Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers might as well have been running a summer drill for much of the afternoon. He coped with the Ravens pass rush almost casually, and his targets were routinely open by several yards on underneath routes.
Harbaugh praised his team’s man-to-man coverage. But the fact is Rivers went 28-for-37 for 301 yards, with a 126.1 passer rating. In eight games, only Michael Vick and the ghost of Peyton Manning have genuinely struggled to carve up the Ravens.
It’s hard to call this anything but a talent problem.
General manager Ozzie Newsome gambled that healthy seasons from cornerbacks Smith and Webb would wipe away most of the unit’s shortcomings from 2014.
It’s proven to be a rare miscalculation for one of the sport’s most respected executives.
Webb has again tried to play through nagging injuries. Smith is playing tentatively, raising questions about his recovery from foot surgery. Kyle Arrington, signed to be the nickel defensive back, has not performed up to expectations. Health woes have robbed the team of potential solutions at corner and ravaged the safety corps (though Will Hill played another solid game Sunday). Linebackers Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley haven’t covered as well as they did last year.
It’s just a mess. And it doesn’t help that the Ravens are forced to commit more defensive backs and linebackers to blitzes as they try to compensate for the absence of linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Rivers mostly dissected the Ravens on short passes, which they defended well in 2014. Sometimes, as on a touchdown pass to Keenan Allen in the corner of the end zone, the San Diego quarterback and his receiver were simply too good.
But when the Ravens surrendered a 70-yard touchdown to Chargers wide receiver Michael Floyd on a route they’d spent the week preparing to stop, the disappointment was all too familiar. The secondary looked sluggish and confused. And the Ravens again trailed heading into the fourth quarter.
True, the blow did not prove to be a killing one. But as we saw in the first seven weeks, it easily could have been.