Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers readers' questions about the Ravens' loss to the San Diego Chargers, their struggles in the red zone and more.
How does Elvis Dumervil line up offsides repeatedly, seemingly all in key moments? It was pretty obvious on the broadcast that he was doing that, so why couldn't someone fix it? I understand he's trying to get an edge and a good break, but that was terrible and inexcusable. -- Jack T.
Jack, all I can come up with is a complete lack of concentration and focus. If you line up in the neutral zone once, that momentary lapse can be explained away. However, the second and third fouls are just inexcusable. Nothing else to be said. On the afternoon, the Ravens lacked discipline.
Mike, I can't recall any professional or college team recently that has had more first-and-goal situations from inside the 10-yard line and had to settle for a field goal. It happens too often to be a coincidence, and it has cost the Ravens games this year, as well as in the past. When the Chargers had a first-and-goal near the end of the game, I knew they would score a touchdown, and they did with an innovative play call. Do you think the Ravens' problems in those situations is poor play-calling, execution or both? -- Bob K.
Bob, I don't know that I would call the Chargers play-calling innovative. It was innovative when it was the Air Coryell attack. The current version is just an average NFL attack with a top 10 quarterback in Phillip Rivers leading it.
The Ravens' problems in the red zone come from a lack of execution. Goal-line situations, as I have said many times before, are all about heart and desire. The Chargers defense just outplayed the Ravens offense. The Ravens also have problems running the ball inside the opponent's 20-yard line. The Ravens had 14 runs for a total of 22 yards in those situations Sunday.
The Ravens were unable to finish in the red zone Sunday, and it eventually cost them. Is this a big concern in the final stretch of the season or was it a one-time thing? -- April F., Canton
April, this has been a reccurring theme for the Ravens for years. They settle for field goals far too often. They need to execute better. It will be a big concern for the rest of the season, and probably years to come. They can't move defensive linemen off the line of scrimmage. The running game is effective outside of the 20-yard line, but the Ravens can't get enough movement when it counts.
Why isn't Ozzie Newsome held accountable for the terrible play of the secondary? Sure, he has earned the right to stay with the Ravens after so many good moves through the years, but it hasn't been good lately. Will the Ravens ever move beyond him or is it his job until he decides to retire? -- Ed, Owings Mills
I keep getting more and more of these questions about holding Newsome accountable. I don't get it. He has crafted two Super Bowl winners and a consistent playoff contender. What more do you want?
I think Newsome has held himself accountable in various forms throughout the past few seasons. The trade for Eugene Monroe shows that Newsome made a poor decision in bringing back Bryant McKinnie. The shuffling of cornerbacks, as I mentioned in the report card, shows that he did not properly stock the secondary this year. However, I am not sure that you can blame him for injuries to Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith. Can you blame him for Matt Elam not being able to cover?
If you want to argue about who he has drafted and when, I feel that his record speaks for itself. It is Newsome's job until he decides to retire, and the Ravens are a top-tier organization because of his guidance.
What can the Ravens do to fix the fact that they can't get any pass rush at critical times in games? – Tony
Tony, the Ravens had a pretty consistent pass rush all game long. The problem was that Rivers has excellent pocket awareness and slid around the pocket to avoid the rush. The Chargers also went to using more three-step dropbacks. One thing the Ravens can work on when teams start using that tactic is to get their hands up and try to step into passing lanes. The Ravens were tired from trying to get to Rivers.
Justin Forsett continues to impress on the field. Is there any chance that the Ravens look to sign him to an extension or is this a one-year show before he goes elsewhere? -- Tim, Perry Hall
I believe the Ravens will offer Forsett a contract after this season. However, it will be reasonable. Right player, right price.
What is your take on all of the pass interference penalties in the NFL this year? Even when it favors the Ravens, it just seems to me that it takes away from the game. A quarterback just needs to throw it down the field and chances are they'll either get a catch or a penalty. Sure, it's smart to play by the NFL's new rules, but man does it take a lot of fun out of the defense. -- Jerry L.
The pass interference, defensive holding, illegal contact and any other defensive penalty you want to throw in there is killing this game. If a defender gives a receiver a mean look, it is now a penalty. The officials are starting to have too much impact on the game. I suggest league officials just give the players some flags, take away the helmets and shoulder pads, and call it what it is: flag football.
If the Ravens don't make the playoffs, what's next for them? Do you foresee them letting go key players along with coaches? -- Mike W.
Mike, four more weeks and another swing and miss for the playoffs before these questions are appropriate. Let us see how the season plays out before throwing out the baby with the bath water.