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Eisenberg: Pressure On For Ravens Offense To Live Up To Its Potential


The Ravens are in such dire straits after two straight defeats that they would qualify for a playoff spot if the season ended today.

That's right, they would win a tiebreaker with Buffalo to grab the AFC's No. 6 seed, one of the conference's two wild-card tickets to the postseason.

I point that out to emphasize that their season isn't irretrievably lost despite their back-to-back home losses to the Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins. The defeats certainly were frustrating and effectively ate up the margin for error the Ravens created with their 3-0 start, but they don't signal that the organization might as well start planning for 2017.

This is still a team with a winning record and some good things going for it, starting with a defense ranked in the league's upper echelon. That alone keeps you competitive and gives you a chance to win most games. A strong, reliable kicker also helps.

But the Ravens aren't reaching their potential, a cardinal sin. Their offense has been coughing and sputtering like an old car engine. It hit bottom Sunday by failing to score in the last three quarters of a loss to a Redskins team with a low-ranked defense.

The offense might not be the league's best even in good times, but it should be better than that, which was why Head Coach John Harbaugh moved boldly Monday, firing Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman and replacing him with Marty Mornhinweg.

The hope is a new set of eyes and ideas will make the unit more productive, which, coupled with continued strong defense, probably would keep the Ravens in playoff contention through the season, even with their schedule getting tougher later on.

But a lot has to go right in the coming weeks for that scenario to unfold. Trestman may have been part of the problem, but he was far from the offense's only problem.

He didn't let a beautifully thrown deep ball fall through his hands, as receiver Breshad Perriman did Sunday.

He didn't allow quarterback Joe Flacco to get harassed and banged around, as the offensive line did Sunday.

He didn't miss his targets on keys throws, as Flacco did several times in prior games and also Sunday's.

He didn't commit enough drive-killing penalties to suffocate any offense, as the Ravens have done throughout 2016.

I'm not a fan of anyone losing their job, but I understand the move with Trestman. He performed admirably with an injury-ravaged unit in 2015, but the pieces weren't coming together this year and the players were frustrated with his play calling. It was weird. He threw too much, but seldom downfield.

But Monday's move pinpoints him as the chief culprit, and now that he's gone, those left behind need to demonstrate they're part of the solution rather than also part of the problem.

In other words, it's on them now.

Maybe Mornhinweg can help get things going by giving the ball to Terrance West more and by taking more deep shots. Harbaugh made it clear Monday that he thought Trestman's offense wasn't being physical enough or attacking defenses enough.

But the players also need to participate in the fix by blocking better, not dropping potential touchdowns and not committing so many penalties – problems that aren't on the OC.

I still believe Flacco has never had more playmaking talent around him, but it's time to start seeing tangible proof.

The stakes are high. It's mid-October and the AFC picture is starting to crystallize. The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers look strong, as do the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders. The Cincinnati Bengals seem to have regressed a bit. Despite the sky-is-falling hysteria circulating around town, the Ravens are in position to contend for a playoff spot. A 3-0 start does that for you. Those games also count, by the way.

Sure, the Ravens now have to win more on the road, never easy, after losing twice at home. But back-to-back Sundays at MetLife Stadium sounded like a tall order when the schedule came out, and now that they're here, the New York Giants are on a three-game losing streak and the New York Jets are 1-4.

The Ravens have made a midseason OC change twice before, reflective of a unit in crisis, and ended up in the playoffs both times. It's hard to imagine now, but an opportunity exists, provided the offense starts to get itself together.

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