The Breakdown: Eisenberg's Five Thoughts vs. Packers


Five thoughts on the Ravens' 19-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:

The Culprit In Loss
The Ravens defense rose to the occasion against one of the NFL's top quarterbacks, playing well enough to win. With even just a modest amount of offensive consistency, the Ravens could have walked away happy. But their offense stumbled early and never established a rhythm. As has been the case all season, the culprit was the running game. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce gained just 43 yards on 20 carries. For the season, both are averaging less than 3.0 yards per carry. That's not acceptable. And things aren't getting better; on Sunday, things got worse. The Ravens offensive line was dominated. Here's the stat of the game: the Ravens ran the ball on 16 of their 27 first-down snaps, and averaged just 1.9 yards on those 16 rushes. In other words, they were in second-and-long for most of the game, which, as Joe Flacco pointed out, makes it difficult to put drives together. When you run the ball decently, you can sustain drives. When you can't run, you need to keep making "chunk" (long) plays to get anywhere. That's no way to live.

Agree With One Decision, Not The Other

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh could be in for some criticism for his decision to try to grab points rather than take a knee in the final seconds of the first half. The decision backfired when Flacco fumbled while trying to pass, setting up a Green Bay field goal. But I had no problem with the decision to go for points there. There were 12 seconds on the clock. The Ravens were on their 34. They had two timeouts. Their quarterback has a big arm.  Their field goal kicker has a big leg. A 30-yard completion could have set up a makeable kick, and by the way, Flacco had four completions of 30 or more yards Sunday. "We're going to be an attacking, aggressive type group," Harbaugh said. But while I back that philosophy wholeheartedly, I would have kicked a field goal rather than go for it on fourth down at the Green Bay one in the second quarter. The Ravens went for it and got stuffed, which wasn't a surprise because the Packers were winning the war up front at that point – winning it handily. I understand the Packers were still backed up on their 1 after the failed gamble, which is attractive. But I guess I'm old school. On a day when the offense (especially the line) is struggling, I take the points, tie the game up and move forward.

Run Game Breaks Flacco-Rodgers Tie
Flacco and Aaron Rodgers pretty much battled to a draw in their matchup of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. Flacco completed 20 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns, while Rodgers completed 17 passes for 315 yards and one touchdown. Both were under a lot of pressure, and sputtered on third downs. Flacco was sacked five times, Rodgers three times. The biggest difference between them was not of their doing: Rodgers had a running game to turn to, and Flacco did not. While the Ravens struggled on the ground, the Packers rushed for 140 yards on 30 attempts, with big-body back Eddie Lacy doing the damage. After the Ravens finally scored a touchdown to cut their deficit to six points early in the fourth quarter, the Packers blunted the rally by holding the ball for almost eight minutes before kicking a field goal to make it a two-score game again. Lacy rushed six times for 31 yards on that key drive, eating up chunks of precious time. It's amazing what a productive running game can do.

T. Smith Quiet, But Other WRs ProduceTorrey Smith was one of the NFL's top receivers through the Ravens' first five games, and while he's a fast and talented guy, it was amazing he had so much success because, well, he was pretty much the Ravens' only established wideout for most of that time. It seemed crazy that other teams didn't just focus their efforts on stopping him and force other receivers to make plays to win. That's certainly what the Packers seemed to do Sunday. Smith had his quietest game by far with just one catch for 12 yards. Fortunately for the Ravens, other receivers stepped up and contributed, with Tandon Doss, Marlon Brown, Dallas Clark and Jacoby Jones combined for 294 receiving yards. It hurt the Ravens in the short run that Smith didn't provide his usual home run or two, but the Ravens will be better off in the long run as more of their receivers become established as go-to guys who warrant coverage. Smith certainly will benefit.

Looking At Monroe's First Start
New left tackle Eugene Monroe had one bad moment in his first start for the Ravens. It was his man who got to Flacco and forced a fumble in the final seconds of the first half, setting up a Green Bay field goal. "Took a bad stance and paid for it; my bad all the way,' Monroe said. But otherwise, he was solid in his Baltimore debut, especially in pass protection. Obviously, his presence on Flacco's blind side didn't fix the Ravens' running game, which continues to struggle. But he didn't get called for a penalty, unlike most of his fellow linemen, and the change from Bryant McKinnie was positive overall. There's no turning back now.

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