Five thoughts on the Ravens' 44-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at Wembley Stadium:
Blowout Loss Will Have Experts Questioning Ravens' 2-0 Start
Was this the worst Ravens game ever? It certainly merits consideration. Most experts believed they would win their international debut, perhaps easily. Instead, they got completely blown out, with much-maligned Blake Bortles tearing apart their vaunted defense, a result that vividly illustrates the NFL's amazing unpredictability. I'm sure the popular narrative will be that the Ravens were asleep from the transatlantic trip; that the Jaguars, playing in London for the fifth straight year, knew better how to adjust to the unique circumstances. That may be true, but it avoids more troubling explanations for why this was such a mismatch. Jacksonville was quicker and tougher across the board. The Ravens got pushed around, even bullied. Their offensive and defensive lines were dominated. There was no running game. Joe Flacco was under pressure and ineffectual. Meanwhile, Bortles had all the time he needed to make plays. The Ravens' long return trip over the Atlantic will doubtlessly be quiet as the organization, from head to toe, ponders an outcome that will have experts wondering if anything about the team's 2-0 start was meaningful.
Defense's Disappearance Was Most Surprising
For sure, the disappearance of the Ravens offense was a surprise. Jacksonville had 20 points on the board before the Ravens picked up a first down, as Flacco and the offense began the game with four straight three-and-outs. But no doubt, the disappearance of the Ravens defense scores much higher on the shock-o-meter. The defense was lauded for generating 10 turnovers while allowing just one touchdown in the first two games, but Cleveland's ability to move the ball in Week 2 revealed the possibility that cracks existed. Well, Jacksonville fully exploited those cracks. The Ravens couldn't cover, couldn't tackle, couldn't stop an offense that did little in a lopsided home loss the week before. The Jaguars' Leonard Fournette had holes to run though and repeatedly broke tackles. The Ravens obviously missed Brandon Williams, the anchor of their run defense, but one absence can't explain this level of dominance. On passing plays, the Ravens put little pressure on Bortles, who was agile in the pocket and found open receivers down the sideline, over the middle, everywhere. To call it a humbling performance for the defense is an understatement.
His Back Injury and Offensive Line Woes Don't Help, But Flacco Shouldn't Get a Pass Either
Flacco completed eight passes to Ravens, two to Jaguars and finished with the lowest single-game quarterback rating of his career. He was tentative, lacked touch, couldn't get anything going. Loud alarm bells would have sounded if he had played like this in Week 1 after sitting out training camp and the preseason with a back injury. Concerns diminished when he led the Ravens to two wins and looked sharp in Week 2, but this performance will rekindle those concerns. No, his banged-up, overmatched offensive line didn't protect him well and obviously is a major concern going forward. But you can't give Flacco a pass. His downfield passing game simply wasn't there when needed Sunday. Flacco has admitted he isn't 100 percent, but he's healthy enough to play and now has thrown an interception in nine straight games. To their credit, Jacksonville defensive backs made terrific plays on both of Sunday's picks. Still, the steady barrage of mistakes is a relentless momentum-killer that will cause problems going forward if not corrected.
Can't Take Issue With Jaguars Running up Score
The Ravens who spoke on the podium after the game didn't indicate that they were upset with Jacksonville for piling it on, running a fake punt with a 37-point lead in the fourth quarter. The surprise call produced a big gainer that set up a touchdown that increased the margin to 44 points, and I'm sure some fans and possibly some in the Ravens' locker room are upset. But this is pro football, not high school. I always go back to how Joe Gibbs, a Hall of Fame coach, reacted when Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots ran up the score similarly on the Washington Redskins in a 2007 blowout. "I have no problems with any of it," Gibbs said. He went on to explain that what really bothered him was his team played so poorly it was in position to have such indignities heaped on it. Bingo. That's the story.
Straight talk from Eric Weddle after the game: "That might be one of the worst losses, if not THE worst loss, I've ever been a part of." … For what it's worth, after Terrance West and Buck Allen rushed for just 41 yards on 14 carries, Alex Collins took over in garbage time and gained twice as many yards on the ground as the other two combined, on just nine carries. I predict Collins will continue to see more action … Instead of replacing Marshal Yanda, Tony Bergstrom was a healthy scratch as Matt Skura made his NFL debut … As evidence of what injuries are doing to the Ravens' depth on the offensive line, both of Sunday's starting guards, Skura and James Hurst, entered the league as undrafted free agents who played other positions in college.
Check out the best photos from London's Wembley Stadium as the Ravens battled the Jaguars in Week 3.