By Kevin Van Valkenburg and Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun
7:42 PM EST, December 19, 2011
If you only look at the statistics from the Ravens' 34-14 loss to the Chargers on Sunday night, you could easily surmise that the team had trouble protecting Joe Flacco. Baltimore's fourth-year quarterback was sacked five times, and three of those were at the hands of former Ravens linebacker Antwan Barnes.
But Terrell Suggs — who was calm, but candid, after the game — wouldn't agree with that assessment.
"You've got to take your hat off to our coaches," Suggs said. "We knew what they were going to do. We just didn't execute. There's only one unit, if you ask me, that played outstanding, and that was our offensive line. They ran the ball, and Joe had time. Joe's got to have that clock in his head just like every other quarterback does, and he's got to know when to get rid of the ball. But besides the offensive line, they played phenomenal."
John Harbaugh, speaking at his Monday news conference, echoed that sentiment. The Chargers got some pressure by rushing only four, but the Ravens needed to do a better job of getting the ball out quickly, and getting open down field.
"There was really no breakdown in the blocking," Harbaugh said. "It was really more of holding the ball. Joe didn't have a lot of places to go with the ball that were clear-cut to him. They did a really nice job of covering. It was mostly zone coverage the whole game, and they just executed it very well."
Flacco wouldn't attribute the Ravens struggles to anything in particular after the game. He said he thought opportunities were there to make plays; the offense simply didn't get the job done.
"I felt like we could have had success today on offense. I felt like our guys did a good job upfront," Flacco said. "We just got into a game where we were fighting from behind. We've been able to be successful in that situation before, and we just weren't able to play through it" Sunday.
Harbaugh said he didn't think there was discord on the team, or between the players and coaches. The coach did acknowledge that he and Suggs had a spirited conversation on the sidelines at one point, a conversation that — when captured by a Baltimore Sun photographer — might have appeared to have been heated. But it was just part of the emotional ebb and flow of a football game, Harbaugh said.
"That's what an NFL sideline is like," Harbaugh said. "Especially when you're trying to fight, dig your way out of a hole. And for me personally, part of our style is that we interact with players throughout the course of the game a lot. I'm always asking guys what they think or sharing my thoughts. Whether it's football or whether you want to call it motivation or whatever. I get a lot of energy from our players. We've got a brotherhood. When you're a team — a real team — it's a band of brothers. Guys are just out there fighting, trying to find a way to get the job done."
Chargers shut out Suggs
San Diego was especially effective against Suggs, often employing Randy McMichael as an extra blocker wherever the Ravens linebacker lined up. It was a strategy that flustered the four-time Pro Bowler.
Sunday night was a frustrating night in many respects for Suggs, a candidate for the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. Fresh off of a three-sack, three-forced fumble outing against the Indianapolis Colts, Suggs had a quiet two-tackle evening against the Chargers. And his rough night was exacerbated by an unnecessary roughness call for slapping the helmet of McMichael and an offsides penalty.
The performance snapped a streak of seven sacks in Suggs' previous three games. Overall, the entire defense finished without a sack for only the second time this season. Harbaugh said he thought San Diego was effective at slowing the Ravens pass rush because they kept running backs and tight ends in the pocket to "chip block" the Ravens rush ends. Suggs blamed himself for not figuring out a way to beat it anyway.
"I was really looking forward to one-on-one matchups with their tackles, but then again, would you leave me one-on-one with your tackles?" Suggs asked rhetorically. "I was really looking forward to the matchup with [former Raven and current Chargers left tackle Jared Gaither], but [coach] Norv Turner, he felt they needed some chip help. We're going to plan accordingly. I knew they were going to give me some attention, but I was really looking to a lot of one-on-ones, but I didn't get them. But that's my fault. I've got to adjust to the plan accordingly and not let it affect my game. But when we did get there, [quarterback Philip Rivers] got the ball out. He's a veteran quarterback, he's a great quarterback. So like I said, I hope we get another chance to see him."
Ravens lost momentum after Cundiff missed field goal
In the aftermath of the Ravens' demoralizing loss, it's easy to forget that the Ravens had a chance to seize the lead on their opening drive.
But kicker Billy Cundiff's 36-yard field-goal attempt strayed wide right, and the team never got that chance again. That missed opportunity could have been significant, according to running back Ray Rice.
"It was momentum, but I'm not going to say that was the deciding factor in the game," he said. "You obviously want to come away with points in the red zone right there. That's the swing of things. If you look at where we were at, we probably go into halftime tied if we had capitalized on the red zone real well. They came out and just pure execution on their part. When they needed a throw, they made a throw. When they needed to make a play on third down, they made a play."
For his part, Cundiff — who did not practice at all last week due to an injured left calf — assumed the blame.
"To be honest, I'm not making any excuses," he said. "It's been frustrating dealing with my leg. I think that's pretty obvious. But when it comes down to it, regardless of the situation, I should still make that kick."
Harbaugh said Cundiff's injury, and his performance of late, have become an area of concern and the team will have to asses things this week. It seems unlikely Cundiff would be released, but he might be shut down if he's not healthy.
"We've got to look at that this week, because he hadn't been able to practice the last couple of weeks, and that maybe affected him a little bit," Harbaugh said. "Nobody's more frustrated right now than Billy with it. Obviously, that's a real makeable kick — a kick that he had made in pregame. He had a really good pregame, and he had a good day the day before. So, we're going to have to look at that really hard this week and try to make a good decision that way."
Why not use your time outs at the end of the half?
Harbaugh did make a point to shoulder the blame for the Ravens decision not to use their timeouts at the end of the half. San Diego ran a lot of time of the clock, and the Ravens got the ball with under a minute remaining, leaving them little chance to get in scoring position.
"I thought about that right away," Harbaugh said. "I should have used those timeouts and given us a chance to get down there and get us some points before halftime."
Cornerback Cary Williams would not comment on the Ravens decision in the second quarter to replace him with Lardarius Webb. "Next question," Williams said . ... Harbaugh confirmed Monday that Matt Birk's wife gave birth to the couple's sixth child, a boy.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun