Suddenly, it all falls apart for Ravens

The Baltimore Sun

INDIANAPOLIS - The specific question was about Joe Flacco's three interceptions. Were they the result of bad throws, bad decisions, bad protection, good defense, what?

"All of the above," was Ravens coach John Harbaugh's clipped response.

Same goes for the reasons the Ravens have sunk from unbeaten overachievers to narrow and frustrated losers to public flogging victims in three weeks. Lousy offense, soft defense, weak special teams? All of the above. All in one day. All against one team.

"Basically, that's what should be written - the Indianapolis Colts played much better than us," Derrick Mason said with a sigh, devoid of any other explanation.

The Colts were better? OK. They have won the past six meetings, including the playoffs. But better by 31-3, and capable of making it worse?

That demands explanation. Something more than this being the usual adversity to overcome - or, as Harbaugh put it testily (yes, he was clipped and testy, and wouldn't you be after a game like that?), "an opportunity to see what kind of man you are, and what kind of football team you are." Even something more than injuries, as damaging as the absence of four key defensive players and the right tackle was.

There had been no indication the Ravens were 28 points worse than any team on any field. A week ago, the worst that could have been said was that they let contending teams catch them from behind. Remember, they're the team that was only a few plays away from being 4-0, while the Colts were a few plays away from being 0-4.

Where were those teams yesterday? What happened at Lucas Oil Stadium - where, by the way, the Colts had never won - was more than disturbing. That should scare the mess out of everybody.

You can blame individuals, areas and units, but you can't put singular blame on any of them. Flacco was as bad as he has ever been - and to his credit, like those of his teammates who stuck around to talk about it, he 'fessed up to it - but it wasn't just him. The running game, which was supposed to make the difference against the light, Bob Sanders-less Colts defense, went nowhere almost immediately, but it wasn't just that.

The protection, backs and tight ends included, repeatedly lost track of Colts pass rushers, but it wasn't just them. Chris McAlister was exposed twice by Marvin Harrison for touchdowns, but it wasn't just him, either. Nor was it just the replacement corners and the constantly crossed-up safeties.

Dominic Rhodes - essentially the Colts' last healthy back by halftime - ran through an endless series of arm and finger tackles on an embarrassing 38-yard pickup late in the first half, leading to Harrison's second touchdown catch. On Rhodes' 1-yard score in the third quarter, it didn't even look as though the Ravens were in the proper defense. But it wasn't just the defense's fault.

Yamon Figurs repeatedly ran kickoffs from deep in the end zone and got leveled nearly every time before the 20, but it wasn't just his and the special teams' fault.

Again, it could have been worse. The Colts turned the Ravens' five turnovers into only three points. A fourth-quarter bomb to Reggie Wayne was called back for holding. They threw deep one last time in the final three minutes, up by four touchdowns, and didn't miss by much.

All things considered - including, by the way, the two awful teams they beat to open the season - the Ravens might not be that good after all.

But they shouldn't have been bad enough to be beaten like this.

Listen to David Steele on Fridays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

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