Each week, Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston will answer questions from readers about the Ravens. You can submit questions during every game to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are this week's questions and answers:
Why in the world did the Ravens attempt a field goal on fourth-and-5 at the beginning of the fourth quarter and down by 20 points? Maybe I've missed it, but I have not seen anyone taking John Harbaugh to task for that decision. But that was just terrible. Once I saw that, I knew it was "game over" (actually, I knew it was "game over" before that, but I still had a couple drops left of my purple Kool-Aid). The football gods simply couldn't allow that field goal to be good with that much stupidity flowing from the Ravens' sideline. -- Lynnie B., Richmond, Va.
Lynnie, the game was over long before that field-goal attempt. I believe it was attempted because the Ravens were afraid of getting shut out at home. John Harbaugh was asked about the decision in his post-game news conference and again at his Monday news conference. On Monday, Harbaugh admitted that he regretted the decision. Enough said.
Why didn't the Ravens pull Joe Flacco early and put in Tyrod Taylor since he was healthy to make it a better game? -- John B.
Flacco was not pulled earlier in the game because Tyrod Taylor is a back-up. Flacco, even when he plays poorly, gives the Ravens the better chance to win. It is just that simple. Taylor can make a couple of plays with his legs in a pinch and be included in a gimmick play or two, but not much else. Am I the only one who saw the Patriots score 14 points on defense when he entered the game?
All of that being said, the Ravens need to address the back-up quarterback position. Flacco has been extremely durable during his career by never missing a start, but everyone gets hurt eventually. The Ravens might not have scored the pitiful seven points they did with Taylor playing earlier in the game.
Is our offensive plan better now with Jim Caldwell than it was with Cam Cameron? -- Rocco F.
Nope, and it won't get better until this team establishes an identity and gets better players on the offensive line.
A performance like the one against the Patriots this late in the season -- and with a playoff spot on the line -- seems to reflect significant dysfunction at the core, from top to bottom. The team and staff seemed unprepared. Assuming no playoff berth the season following a Super Bowl win, it's time to look toward next season. Now what? Who stays and who goes (coaches and players)? -- Aaron, Florida
The Ravens still have a chance to make the playoffs. All of the discussions for who stays, who goes, and who is to blame can start once the Ravens are officially eliminated. However, as I have stated all season, the higher the cap number, the more likely you are to be on the chopping block, especially when you are not producing what your salary demands.
It is hard imagining a team being so flat at home with a playoff possibility on the line, but a lot of teams lack energy after Monday night games. It's not an opinion, but a mere fact.
The score might have been lopsided, but just a little more from the running game -- a couple extra third- and fourth-down conversions -- could have made a big difference. With Ray Rice hurt and getting 2 yards on a good play, the Bernard Pierce-to-Rice ratio of carries should be about 3-to-1. Don't you agree? Why won't they do it? -- Tom, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Ray Rice is averaging 3.1 yards per rush for the season. Bernard Pierce is averaging 2.8 yards per rush for the season. Neither is setting the world on fire. It is what it is.
With the Ravens having so much difficulty running the ball this season, why didn't they attempt to do more to correct the situation (obtaining a top-notch and healthy running back, more changes to the offensive line)? In your opinion, did they do enough in an attempt to correct the lack of a running game? Flacco just is not good enough to carry the team with his passing alone. -- John S., Hagerstown
John, we got this question last week. So I will ask again, who do they bring in? Gale Sayers, Lenny Moore, Marshall Faulk, and John Riggins are past their prime. Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and Matt Forte play for other teams. Who do you think is the "top-notch and healthy running back" the Ravens should bring in?
As for the offensive line, the front office did all they could to improve the group during the season by trading for Monroe. Injuries and scheme changes just killed this group. I think Monroe will come back, but Oher is gone. It will be interesting to see Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda can overcome injuries.
And yes, John, we all know Flacco is not good enough to carry a team. It has been obvious all season. Flacco needs a quality running game and a strong defense in order to win.
Has Michael Oher lost his passion? It seems like he has no fire or enthusiasm any more. -- Jeffrey M.
Oher lost his fire and enthusiasm? Jeff, watch the whole game. Oher knows he commits too many penalties. The penalties, and his contract demands, have probably cost him a shot at that coveted second contract from the Ravens. That being said, when he was unjustly called for a false start late in the game, he showed how much fire and enthusiasm he has.
In your opinion, where should the rebuilding begin during the draft -- with the offensive line or with more athletic safeties and inside linebackers who are capable of defending the middle of the field? We continue to get destroyed in the area between the safeties and linebackers! Where was the effort this week? -- Calvin, Tucson, Ariz.
The draft is a long way away. There is still free agency to go through and then the draft. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome will always take the best player on the board and prefers to move into the draft with as few needs as possible. That being said, the Ravens will probably need a tackle and should address that need early. The center position needs a serious look as well.
At the NFL level, I've always thought it was the coaches' responsibility to prepare the players for what to expect and the players' responsibility to get emotionally ready to play. After watching Sunday, do you feel the leadership that was apparent on the team last year actually has been replaced on this year's team? -- Eldon D.
Eldon, teams cannot lose a Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Anquan Boldin with the expectation of maintaining the same leadership level.
After controlling their own destiny, now the Ravens essentially need a win and help to make it to the playoffs. I know they can still get in with a loss, but mountains need to be moved for that to happen. Which team do you expect to prevail with the final playoff spot in the AFC this weekend? -- Bill, Sparrows Point
Flip coins, draw straws, rock-paper-scissors, whatever method you prefer to make tough decisions. I thought the Steelers were dead two months ago, but here they are. The Chargers and Dolphins always find a way to screw things up, but here they are. The Ravens always make the playoffs since Harbaugh has been in town, but here they are. It will be interesting to see if Cincinnati comes to play, and if Rex Ryan can get the Jets up for one more game with all the rumors about his future. This is exactly what the NFL wants. There are four teams eligible for one spot. As always, check the predictions page later this week.