Eisenberg: Time For Ravens To Get Their Act Together


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The Ravens' Super Bowl team didn't lose again after breaking that midseason losing streak. They ripped off six wins to finish the regular season, added four more in the playoffs, and hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

What happened? At the risk of oversimplification, they got their act together.

It happens every year. A few teams get their act together around Thanksgiving and end up battling it out while everyone else watches. In their Super Bowl year, the Ravens lapped the field once they figured things out.

That's going to happen this year, especially in the AFC. The unbeaten Green Bay Packers appear to be the class of the NFC, but the AFC is wide open – unusually so, it appears. The Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and Houston Texans all have three losses. The Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders have four.

Someone is going to get their act together, just as the Ravens did 11 years ago, and just as the Packers did a year ago when they were 7-3, stumbled to 8-6, got healthy, snuck into the playoffs as a No. 6 seed and rolled to a Super Bowl win.

The Ravens stand as good a chance as anyone of being the ones to get their act together. They play better defense than most teams, last Sunday notwithstanding. They have enough offensive weapons. They're tough at home if they can finagle some January games at M&T Bank Stadium.

But they also have issues that need to get cleared up.

They have to settle on a basic run-pass balance, at least generally, as opposed to fluctuating so wildly. It's been a hot topic, and rightfully so. Ray Rice put it best when he said five carries "will not cut it."

Last Sunday's game plan was a perfect starting spot – 27 passes for Joe Flacco, 25 touches for Rice, and not coincidentally, a win.

On the other side of the ball, the pass defense is showing signs of distress. The front end isn't producing as much pressure as it was earlier in the season. The back end is getting beaten more often. A rookie picked the Ravens apart last Sunday.

To borrow Rice's phrase, that will not cut it.

Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano needs to dial up some magic. Jimmy Smith could get more playing time. They drafted him to play, folks.

No one should expect the shutdown defense of 11 years ago to reappear; offenses have changed too much, become too sophisticated.

But if they're going to get their act together, the Ravens need to plug their holes, tidy up their issues, and while they're at it, stay lucky (i.e., keep their quarterback healthy, unlike the Texans, Chicago Bears and others).

They've put themselves in position to make good things happen, which is obviously a lot better than not putting themselves in that position.

But make no mistake, that's all they have done so far.

John Eisenberg covers the Ravens for Comcast SportsNet Baltimore. He worked in the newspaper business for 28 years as a sports columnist, with much of that time coming at the Baltimore Sun. While working for the Sun, Eisenberg spent time covering the Ravens, among other teams and events, including the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series and Olympics. Eisenberg is also the author of seven sports-themed books.

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