Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Can We Learn from the Ravens Loss to the Patriots?

After Michigan lost to Michigan State and the Ravens lost to the Pats, I wanted to keep as far away from sports news as possible. Today, as I am laid up sick and feeling oddly guilty for not being at work, I find myself capitulating to the boredom and reading the reaction to Baltimore’s loss. I expected to write here about how the Ravens are still a step below the big players in the conference- Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and New England, but this might be the most hopeful 27-21 loss I have seen in recent Ravens memory. Why?

The Ravens are capable of throwing the ball against a solid defense.
I won’t back up Coach Harbaugh and Cam Cameron on this one- 47 times is about 15 times too many for Joe Flacco to be throwing the football. When your running game is working (and breaking long runs) against a defense, you keep pounding the football until they force you to pass it. There is no reason, with Tom Brady on the sideline, to do anything to let him get back on the field again. However, the Ravens were sharp and efficient despite the balance of run-pass and nearly won it were it not for Mark Clayton’s drop (more on that later). I think Cam Cameron is getting a bit too infatuated with Joe Flacco’s arm and has been chucking the ball much more than he has to in every game so far this season. This team is not good enough to do this on a regular basis, but this game proves that if the running game stalls there is another option. However…

The Ravens still need another great receiver.
Baltimore has done a great job with Derrick Mason and a slew of substandard receivers, but Mark Clayton’s drop reminded this team that aside from Mason there is no wideout who can be trusted when the game is on the line. They can all make great plays when they have to (and when Flacco is on target), but without a strong secondary option to Mason this team will struggle to keep passing drives alive. Without Mason, this team would be like the Eagles of the past few years- a great quarterback with poor receivers. The Ravens are unlikely to take this team to the next level without another receiver stepping up, and they may have to just find the money somewhere to pay at least one receiver big money in the offseason.

The defense is still there, even if the refs don’t like it.
Ever since last season’s loss to the Titans following the ticky-tack roughing the passer call against Terrell Suggs, I have been on the lookout for refs who assume that the Ravens will make dirty hits. Well, the flags were out in full force on Sunday and it could become an issue when this team plays more premier quarterbacks. As Terrell Suggs said after the game, the NFL likes to protect some “quarterbacks more than others” and I believe that’s the case with Brady after his season-ending injury last season. I am holding my breath for when Ray Lewis is called for a roughing penalty on Ben Roethlisberger that leads to the Steelers winning the AFC North. Perhaps I am too much of a homer, but the NFL too often interprets an aggressive defense as a dirty one. The league needs to realign things or teams will be hesitant to rush the passer in key situations.

Some random NFL thoughts:

-So… when is that great Chargers team we’ve been hearing about for the last 4 years going to show up?
-There might be a reason for Cincinnati’s confidence this offseason. They may not be great, but they will be an obstacle in the AFC North.
-Brett Favre still has it, and that should scare the hell out of the NFC.
-Is it possible that after 4 games, the Broncos still haven’t played any really good teams?
-Don’t let the score fool you, this Lions team doesn’t give up. They may not win many games this season but there is a change in attitude in Detroit.
-I have no idea what’s wrong with Tennessee, but it won’t cost Jeff Fisher his job. He is still one of the best coaches in the league.

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