Eight Takeaways From Ravens' Loss
Missed opportunities, self-inflicted mistakes, porous special teams coverage and a sputtering offense led to the Ravens' 16-10 loss against the Washington Redskins Sunday.
Baltimore is now 3-2 and in second place in the division behind the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1) and ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) and Cleveland Browns (0-5).
Below are eight takeaways from the game:
1) Ravens 'Abandoned' Run Game
You couldn't escape one of the largest gripes from fans and media after the game: Why did the Ravens abandon the run game?
Head Coach John Harbaugh didn't characterize it as abandonment, but agreed that eight rushes after the first quarter wasn't enough. He added that a slew of three-and-outs affected the number.
Here's the breakdown of the run game:
First quarter: 11 rushes for 74 yards
Second quarter: 2 rushes for 0 yards
Third quarter: 3 rushes for 34 yards
Fourth quarter: 3 rushes (one by Joe Flacco) for 10 yards
Add that up and it was seven designed rushes for 38 yards in the final three quarters. Running back Terrance West averaged 8.6 yards per rush, but only ran the ball six times in the final three quarters after gaining 60 yards on five carries in the first quarter.
"You [didn't] abandon the run?" CSNMidAtlantic.com's Brad Jackson asked in the video below. "We're sitting up here talking yet again another Ravens loss, ladies and gentlemen, because of this run-pass ratio."
To be fair, the loss can't be entirely pinned on the run-pass ratio, but it's reasonable to say it was a major factor, along with special teams coverage, dropped passes, a beat-up offensive line, among other things. The lack of runs after the first quarter is confusing to many viewers, especially when quarterback Joe Flacco was averaging 3.88 yards per play on his 50 dropbacks compared to the 6.2 yards per play on rushes.
"Part of the problem has been the game plans by Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman," wrote ESPN. "His track record is a pass-heavy offense, and he certainly has backed that up this season by ignoring the run."
2) No Signs Of Change At Offensive Coordinator
Accompanying the fan and media gripes about not attempting enough rushes with West were questions about the man calling the plays. Despite the complaints, The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec reported that there are no signs of a change coming at the offensive coordinator position.
"When the Ravens last lost a regular-season game to the Redskins, late in the 2012 season, Harbaugh fired much-maligned Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron and replaced him with Quarterbacks Coach Jim Caldwell. The move helped jump-start a Super Bowl run," wrote Zrebiec. "The Ravens have another former offensive coordinator in Marty Mornhinweg currently serving as quarterbacks coach. There was no indication after the game that Harbaugh was prepared to make a change, but frustration was palpable from all corners of the locker room."
While Zrebiec was clear about being "confounded" by the lack of carries, he was also quick to defend Trestman and doesn't think all the offensive woes should be pinned on him.
3) C.J. Mosley Named Goat Of Week, But Touchback Rule Should Change
TheMMQB.com's Peter King named linebacker C.J. Mosley one of his goats of the week after the third-year player made an impressive interception and returned it to the 1-yard line only to fumble the ball into the end zone, where it rolled out of bounds.
Instead of giving the Ravens offense the ball at the 1, the Redskins got the ball back at the 20 and went on to kick a pivotal field goal (the Ravens could have kicked a game-tying field goal had it not been for that Redskins field goal).
Not only did the Ravens lose the turnover, but they lost 19 yards in field position.
"Baltimore turned it over to Washington and blew the golden scoring chance that very well could have changed the outcome of the game," wrote King. "Terrible decision by Mosley."
Mosley doesn't disagree. He said after the game that he regrets diving with the ball in one hand, and said he will never try that again.
That said, Harbaugh noted after the game that the touchback rule in that situation is "crazy" and NFL.com's Don Banks thinks it needs to be changed.
"We saw a hugely important and vivid instance of the league's worst, most nonsensical rule come into play in the Washington-Baltimore Battle of the Beltway game," Banks wrote. "Washington gets the ball at its own 20 on a touchback, somehow gaining yardage in the process of throwing an interception. In my view, that's way too much of a penalty for the team that created the turnover and made the positive play to begin with, and rewards the club that committed the turnover in an out of proportion manner.
"Give the ball to Baltimore in this case at the spot of the fumble, because nobody on Washington recovered it and deserves possession of the ball. At the least, the Ravens should retain the ball, as if it rolled out of bounds on the sideline. While Mosley should have known better than to try and reach the ball out across the plane in that situation, it still seems unduly harsh to cost Baltimore the ball. Adding injury to insult, Mosley was injured on the play, pulling a hamstring."
4) Offensive Line 'Exacerbating' Ravens' Offensive Woes
Flacco was honest in his assessment of the effect the offensive line injuries are having on the entire offensive unit as a whole. He said it obviously wasn't "ideal" to have four of the five spots manned by a new player or someone playing out of position Sunday, but he added that it didn't cause all of the offensive issues.
The way The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker puts it, the instability of the line "exacerbates" the unit's woes.
Rookie Alex Lewis kicked out to left tackle with No. 6 overall pick Ronnie Stanley out with a foot injury. John Urschel took over Lewis' spot at left guard in his first game action of the season. Then, when right tackle Rick Wagner went down with a thigh injury and missed the second half, right guard Marshal Yanda kicked out to right tackle and Ryan Jensen filled in for the first time at right guard.
The line still opened running lanes, but it allowed three sacks, eight tackles for loss and eight quarterback hits. This came against the league's 29th-ranked defense heading into the game.
"The offensive problems are too broad to be pinned on one group," wrote Walker. "But the line affords an offense its stability, and with so much chaos there, it will be hard for the Ravens to find order in their overall picture."
5) Kick Coverage 'Officially A Problem'
The Ravens allowed the second-longest punt return in franchise history when Redskins returner Jamison Crowder scored an 85-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
This comes off the heels of allowing a 66-yard kickoff return last week against the Oakland Raiders.
"Kick coverage has officially become a problem," wrote Walker. "Special teams coach Jerry Rosburg was visibly upset with his team's kick coverage during practice last week, and he must have been on the verge of an aneurysm as he watched his players flail at Crowder and Blackmon."
"Special teams are usually a strength for the Ravens, but not the last two weeks," wrote CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown.
6) Adding Injury To Insult
As if the ugly loss wasn't enough, the Ravens literally added injuries (plural) to insult.
Several key starters went down in Sunday's loss, including Wagner (thigh), Mosley (hamstring), wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. (ankle) and cornerback Sheldon Price (thigh), who was filling in for starter Shareece Wright (back spasms).
It's unclear how serious any of these injuries are, although Smith looks like he could be back relatively soon if he can endure the pain.
7) ESPN Analytics Say Take The Points, But It's Hard To Say Decision Was Bad
The Ravens decided to be aggressive on fourth-and-12 in the second quarter and called a fake field goal instead of attempting the three points. Justin Tucker lined up as a left-footed kicker so he could roll to his right for an attempted pass to tight end Crocket Gillmore, who stumbled out of the blocks. The pass was thrown short and fell incomplete.
The Ravens got zero points after they got the ball on the 15-yard line from a Zachary Orr forced fumble and recovery.
"According to ESPN analytics, the right call would have been to kick the field goal," the website wrote. "The math says the Ravens would've needed a 51 percent chance of success to make the play worth the risk. It's unknown what the success rate would be for a fake, because they're rare. But a standard play from scrimmage would have a 15 percent chance of success in that situation, according to ESPN analytics.
"But it's hard to say the decision was a bad one, because it was based on the confidence the Ravens have in that play and what they saw in the Redskins' field goal block team. If the Ravens had kicked a field goal, they would've only needed a field goal on that final drive to tie the game."
8) Ray Lewis And Michael Phelps Had A Cool Moment
The bad loss overshadowed a really cool moment at the beginning of the game when Maryland native and the most-decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, was introduced out of the tunnel.
Phelps was greeted on the field by future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who helped Phelps get his Olympic career back on track after some trying personal challenges. Lewis and Phelps then watched the game together in a suite, and were shown on the video boards several times throughout the afternoon.