Ravens can't deliver the one present Baltimore wanted

Oh well, it was nice to dream about having a first round bye and having home field advantage in the playoffs.

The Ravens had a chance to deliver a Christmas present to the city of Baltimore Sunday night, and San Diego took it away. The Chargers didn't steal it. That would be an insult to their effort.

The Chargers bullied the Ravens and took it.

So with two games remaining, New England seems destined to secure home field advantage. They have home games remaining against Miami and Buffalo. Pittsburgh could also get the top seed, but it must play San Francisco Monday night, then the Steelers have games left versus the St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns.

This isn't to say that the Ravens still can't win a Super Bowl, but the most disappointing thing about Sunday night's loss was that an old problem resurfaced.

It's not one that occurred this season, but it has been here in Baltimore for a long time. The Ravens can't cover in the secondary. We saw it against Seattle, and the Ravens kept blaming it on lack of communication.

In fact, Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed said it didn't need to be addressed because the Ravens were still winning.

Maybe they'll address it now.

Chargers head coach Norv Turner did a great job of scheming against Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, and with him blocked the Ravens had no pass rush.

And then San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers torched the Ravens secondary. He burned rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith a couple of times and he got cornerback Cary Williams, too.

It was a group effort. San Diego receivers Malcom Floyd and Vincent Jackson took out Reed, who appeared to freeze as he tried to figure out which player to cover.

Purple in the house

There were a lot of Ravens fans here Sunday night, possibly as many as eight to ten thousand. When the national anthem was played, the "oh" was loud and rattled the stadium.

It was surprising that most of those fans were seated behind the Ravens bench.

Early misses haunt

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco missed three passes on the team's opening drive, two of which could have been touchdowns. He underthrew receiver Lee Evans on a back shoulder throw at the San Diego 10 and on the next play hung a pass after Evans had a step on everyone in the San Diego secondary.

If Flacco had led Evans on the second attempt, it would have been an easy 27-yard touchdown.

New kicker needed?

If placekicker Billy Cundiff continues to struggle, the Ravens need to bring in Shayne Graham again. Cundiff missed a 36-yard attempt early in the game.

Last year, he was automatic. This season, there isn't nearly the confidence.

Surprising starter

It was surprising that Smith started at cornerback in place of Lardarius Webb. An hour before the game started, Webb looked good working out with assistant coaches, and pushed off well on his injured toe.

Apparently, though, he wasn't ready to go full tilt because the Ravens used Webb in only certain coverages. As expected, Smith struggled and was fortunate that Rivers overthrew Jackson, who had beaten him badly on a possible 34-yard touchdown reception midway through the second quarter.

Jackson got Williams on a 58-yard reception minutes later.

But it wasn't just Williams' fault. Reed allowed Jackson to get behind him. Webb eventually became the starter in place of Williams in the third quarter.

Looking their age

The Ravens really looked old at times in the game.

On Ryan Mathew's 1-yard touchdown run around right end late in the second quarter, the Chargers didn't even block outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and he couldn't make the play.

Reed couldn't get off a block to make the tackle and inside linebacker Ray Lewis got there late.

Barnes is back

The Ravens traded defensive end/outside linebacker Antwan Barnes to the Philadelphia Eagles at the end of training camp last season.

It was a bad move then, and it came back to haunt them Sunday night. Barnes harassed Flacco most of the night and once the Ravens got behind, they had no answer for Barnes.

Shadowing Suggs

Turner made sure he wasn't going to get beat by Ravens Suggs.

The Chargers chipped Suggs with running backs and basically had tight end Randy McMichael shadow Suggs all over the field.

Suggs had one sack in the fourth quarter and had the audacity to beat on his chest. He should have held the theatrics until next week.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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