Reporters watched them hashing out – with passionate, hushed voices – what went wrong after a 40-25 loss to the division rival Cleveland Browns. The players didn’t care. It had to be talked about – now.
There will be many intense conversations and probably some harsh honesty this week as the Ravens try to figure out how to fix a defense that isn’t playing up to its high standards and certainly not its No.-1 ranking from a year ago.
The 530 yards of offense allowed Sunday to Cleveland was the fourth-most in franchise history. The 40 points allowed are the most since London in 2017.
Problem is, it’s not one bad game. The Ravens defense has now given up more than 500 yards in back-to-back weeks, raising questions about how much the loss from last year’s defense has taken a toll.
“It’s disgusting,” safety Tony Jefferson said. “Ya’ll look at the tape. It’s not good.”
The Browns did it all on a day when Odell Beckham Jr. – one of the best wide receivers in the NFL – had just two catches for 20 yards as he was blanketed by cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
Other than that, there weren’t many positives from the performance.
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 342 yards and running back Nick Chubb ran for 165 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry caught eight passes for 167 yards before he left the game in the second half with a concussion. Even tight end Ricky Seals-Jones had a 59-yard catch and run.
“We’ll have a coming-to-heart meeting Monday or Tuesday,” Humphrey said. “We have to know what we’re doing wrong and what we’re doing right. Not a lot is being done right lately."
Here’s the list of problems from Sunday’s game:
The Ravens struggled to get to Mayfield – sacking him on the game’s opening drive (Tyus Bowser) and then not again. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale tried to dial up blitzes from every angle, but none of them got home.
Without big man Brandon Williams, who was a late addition to the injury report with a knee problem, in the middle, Baltimore’s defense was run over. After the Ravens pulled to just six points down in the third quarter, Chubb got loose for an 88-yard touchdown run – untouched – on the next play from scrimmage, changing the tenor of the game.
Williams’ absence certainly hurt, but it wasn’t a problem just up the middle. The Ravens, who are relying on younger outside linebackers after the departure of Terrell Suggs, have been gashed along the edges and Chubbs’ long touchdown was on a toss play to the outside.
“We had a young guy in there; we did not set the edge,” defensive tackle Michael Pierce said. “We’ve got some new parts that need to gel immediately.”
For the third straight game, blown coverages left receivers wide open in the secondary for huge gains. The worst was a 59-yard gain by Seals-Jones to set up a touchdown on the next play. Jefferson said it wasn’t a problem with communication, as they cited the past two weeks.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said it comes down to executing the calls.
“When you have a gap control or a responsibility on a run play, you have to be there,” Harbaugh said. “When you have a coverage responsibility, you have to do it. That’s as simple as that. We’re not disciplined right now in that sense.”
Humphrey took the blame for one of the coverage busts, seemingly the one to Seals-Jones, saying he did well in man-to-man coverage but wasn’t good in different zone coverages.
“I think that’s the biggest thing that’s hurting us right now. I’m averaging a few busts per game,” Humphrey said.
Safety Earl Thomas III, who was brought to Baltimore to shut down deep plays and get turnovers, has been in chase-mode too often so far. He said Sunday’s mistakes were a continuation of a problem in how Baltimore is handling throws down the seam.
“We’re just not reacting right to the different concepts that they’re giving us,” Thomas said. “The glaring thing is the seam throws. We understood that those are [Mayfield’s] best throws. We just didn’t react to the concept like we needed to.”
Tackling was also uncharacteristically bad, as multiple players bounced off Landry on a short catch that turned into a 65-yard gain and set up a touchdown.
Add it all up, and it’s not a pretty picture for a proud defense. It’s still early in the season, but the Ravens know if they don’t get things corrected quickly, it could be a long season on defense.
“Doesn’t shake my fundamental belief,” Thomas said. “But it’s frustrating as hell.”