The Ravens were flying high this week after their 35-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season opener. But they crashed down to earth with a thud in an all-around ugly loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon. Here are my quick-hit thoughts after the Ravens didn't resemble the team we saw a week ago and were outplayed on both sides of the ball in a 26-13 loss in Nashville:
1. You can call this loss whatever you like, and stringing together a few four-letter words while defining it would be appropriate, but just don't call it a letdown, remember? Ravens coach John Harbaugh chewed out a reporter this week for using that dirty word, saying, "I'm embarrassed for you when you even say that. There's no such thing as that in the National Football League." But on Sunday, it was Harbaugh who was embarrassed as the Titans, who have a rookie coach and an ancient quarterback, were more prepared mentally and physically than his Ravens. I know Harbaugh was giving us the whole "any given Sunday" spiel, trying to show respect for his opponents and keep his players focused, but the Ravens just lost by 13 points to a team that isn't in their league.
2. There's plenty of blame to go around after this ugly loss, but while we're still on the topic of Harbaugh, what was he thinking when he called Billy Cundiff out onto the field for a field goal with seven minutes left in the game and the Ravens down by 13 points? For the Ravens to have any shot at a comeback, they needed to score a touchdown there, even if the odds were against it.
3. The entire offense was out of sync Sunday. The offensive line, which was so dominant against the Steelers, wasn't the same without injured left guard Ben Grubbs. The wide receivers weren't getting open. And Joe Flacco wasn't sharp, throwing two interceptions and completing less than 50 percent of his throws. If only Cam Cameron had months to draw up a game plan (as was the case before the Steelers game). The only one who should be absolved of blame is Ray Rice, who led the team in receptions and receiving yards and scored a 31-yard touchdown on a screen pass.
4. The Ravens sure missed Jimmy Smith. A year ago, the Ravens were victimized by bigger wide receivers, and that trend has carried over in 2011. Tennessee's Kenny Britt had six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown in the first half and finished with nine for 135 as the overmatched Baltimore secondary struggled to contain him. (The damage wasn't limited to that, though, as veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw for 358 yards). With Plaxico Burress, Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald casting long shadows on the horizon, the Ravens better get Smith back soon.
5. Here's one bright spot for the defense: Haloti Ngata forced an interception for the third time this season when he tipped a pass at the line that pinballed into the lap of Terrell Suggs in the first quarter. The Ravens and Ngata's representatives aren't saying much about his contract extension negotiations, but Ngata has made plenty of noise on the field in the first two games of the season.
6. Here's one more negative for the offense: Right tackle Michael Oher committed two false start penalties Sunday, and the offense took an inexcusable delay of game penalty that preceded the field goal I mentioned above. Overall, Baltimore committed seven penalties for 44 yards.
7. Ray Rice had as many catches as the wide receivers in this one. Anquan Boldin had three and Lee Evans had two. Torrey Smith and David Reed were held off the score sheet. Two thoughts: 1) Evans is an upgrade over Derrick Mason, but Flacco probably misses throwing those comebacks to Mason, who is an excellent route runner. 2) Tandon Doss should be active against the Rams.
8. So what are we to make of this loss? This is an obvious statement, but the Ravens aren't as good as the team that beat the Steelers by four touchdowns and they aren't as bad as one that lost by 13 points to the Titans. We still have plenty to learn about the Ravens over the next 15 weeks, but based on the first two, it appears they could be maddeningly inconsistent again in 2011.