Where Are the Ravens Receivers and Downfield Passing Attack?
Nobody was pointing fingers after Sunday's London Letdown. There was universal blame to go around and Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens "were outplayed, outcoached, and we were beat in every way you can get beat."
But there is a trend forming in Baltimore through three weeks of football that people are starting to notice.
"[T]he Baltimore Ravens receivers have been virtually nonexistent," wrote EbonyBird.com's Joe Schiller. "It's something that has to change for this team to have success this season."
Here are the stats for the Ravens' top three wide receivers:
Jeremy Maclin: 7 catches for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns
Mike Wallace: 3 catches for 21 yards and no touchdowns
Breshad Perriman: 1 catch for 5 yards and no touchdowns
To put those numbers in perspective, it's a combined 11 catches for 121 yards, and there are 70 single NFL players with 121 yards or more.
"Relative to other position groups, the trio of Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, and Breshad Perriman should be an offensive strength, so there's no excuse for such anemic production," wrote WNST's Luke Jones.
You can get passing yards in other ways. For example, tight end Benjamin Watson has 103 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches. However, the Ravens' downfield passing game is nowhere to be found.
Gone are the days of the 2012 Super Bowl season when Flacco led the league in deep pass attempts (20 yards or more) with 17.3 percent of his throws, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Maybe it's because of a lower percentage of completions on the deep ball, or some other unknown reason, but Flacco hasn't even attempted a pass of 20 yards or more this year, per PFF.
In London, Flacco failed to complete a pass of 5 or more yards from the line of scrimmage for the first time in his career, according to ESPN.
Adding to the confusion over the lack of deep balls is the fact that the Ravens seem to have the personnel for it.
"Where is the high-flying attack with the fastest trio in the NFL? Wallace and Perriman are undoubtedly some of the fastest receivers in the NFL," asked Baltimore Beatdown's Kyle P. Barber.
Instead, Flacco is one of the league leaders in quick pass attempts, which typically lead to short throws.
Writers who want to see more for the passing attack were quick to point out that this isn't a swing in opinion from last year, when they were begging for more rushing attempts. Instead, it's a continuation of calling for offensive balance.
"I understand Baltimore ran the ball and dominated the Bengals," wrote Barber. "But through three games, the 'star-caliber' receiving weapons have produced next to nothing. In order to move the offense, no team can be one-dimensional."
As we know, football is the ultimate team sport. So, for the Ravens receivers to get on track, the banged-up offensive line and Flacco, who had career lows with 28 passing yards and a 12.0 quarterback rating last week, will also need to find ways to improve.
"It's difficult finding reasons to be optimistic about an offensive line that started a former sixth-round pick and three former undrafted free agents against the Jaguars," Jones wrote.
"Yes, the offensive line is a major problem, but Joe Flacco is showing the same flaws with poor footwork, anticipating pressure even when he has the time and space, and not pushing the ball down the field. Everything about this offense needs to be better, and that includes the quarterback."
Five Stages of Grief for Ravens Fans After the Historic Loss
I thought this was a humorous way to explain how fans may have responded to the Ravens' 37-point loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars (tied for the most lopsided loss in franchise history).
Does this sound like you?
Russell Street Report's Adam Bonaccorsi illustrated his five stages of grief with GIFs:
1) DENIAL – This stage quickly appeared in the first quarter when Bonaccorsi saw the defense make Blake Bortles look like Ben Roethlisberger.
2) ANGER – "Fourth quarter and it's a blowout… I'm done with this game! I'll find absolutely anything else to do right now," Bonaccorsi wrote. "I'll cut the grass. By hand. With scissors."
3) BARGAINING – This is where Bonaccorsi went through a million "if only" scenarios that could've helped avoid such a devastating loss. Not surprisingly, "if only there weren't so many injuries" was one of those scenarios.
4) DEPRESSION – If fans haven't made it to Stage 5 yet, I'm guessing a majority are still stuck in this depressed stage and may not come out unless the Ravens beat the Steelers Sunday.
5) ACCEPTANCE – "So, here's the thing: It's one game. And maybe? Just maybe that game was a fluke," Bonaccorsi wrote. "I believe Sunday's game – on offense and defense – was a true anomaly, and if anything, it pissed the Ravens off. They're angry. They're not going to sit back and accept defeat. They'll come out of the gates hot against the Steelers this week. At least I hope so!"
Should There Be Hesitation in Anointing Alex Collins At This Point?
There has been no shortage of people calling for Alex Collins to become the Ravens' starting running back, but should they slow their roll?
Harbaugh already said Collins is deserving of more carries based on the way he's playing. While he's had the fewest carries (16), he has the highest average yards per attempt with 7.8. Terrance West is averaging 3.9 and Buck Allen is getting 3.5 yards per attempt.
So, there's no argument about whether we should see more of Collins. But starting?
"I'm hesitant to read too much into garbage time, but Alex Collins looked the part for the second straight week and runs with urgency," Jones wrote. "That should have Terrance West and Buck Allen looking over their shoulders in a muddled offensive backfield."
If you ask Baltimore Beatdown's Logan Levy, he's all in with Collins.
"He was a man on a mission on Sunday," he wrote. "Baltimore needs a physical, shifty, explosive running back like Collins. Javorius Allen (Buck) seems to be taking the role Danny Woodhead was expected to fill, which is the primary pass-catcher out of the backfield.
"Terrance West has been somewhat of a disappointment this season. Baltimore should continue to feed the 'hot hand', which is without a doubt Collins, right now."
Ravens-Steelers Have Most Games Decided by Three Points or Less
We already know that Ravens-Steelers is one of the best rivalries in football. You could even argue it's THE best.
In case there was any doubt, I'd say the graphic below shows just how good it still is. To me, one of the best parts of a rivalry is the back-and-forth nature where neither team is clearly dominating.
These AFC North battles have been decided by three points or less 12 times since the Harbaugh-Flacco era began in 2008. The Cowboys-Redskins rivalry is a distant second with eight.
Carson Wentz Couldn't Afford Justin Tucker
This is classic!
I highly recommend watching this wired clip from the Philadelphia Eagles, in which starting quarterback Carson Wentz said on the sideline that he would give kicker Jake Elliott his game check if he hit the game-winning 61-yard field goal.
As we know, Elliot nailed it.
Wentz now owes Elliott $31,765. I dare say Wentz couldn't afford to have Justin Tucker, who has notched 12 game-winning field goals in his career, as his teammate with promises like that.