Bye comes at the right time for struggling Ravens

HOUSTON

— Few teams are happy to go into the bye week with a loss, but this might work in the Ravens' favor.

They need a break to solve a lot of problems, and they can't be settled with the normal five to six days in between games.

In fact, the Ravens haven't solved them all year, and they may not for the rest of the season, especially on defense. After Sunday's 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans, the Ravens tried to find something positive, but there wasn't much.

"I think the bye is always coming at the right time," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "It's always frustrating when you lose, period. When you lose like that you don't feel good about it. But like we said in the locker room, they all count the same no matter how you lose."

Nice try, Joe.

It wasn't just another game or another loss. Most games in the NFL go down to the last 4 or 5 minutes and a lot of them are decided by a touchdown or less.

The Ravens got destroyed. They got blown out.

On a day when they were trying to make a statement that they were the best team in the AFC, they looked like the old Ravens of 1997.

Worse than that, they smelled like the Cleveland Browns.

You want some positive spin?

Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs played for the first time since tearing his Achilles in April, and the Ravens play in the AFC North, which is becoming one of the worst divisions in the NFL.

And thank goodness the Ravens have a bye this week. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

"We have to take a long look in the mirrors this week and get things corrected from this game," Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said. "We just have to move forward."

After watching the loss Sunday, the Ravens need some other things like self control and discipline. Early last week, Ravens safety Ed Reed went on the radio talking about his hidden shoulder injury.

In Sunday's game, safety Bernard Pollard bumped an official after he was called for a penalty, and then late in the game he was screaming uncontrollably on the sideline and had to be calmed down by an assistant coach.

There was safety Christian Thompson getting an unsportsmanlike conduct , and then later reportedly tweeting at halftime which he later denied.

The madness has to stop. The Ravens need to slow down the world. They need this break.

There are some who will say the outcome would have been different if team leader Ray Lewis had been on the field, but this meltdown had been brewing for two weeks when Kansas City and Dallas each rushed for more than 200 yards.

The Ravens gave up only 181 rushing yards to Houston, but the Texans carved up the secondary for another 256 yards passing. Of Houston's 12 offensive possessions, four ended in touchdowns and the Texans had a nearly 17 minute advantage in time of possession.

"We've got to coach better and we've got to play better to accomplish what we want to accomplish," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. "It's a good time to have a bye week to work those things out."

"I'm concerned about everything," he said. "What aren't you concerned about? Sometimes you get tossed out of the bar. We came in with hype, with good intentions and ready to battle. I thought our guys fought. We kept running back in and they kept throwing us back out."

It ended in a knockout.

Unfortunately, there is no sign the Ravens will improve. Seven games into the season, the front seven still can't get off blocks, and the cornerbacks still can't cover or tackle. There would be a sense of hope if these were older players not performing well, and there were good, young players coming off the bench. But a lot of these guys are in years three, four or five, when they should be having break out seasons.

It is a bad day when the Ravens best defensive player is Suggs, who had more rust on him than an old steel mill in Sparrows Point.

"Potential, it's just the little things," said Suggs in addressing the young player. "They have tremendous potential and believe me, they [Houston] will see us again."

OK Sizzle, stay positive. At least during the bye week, you'll get a few more days to keep dreaming.

That's the beauty of the bye. Most teams like to go into it with a win, but for big losers like the Ravens, maybe they can fix some things.

They have problems on offense as well. Basically, if you have speed rushers on the outside and can play the Ravens man to man, you have a good chance of winning.

Philadelphia and Houston created those matchup problems for the Ravens, and both won. Kansas City had a similar game plan, and the Chiefs almost pulled the upset.

In Sunday's game, the Texans pounded Flacco. He was sacked four times as the Ravens were beaten soundly up front. But Flacco also turned in another poor performance on the road including a 4.2 QB rating at the half.

That's sounds more like an earned run average.

He under and over threw receivers. He got nervous feet.

On a day when the Ravens needed him to carry the team, he didn't, and neither did running back Ray Rice who became an afterthought once the Ravens got behind.

We've seen that act before, too.

But as the Ravens pointed out, they are still 5-2 and one of the top teams in the AFC. That's a great bottom line, but you never feel really confident about this team. There appears to be more smoke and mirrors than substance.

Maybe in the next two weeks, they can do something about that. Maybe they can make some adjustments and cover up some weaknesses, if not physically, at least cosmetically again.

At least they have time now for some kind of face lift. It's great they are heading into a bye because too many weaknesses have been exposed.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

 
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