The Baltimore Sun's Voter Guide 2016

Ravens' penalty problems only getting worse

The Ravens lead the league in penalties, and those infractions might have cost them three games.

The frustration is palpable, and it's not only because of the Ravens' three-game losing skid.

Sure, the losing streak is a thorny issue, but this topic — which might be a leading cause of the losses — is what seemingly irks Ravens players and coaches most.

The biggest target of the players' withering comments after Sunday's 27-23 loss to the New York Giants was their penchant for accumulating penalties.

"That's what's killing us," wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "We're just doing it to ourselves. We eliminate that, and we're just a way better football team. We put way too many hours in. We're there every single day. The coaches do a really good job of going back and going over the plays we might have gotten a penalty on. There's nothing more they can do. The players, we have to take ownership of not getting the penalties and killing our drives, killing our team."

Said rookie left tackle Alex Lewis, who commited back-to-back penalties Sunday: "That's hard to win games when you're shooting yourself in the foot. It's just something we've got to clean up, and we've got to practice. We'll get there. It's a long season, and we've got 10 more games left, and we'll keep stacking each day and get better."

The Ravens (3-3) are tied with the Oakland Raiders for the most penalties in the NFL with 52, and rank eighth in penalty yards at 403. Thirty-four of those transgressions and 281 of those lost yards have occurred in the team's last three games.

The current squad is on pace for 138 penalties, which would be just one short of the franchise record set in 2005. The Ravens have committed 100 or more penalties each of the past four years.

This season, the Ravens have been flagged for holding 15 times, false start eight times and defensive offside and delay of game four times each. It's a troubling trend that has elicited strong statements from coach John Harbaugh.

"Those have got to be fixed," he said Monday. "You don't jump offsides, and you line up the right way. That is the biggest issue we have on offense. I think the question was asked, 'Why did we bog down?' Well, it's because of that. We're sitting there at first-and-20. So it will continue to be addressed, and it will get corrected because we have to play winning football. You can't lose the game if you want to win."

Here's a look at how penalties have hurt the Ravens in each of their last three losses.

Week 4: 28-27 loss vs. Oakland Raiders: Nose tackle Brandon Williams jumped offsides on fourth-and-1 from the Ravens' 20-yard line. The Raiders got a first down, and three plays later scored a touchdown for a 21-12 advantage. Later, a taunting call on Wallace after he caught a pass for a 2-point conversion allowed the Raiders to begin at their own 34 on a six-play, 66-yard drive for the game-winning score.

"We had a lot of penalties today," right guard Marshal Yanda said that day. "They're tough on our offense to overcome, but we have to overcome them, no matter what. We're going to have penalties in the game. We just have to find a way to overcome them, somehow, some way."

Week 5: 16-10 loss vs. Washington Redskins: Defensive back Anthony Levine Sr. was cited for an illegal block above the waist in the fourth quarter. It wiped out a 16-yard punt return by Devin Hester Sr. that would have set up the offense at the Ravens' 44. Instead, the unit was forced to begin from the 17 on its final series and ended up 21 yards short of the end zone.

"We shot ourselves in the foot," running back Terrance West said after the game. "Penalties put us in a hole. First-and-20, and things like that can affect the game, the punt return. Things like that can change the game. We just have to put it all together. When we put it all together, we're going to be a great team."

Week 6: 27-23 loss vs. New York Giants: A holding penalty on tight end Crockett Gillmore pushed the offense out of Justin Tucker's field-goal range in the second quarter. A holding call and false start on Lewis turned second-and-10 from the Ravens' 37 into second-and-25 from the 22 in the third quarter. And a delay of game on quarterback Joe Flacco on the second-to-last play of the day forced the offense to try to score the game-winning touchdown from 29 yards out.

"When you're in a close game like this, those are the little things that compound and put you in a situation where...instead of taking a knee to win the game, you're in a situation where there's a Hail Mary toss-it-up, and you're trying to win that way," strong safety Eric Weddle said. "Those are the things that kill you. It adds up at the end of the game."

Wide receiver Kamar Aiken said the players have to take inventory of themselves when trying to determine the source of the penalties.

"You just got to dig down inside and do a gut check on yourself, and figure out why," he said. "Whoever that person is making the penalties, why am I making those penalties? Is it technique? Is it this? Is it that? And just go to work on it."

Some coaches have used various forms of punishment to break players of bad habits. Harbaugh declined to elaborate on what the Ravens employ.

"We have a discipline system in place, a very effective one," he said.

Asked if he would consider fining players for their transgressions, Harbaugh replied, "You can't do that. That's against NFL rules."

Then he offered up a bit of mirth. "I'd be all for it," he said with a smile. "I would definitely be all for a fine jar. Yes. That's a good suggestion."

Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.


Misbehaving Ravens

After committing just 18 penalties for a loss of 122 yards in their first three games, the Ravens have now been penalized 34 times for 281 yards in their last three games, which — perhaps not coincidentally — have all ended in losses. Here is how they rank with the rest of the league in penalties and penalty yards.

Top 10 teams in penalties

T1. Ravens 52

T1. Raiders 52

3. Rams 50

4. Eagles 49

T5. Browns 48

T5. Lions 48

7. Redskins 47

T8. Broncos 46

T8. Colts 46

T8. Jaguars 46

Top 10 teams in penalty yards

1. Lions 450

2. Jaguars 442

3. Rams 435

4. Giants 432

5. Bills 414

6. Raiders 411

7. Eagles 404

8. Ravens 403

T9. Dolphins 402

T9. Falcons 402

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