"We can't look at 0-3 and say let's look forward to when we could possible be 4-3," Joe Flacco said after the Ravens' 28-24 loss to the Bengals. "We've got to do it one game at a time." (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
A team many considered Super Bowl-bound sitting at 0-3 with the worst record in the AFC is certainly reason enough for some deep exploration of why that is.
Here's what they're saying about the Baltimore Ravens, with some blame for the pass rush and quarterback Joe Flacco, and a lot of praise for Steve Smith Sr.
-> Grantland.com's Robert Mays traces the team's defensive struggles to the inability to get a pass rush without sending extra pressure, forcing dangerous blitzes from elsewhere.
"Dealing with a Broncos offense desperately in search of its footing, Baltimore looked pretty formidable in Week 1, but since then it's been sliced apart by … Derek Carr and Andy Dalton. The Ravens secondary was an injured mess by the end of last season, but with Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb back, the hope was that Baltimore's defensive backs would be good enough to take advantage of a very good pass rush. Yet, with Terrell Suggs hurt and Pernell McPhee in Chicago, that pass rush has gone missing. The Ravens sacked Dalton twice, but the majority of Baltimore's pressure was a product of sending extra bodies at the quarterback.
That's fine when it works — back-seven players Will Hill, C.J. Mosley, and Terrence Brooks all had hits yesterday — but if the pressure doesn't break through, it allows A.J. Green to ruin your day."
"There's another issue, however, that hasn't gotten enough attention. While he hasn't been a big part of the problem and some of the other issues negatively affect him, quarterback Joe Flacco just hasn't been good enough. If you're getting paid an average of $20 million, you're supposed to be able to mask some of the other deficiencies on your team. Flacco's not doing it.
In the four games dating back to last year's playoff loss to the Patriots, Flacco has had the ball in his hands late in the fourth quarter with a chance to win, tie or put the game out of reach. He's 0-for-4 in those opportunities. In fact, Flacco has lost his last seven opportunities in those situations going back to last season."
"The AFC North isn't that good, but turning things around will require improved play along the offensive and defensive lines, and a herculean effort from Smith, the only receiver whom Flacco has shown much confidence in thus far. It's not lost on his teammates that Smith, who joined one of football's marquee franchises 18 months ago for a last hurrah, is now the most vocal man trying to ward off the Ravens' first losing season since 2007."
-> Smith made the ProFootballFocus Team of the Week after his virtuoso performance Sunday. He was joined by another veteran receiver having a great year: Arizona Cardinal Larry Fitzgerald.
"What year is it? These two veterans rolled back the years to pick up two touchdowns each and top the 100-yard mark. Their presence here is pretty impressive, considering they kept Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and A.J. Green out in what was another big week for the big-name receivers."
"Smith's fantastic start is a credit to his tenacity -- he broke two tackles and eluded a third on a 50-yard score on Sunday -- and the lack of playmakers around him. There is no other threat at wide receiver because first-round pick Breshad Perriman is out with a sprained knee and there is no running game this year with [running back Justin] Forsett (3.2-yard average). The only other viable offensive weapon has been tight end Crockett Gillmore, but he didn't play most of Sunday's game because of an undisclosed injury."