sitting back in Joe’s old nemesis, the Cover 2, and he again proved that he is no closer to figuring it out than he has been for the past 3 years, throwing the ball right to where the linebacker knew he would.
Everything the Ravens had been attempting to build towards this season – from the home playoff game, to the AFC North title, to the top seed and playoff bye – has been put in jeopardy on the back of these two inexcusable road losses to Tennessee and Jacksonville, two teams with a combined 4-8 record.
They’ve planted themselves firmly behind the 8-ball, as they now find themselves tied with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the loss column, with road contests still remaining at Heinz Field, Cincy, Cleveland, Seattle, and San Diego. With the way they’ve represented themselves in two of their three tries on the road so far, how can you mark even one of those games as a sure win at this point?
Disappointing, Ravens. Disappointing.