xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

5 things we learned from the Ravens’ 27-23 loss to the New York Giants

"We don't have our eyes in the right spot all the time," said John Harbaugh. "So I want disciplined guys back there and those are the guys that are going to play going forward." (Baltimore Sun video)

1.) The Ravens are exactly what their record indicates.

Over the last two seasons, the Ravens have become incapable of dominating any opponent.

Advertisement

The Giants practically asked to be beaten on their home field, misfiring on offense, turning the ball over three times and giving the Ravens hope with moronic penalties in the fourth quarter.

A really good team would have blown them out in the first half.

Advertisement

But the Ravens aren't a really good team.

They repeatedly hold and jump offsides, meaning they're always climbing out of first-and-20 and second-and-25 holes. That makes it hard for the offense to move consistently and prevents the Ravens from building substantial leads, even when their defense is playing well.

They're reliant on many key players who are 30 and older, and those players, understandably, get hurt more than their younger peers. Meanwhile, the Ravens haven't drafted an impact edge rusher, a reliable cover corner or a consistent big-play receiver in recent years. That means when injuries do hit, as they have the last few weeks, the lack of depth is glaring.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For one week, John Harbaugh's decision to replace offensive coordinator

This team is just as close — maybe closer — to blowing everything up and rebuilding as it is to making a deep playoff run.

They still play hard every week for John Harbaugh. They make every game exciting.  But if those are the best things you can say about the Ravens, where are they?

2.) Injuries directly cost the Ravens in two ways.

From the moment the inactives list came out 90 minutes before kickoff, we knew the Ravens would be fighting uphill.

They started the game without their best receiver, their best offensive lineman, their best linebacker, their kick returner and their starting left tackle. They played with their fourth different offensive line in four weeks.

But none of those injuries proved the most costly.

Instead, the game took a decisive turn when cornerback Jimmy Smith left with a concussion just before halftime. While Smith was in the game, he neutralized the New York's spectacular No. 1 receiver, Odell Beckham Jr.

Odell Beckham Jr.'s 66-yard touchdown reception provided the winning points for the Giants in a 27-23 victory.

With Smith gone, Beckham raced past Will Davis to catch a 75-yard touchdown, beat Shareece Wright for a 43-yard catch that set up a Giants field goal and turned a simple catch up the middle into a game-winning 66-yard touchdown.

A Ravens secondary that had been very good overall this season was suddenly exposed as incapable of handling an elite big-play receiver. Smith's cover skills are unique on this team, and the Ravens can only pray he'll be back next week against the New York Jets.

Advertisement

Meanwhile, the injuries to left tackle Ronnie Stanley, right tackle Rick Wagner and right guard Marshal Yanda left the Ravens unable to finish off drives with touchdowns.

For example, Joe Flacco put the Ravens in excellent position to go ahead with a 70-yard strike to Mike Wallace in the waning seconds of the third quarter. But the Ravens could not score on four plays from the Giants 3-yard line in large part because the offensive line failed to move the Giants front seven.

It was telling that the Ravens called an outside pitch to Terrance West on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. It's hard to imagine their coaches making the same call with Yanda, Stanley and Wagner in the game.

That's not to mention the two sacks, six hits and numerous hurries Flacco had to cope with against the least productive pass rush in the league.

If Smith and the offensive line don't get healthy in a hurry, this season is headed nowhere fast.

3.) Marty Mornhinweg gets a mixed grade for his debut.

Harbaugh made the right move firing Marc Trestman after five weeks of tepid offense.

But Mornhinweg's ascension to offensive coordinator came at an inopportune moment given the injuries to key offensive linemen and No. 1 receiver Steve Smith.

Certainly, we saw some positive changes in his debut.

Flacco hit Breshad Perriman for a 41-yard pass on the Ravens' first possession and found Wallace on that 70-yard bomb late in the third. Wallace also drew a 41-yard pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter, a reminder that long completions aren't the only fruits of an aggressive passing game. Such penalties were essential to the team's offense when Torrey Smith was in town.

In addition to the more prevalent deep shots, the Ravens seemed to remember West was on the roster for the entire game, giving him 23 carries.

On the other hand, the Ravens were just as inefficient for most of the second and third quarters as they had been under Trestman, with Flacco repeatedly checking down to short throws that didn't produce much yardage. As a result, the Ravens could not take advantage of golden opportunities to build a larger lead.

Shabby line play contributed to the problem; Flacco rarely got to throw unmolested.

When I spoke to Mike Holmgren about Mornhinweg during the week, he said his protege's gambling streak sets him apart from a lot of other coaches who teach the West Coast offense.

I saw enough of that against the Giants to think the Ravens are headed in a more promising direction offensively. But with so much frontline talent sidelined, their ceiling will remain limited.

Quarterback: Joe Flacco played a typical game for him in 2016. He had trouble converting on short

4.) Eric Weddle is awfully good.

With the problems on offense and now the injuries to key players, we haven't had much chance to discuss the Ravens' top offseason acquisition.

But Weddle has played terrific all-around football and helped stabilize a defensive backfield that had been  troubled for years.

He is, as he told me in an offseason interview, a very different player from Ed Reed, the gold standard at safety for this franchise and for an entire NFL generation. We probably won't see any wildly improvised interception returns from the 10-year veteran.

But Weddle almost always seems in position to make the correct play, either in run support or coverage.

One play in the second half Sunday summed up his all-around skill and intelligence. The Giants faced third-and-8, and Weddle teased a blitz. But instead, he stepped back at the snap, read exactly where Eli Manning was throwing and darted over to stuff tight end Larry Donnell — who outweighs him by 70 pounds — for no gain.

It's unfortunate Weddle left a frustrating situation in San Diego for another potentially difficult one in Baltimore.

He's playing at a Pro Bowl level and deserves to do so on a contender.

5.) If the Ravens don't win next Sunday, they probably won't make the playoffs.

I know that seems like a drastic thing to say in October when the rest of the AFC North isn't exactly lighting it up either.

But we can't forget how backloaded the Ravens' schedule is, with two games each against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals and trips to Dallas and Foxborough, Mass. The only games in which they project to be clear favorites are home dates against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 10 and the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 4. And honestly, would you make this team an overwhelming favorite against anyone right now?

I thought they needed to be 5-2 going into their bye week to feel good about the playoffs. If they lose to the Jets on the road next week, they'll be 3-4.

Advertisement

Presumably, they will get healthier. And perhaps the offense will find a spark under Mornhinweg. We also can't discount the astounding mediocrity across the middle of the NFL.

Advertisement

But times have gotten desperate far more quickly than most of us could have predicted after Week 3.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement