Welcome to the Monday Ravens 10-Pack, where reporter Jon Meoli hits on 10 stats, notes, and thoughts following a disappointing 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Read ahead for notes on the Ravens' suddenly-thin secondary, the struggling pass attack, and what happened to last week's safety rotation.
1. It's hard to watch that game and not wonder, "What exactly are the Ravens?" Given the big wins compiled so far, is this a juggernaut who simply can't beat a good team on the road, or is it a more flawed team whose strengths are strong enough to overrun other flawed teams? Consider this: The Ravens' have losses to a 5-3 Colts team and two to the 4-2-1 Bengals, giving the teams that beat them a total 13-7-1 mark. The Ravens' five wins have come over teams with a combined record of 13-22-1. They're 2-3 against teams with winning records, and 3-0 against teams with losing records (all in the NFC South). And with trips to Pittsburgh and New Orleans looming, those numbers could be even further skewed.
2. There are a lot of reasons quarterback Joe Flacco earned a 43.1 quarterback rating Sunday — he was basically the worst quarterback playing in the league who wasn't wearing a Jets jersey. But one interesting note from Pro Football Focus: Flacco didn't attempt a pass to the left side of the field, which I assume means outside the hashes on that side. The interception intended to Torrey Smith could have been considered left, but it ended up middle. I don't know if it speaks to tunnel vision, or simply nothing developing on that side, but it's interesting to see how limited the passing game was. And on that note ...
3. Ladies and gentlemen, your top five receivers for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday: running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (42 yards on two catches), receiver Michael Campanaro (40 yards on three catches), receiver Steve Smith (35 yards on three catches), rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore (23 yards on two catches), and fullback Kyle Juszczyk (one catch for 21 yards). Torrey Smith wasn't even targeted, except for that interception. Bengals cornerback Terrance Newman was in Steve Smith's pocket all game. An optimist could say the Ravens are developing plenty of young options for Joe Flacco who could be valuable over the long term if they can't pay Torrey Smith. A pessimist looks at that and fears for the offense over the next few weeks.
4. This week's "Jimmy Smith, top-flight corner" update is just a big sad-face. Smith wasn't targeted in coverage before he injured his foot on goal-line tackle early in Sunday's loss. But all you needed to do was see his stand-in Dominique Franks, playing 12 yards off the line of scrimmage against replacement-level receivers to know the impact — and talent — that Smith brings to a game. Facing a Steelers offense that threw for over 500 yards last week, that will only be highlighted even more.
5. To that note, Smith's injury forced Matt Elam to be the team's third cornerback, and it forced the Ravens out of the safety rotation that worked so well last week. I don't really understand why a player who was limited to run snaps in Week 7 becomes your slot corner in Week 8, but that's a question for a later date. It also meant plenty of snaps for rookie safety Terrence Brooks (33), who got turned around on a big fourth-quarter play on the Bengals' final drive, but otherwise was decent. However, safety Will Hill played only 12 snaps, while Darian Stewart played his typical unimpressive game. Brooks' role might be highlighted more than anyone else's if Smith is out, but I still think Hill is the best option at safety going forward.
6. The Ravens' pass rush got a ton of credit the last few weeks, but it's always hard to quantify defensive line play on the interior unless a player does something really great. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata did a few such things Sunday. He dragged down running back Jeremy Hill at the goal-line in the fourth quarter, and his strip-sack of Andy Dalton gave the Ravens life when it was unclear any hope was left. It's fair to say everyone on the front seven has had a truly great game this season. The task now for those men, and defensive coordinator Dean Pees, is to have it all occur at once.
7. Long-snapper Kevin McDermott flew under the radar in his first game in place of the injured Morgan Cox, but give some of that credit to punter/holder Sam Koch, who corralled some wayward snaps on field goals and placed them perfectly for kicker Justin Tucker. One was at Koch's chest, basically, and the other was aimed at his right knee. McDermott seems totally capable, but it's interesting seeing that three-man unit include a different person for the first time in years.
8. Speaking of special teams, this feature isn't immune to the weekly pile-on of Jacoby Jones. He had plenty of return opportunities and just couldn't find holes. That Campanaro got both of the punt returns instead of Jones is a sign the coaching staff has lost some faith in him, and it might be time to let someone else return kickoffs as well if Jones isn't even getting back to the 20-yard line.
9. Also in that area of the game, it's crazy to think about given how few snaps he plays, but rookie linebacker Zach Orr, who is a special teams specialist, picked up his third penalty of the season Sunday. Only two Ravens — tackles Eugene Monroe and James Hurst — have more. As someone on the team for his special teams abilities and presumably keeping a second-round pick, Arthur Brown, off the field, it seems Orr has a lot of rope. Also worth noting in the penalty front is that right tackle Rick Wagner's false start Sunday was the first he's taken all season. He's been so solid in his first season as a starter, and that's just one way of showing it.
10. This week, the accountability corner is a shameful place. My three stars were as bad as could be this week. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil drew a couple penalties but didn't live up to his first-star billing. Running back Bernard Pierce was in street clothes with a scowl on his face, though the reasoning behind Pierce's selection pretty much held true for rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro. The only one that could have paid off was Tucker, who was money on all three of his kicks. I'll do better next week.