Internet Pinpoints Five Problems With Sunday's Struggling Ravens Offense
The Ravens offense scored zero touchdowns in Sunday's 27-24 overtime loss to the Chicago Bears. The team's 24 points came from two special teams returns for touchdowns, three field goals and a two-point conversion.
The touchdown-less day occurred despite getting the ball on Baltimore's 40-yard line or better on four of its final five drives, including overtime.
"A team with playoff aspirations should not need two return touchdowns to defend its home turf against a 1-4 opponent coming to town with the league's 27th best offense," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker. "And those two return touchdowns, weird and spectacular as they were, still didn't do the trick.
"So it goes when you're stuck with an offense that hands away points with fumbles and botched catches, that can't capitalize on the stops delivered by a still-solid defense. … The Ravens can't be a good team if they can't put away lousy opponents at home."
The defense played lights out from midway through the third quarter until the final series in overtime. It recovered two forced fumbles, and notched three three-and-outs and one four-and-out. But it wasn't enough, as this unit wasn't perfect either (more on that below).
The internet did a lot of soul searching itself, and it came to the same conclusion that a lot of teams come to: the offensive struggles weren't any single person's fault. Problems came in a variety of packages.
Below are five commonly found complaints about Sunday's game:
1) Ravens receivers 'let the team down.'
Michael Campanaro, Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore all had untimely drops. Campanaro's would've been a much-needed first down and the other two led to interceptions. Moore's resulted in a pick-six when the offense was moving in the fourth quarter and threatening to take the lead.
That's not even including tight end Maxx Williams fumbling the ball after a reception that put Baltimore in scoring position in the second quarter.
"The Ravens' receivers let them down," wrote Walker. "Joe Flacco threw accurate passes on both of the interceptions that helped cost his team the game. … Flacco didn't play well, but he played competently enough to win against the unimpressive Bears. … The Ravens simply don't have enough skill-position talent, and that leaves them vulnerable against teams they should handle."
"This receiving group was the most hyped up unit heading into the season," added Baltimore Beatdown's Logan Levey. "However, after extremely slow starts from the top three receivers, many were beginning to point the finger at the offensive line, Joe Flacco and Marty Mornhinweg. All of which play a factor, yes, but ultimately, it is on the entire wide receiver unit. Yes, Jeremy Maclin was out, but this group could not get open at all. When they appeared to be open, they could not catch the ball. Two of those drops led to interceptions. This unit has to get better or this team will suffer. They desperately need Maclin back."
2) Play-calling seems 'vanilla,' but can you really blame Marty Mornhinweg?
There's much debate surrounding the offensive play-calling. Some are calling it too conservative or "vanilla," but after turning the ball over three times on offense Sunday and not wanting to put the defense in a bad situation, others defended it.
"Marty Mornhinweg calls plays like he's perennially worried about the Ravens making a mistake and it's hard to blame him sometimes," wrote The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "A solid week in Oakland doesn't change the fact that the Ravens don't have a playoff-worthy offense, and it's hard to see that changing."
"The Ravens offense has more than just a Marty Mornhinweg problem," wrote Levey.
The hope was a more aggressive and clean offense (no turnovers and one penalty) that found its deep passing game and a clock-controlling ground attack in Oakland would be the breakout performance the Ravens needed to carry over into future weeks.
Instead, the unit stumbled again, just as it did against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Three turnovers led to 14 points for the Bears.
3) The offensive line had been 'overperforming,' but fell short vs. Bears.
For at least one week in Oakland, the offensive line found a way to overcome the loss of Marshal Yanda, protecting Flacco (zero sacks) and opening running lanes (143 yards). Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, center Ryan Jensen and right tackle Austin Howard all ranked among the top five at their positions.
Against the Bears, the unit struggled. It didn't help that they had to start Jermaine Eluemunor in place of Matt Skura (knee), who was already filling in for Yanda.
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), four of the five offensive linemen finished Sunday with negative grades. Stanley was the lone standout with the highest grade on the team (plus-4.2).
"The offensive line was shaky, at best," wrote Levy. "Jermaine Eluemunor got bullied on several plays. Ryan Jensen also had a poor game."
"The offensive line has overachieved for much of the year, but it isn't consistent enough," added Zrebiec.
4) Failure to give Justin Tucker a shot to kick a game-winning field goal.
The offense failed to give its Pro Bowl kicker a chance to win the game on the final two positions.
Just before regulation ended, the Ravens got the ball on their own 44-yard line with 12 seconds left. The offense moved the ball into scoring range with a 16-yard completion to wide receiver Mike Wallace, but time expired before Flacco could spike the ball.
Social media wanted see a pass thrown to the sideline so a receiver could step out of bounds to stop the clock. Others were upset the Ravens had to burn a timeout with three minutes and one second remaining to kick an earlier field goal. Either could've given Tucker a chance.
"That timeout may have been the difference between winning and losing," wrote Levy. "[Tucker] may have missed the long field-goal attempt, but at least give, arguably, the best kicker in the league a chance to win the game. Whether it was Mornhinweg's poor play call, Flacco's poor decision or a mix of both, those things cannot happen."
In overtime, things didn't improve. The offense got the ball at its own 40 after a shanked punt, and despite all the momentum on its side, the unit suffered another three-and-out.
"They didn't even need a touchdown," Zrebiec wrote. "Two or three first downs and arguably the best kicker in the league, Justin Tucker, is trotting on the field with the game on his right foot. There's been no surer scenario for the Ravens in recent seasons than that."
5) Injuries continued to stockpile.
Some will hate this fifth item and see it as an excuse. It's not an excuse, as all teams deal with injuries, but it's not wrong to point it out.
Starter Jeremy Maclin, who led the team in targets (28) and touchdowns (two) heading in to the game, was inactive with a shoulder injury. Outside of Wallace, that left four receivers (Perriman, Campanaro, Moore and Chris Matthews) with a combined 19 receptions this season.
Perriman (concussion) and Williams (ankle) left the game early. The effect of losing Yanda and running back Danny Woodhead has been discussed.
Brandon Williams Watch Continues as Rush Defense Hits 'Rock Bottom'
After giving up a franchise-high 231 rushing yards to the Bears, ESPN says the Ravens run defense has hit "rock bottom." The previous worst was in 2012 when the unit allowed 227 yards to the Dallas Cowboys.
It's worth noting that 72 of those yards came in overtime. It took 47 attempts (3.4 yards per carry) in regulation for the Bears to notch 159 rushing yards. None the less, with Williams back in the mix, 159 yards should be much harder to come by. He hinted last week that his return would come "soon" and he was back on the practice field as limited participant Friday.
Everyone will be on the lookout for his return to game action as the Ravens take on the Minnesota Vikings this week.
Ravens Star Safeties Gave Up Game-Changing Plays
Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle took blame for Sunday's loss because he went for the strip on Bears running back Jordan Howard instead of the tackle in overtime. As a result, Howard broke free for 53* *yards and set up the game-winning field goal for Chicago.
Weddle was trying to make a play when points were hard to come by, but he knows he needed to make the tackle.
Meanwhile, Weddle's partner in crime also gave up two touchdowns in the Ravens loss. Tony Jefferson bit on a trick halfback touchdown pass in the second quarter, then allowed tight end Dion Simms to notch a 27-yard score in the third quarter.
"The Ravens' star safeties gave up the few big plays the Bears made," wrote Walker. "The Ravens thought they might have the best safety tandem in football coming into the season. Instead, they've had two very good but flawed players on the back end of their defense."
Campanaro and Tucker Named Special Teams Players of Week
I'd hate to not give Tucker, Campanaro and kick returner/running back Bobby Rainey their due because the Ravens didn't win the game. Campanaro and Rainey's efforts should've been enough to get the victory with the duo being named co-MVPs.
Despite the loss, TheMMQB.com's Peter King named both Campanaro and Tucker as Special Teams Players of the Week. While he wasn't named, Rainey certainly did enough to make the list too.
"You've got to see the 50-yard field goal Tucker kicked in the fourth quarter against the Bears. I swear it would have been good from 68 yards," wrote King. "It hit two-thirds of the way up the net—on a line! With 3:01 left in the game. Which led this game to … [Campanaro's] weaving 77-yard punt return after the Bears' ensuing series, plus a two-point conversion pass by Joe Flacco, tied the game against the Bears and sent it to overtime."