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The Ravens are sorely lacking playmakers in crunch time

Is there anyone on the Baltimore Ravens who keeps opposing offensive and defensive coordinators up at night?

As the Ravens' 2014 season progresses, it is beginning to look more like 2013.

The Ravens made some changes in the offseason and are getting more production out of the offense with new coordinator Gary Kubiak, but the playmakers have disappeared against quality teams.

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Earlier in the season, it appeared that it was going to be different with the Ravens, who rolled up some big offensive numbers against Carolina, Tampa Bay and Atlanta. But now, a pattern has emerged. Where are the playmakers in crunch time?

It's just not offensive players. Look over at the defense. Except for tackle Haloti Ngata, nobody scares you.

It's not like some of the guys they were counting on like outside linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs are playing poorly, they are just showing signs of age. In games against Cincinnati (twice), Pittsburgh (twice) and Indianapolis, the Ravens two most-feared pass rushers combined for four sacks.

That's it.

At this point in their careers, Dumervil has become one-dimensional as a pass rusher and Suggs survives on experience. As for the secondary, it just survives.

That's a position where general manager Ozzie Newsome has to take a lot of blame. It was evident in the preseason that the Ravens' cornerbacks and safeties were going to struggle, and the Ravens did nothing.

They wanted to give some of the younger guys an opportunity to play, but that wasn't realistic. If cornerback Chykie Brown was terrible last season, his third in the league, was he really going to morph into Deion Sanders?

Second-year strong safety Matt Elam struggled as a rookie -- so it was safe to assume he was going to have problems, at least early this season -- and rookie Terrence Brooks couldn't learn the defense.

Also in the preseason, cornerback Asa Jackson showed he didn't have the speed to match up with outside receivers. Starting cornerback Lardarius Webb hurt his back during the first week of training camp.

The Ravens are left with Manny, Moe and Jack, which is a major reason they can't come up with a big stop when needed in the fourth quarter.

Think about it: What Ravens player on defense does the opposition have to game plan for every play? Is there any player who keeps an opposing offensive coordinator up at night?

The one coordinator having sleepless nights is the Ravens' Dean Pees. After the poor showing in Pittsburgh last Sunday, he now has to decide whether to live or die with the blitz.

On the offensive side, receiver Steve Smith has played well and is certainly capable of making big plays. But he has done little in the last two games.

It's unfair to put the blame on Smith or his age (35). Teams are rotating coverages toward him and other receivers, such as Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, haven't stepped up. Jones barely gets on the field as a No. 3 or 4 receiver.

Owen Daniels has been solid in replacing injured starter Dennis Pitta at tight end, but Daniels is limited as far as getting down the field.

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They might all play better if quarterback Joe Flacco turned up his game against top competition, but he has struggled as well, especially in the last two games against the Bengals and Steelers.

If the Ravens had made a few more big plays, they might be at the top of the AFC North. In the NFL, a head coach is expected to keep the score close until the final four to seven minutes, and that's when the big money players are supposed to make big plays.

Pittsburgh has gotten them from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, receiver Antonio Brown and even veterans such as outside linebacker James Harrison and defensive end Brett Keisel. The Colts have quarterback Andrew Luck, receivers T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne and cornerback Vontae Davis.

Cincinnati has gotten them from receivers A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, and surprisingly, even quarterback Andy Dalton at times.

As for the Ravens, they're still waiting for more. The game Sunday against Tennessee won't count because the Titans are terrible, but there will be other opportunities soon.

Those big plays are the difference between an average team and a good one, the difference maker in a team going to the playoffs, or one staying at home like last season.

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