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Ravens' coaching let them down in this one

"We have everything we need," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. "But, we can't play like that, and make the mistakes we made in this game and win the football game." (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

When the Ravens begin breaking down the film of their 16-10 loss to the Washington Redskins on Monday, coach John Harbaugh needs to evaluate himself and his coaching staff more than the players.

Except for defensive coordinator Dean Pees, the Ravens' coaching staff performed poorly and should shoulder more blame than the players.

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There are plenty of players to point fingers at — receivers who can't catch, offensive linemen who don't block and defensive backs that can't cover — but when two bad football teams are playing, good coaching makes a difference.

It did Sunday, and that's why the Ravens lost.

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Harbaugh can't move past his "we must be aggressive attitude" or overcome his clock management issues. Special teams coach Jerry Rosburg, for the second straight week, hasn't been able to fix his coverage units, and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman's play calling was disappointing.

More than disappointing, it was terrible again.

After Sunday's loss to the Redskins, Harbaugh either needs to make a move to improve his offensive staff or give Trestman an endorsement. Frustration is starting to set in with the players.

"It's frustrating. I'm not happy, especially when you play that [way]," quarterback Joe Flacco said of two straight homes losses against two of the NFL's worst defenses. "It's embarrassing to run off the field in front of your home fans, in front of your teammates. Our defense is putting up awesome fights every week, and we're just running on and off the field, basically."

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Even when the Ravens got in field goal range, they managed to mess that up, too. That one goes on Harbaugh, not Trestman. Facing a fourth-and-12 at the Washington 17-yard line with 6:31 left in the half and a 10-6 lead, Harbaugh called for a fake field goal. Kicker Justin Tucker threw a pass that was short of tight end Crockett Gillmore.

Gillmore was open, but the Ravens didn't need to call a fake. At that point, the Ravens defense, one of the best in the NFL, was playing well. The Ravens also have one of the leagues best kickers, so why not just take the three points?

"It was an aggressive call; I'm not second guessing it," Harbaugh said. "I've been here nine years and said we're going to be aggressive."

Mark Selig, Ravens editor: Everything seemed to click for about five minutes, and then the Ravens' offense reverted to the unit we had seen through the first

But let's use some logic here. The Ravens were playing the Redskins, not the New England Patriots. They weren't in a situation where they needed to manufacture a lot of points. This was a Tucker kind of game where you win by field goals, not touchdowns.

There were other times you wondered what Harbaugh was thinking, such as the delay-of-game call the Ravens received at the end of the first quarter before Tucker's 31-yard field goal.

Harbaugh called his last timeout of the game with the clock already stopped at 20 seconds left, and the Ravens facing fourth-and-8 at the Washington 21. That timeout virtually insured the Ravens had only one opportunity left. If they saved the timeout and were able to convert the first down, they would have had an extra play or two to score.

It was a poor day for Harbaugh. I thought it was going to be a good one because this week he finally got cornerback Shareece Wright out of the lineup and inserted young players Tavon Young and Sheldon Price. He also cut running back Justin Forsett in favor or Terrance West.

But Trestman doesn't know how to use West. Trestman doesn't have a feel for the game, and Harbaugh apears to be at his mercy because he doesn't have an offensive background. West had seven carries for 60 yards in the first half, but got only four carries in the second half, to finish with 95 yards.

In a season-opening loss against Pittsburgh, the Steelers pounded the Redskins into submission with their running game, and it seemed like the Ravens were going to do the same after the first quarter.

But, poof. West disappeared like Houdini.

There was never more of a blown opportunity than midway through the second quarter, when the Ravens recovered a Washington fumble at the Redskins' 15-yard line. Instead of handing off to West, the Ravens threw three passes before setting up Tucker's errant pass to Gillmore.

One more thing about that fake field goal. Tucker set up to approach the ball as if he were a left-footed kicker, which was unusual because he is right-footed. That was a dead give away it was a fake. Harbaugh, though, liked the play. Apparently, so did special teams coach Jerry Rosburg who schemed it up with him.

The Ravens need to forget the trickery and get back to the fundamentals in kick coverage. They allowed a 45-yard kickoff return and an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown. This keeps happening every week now.

"I'm disappointed in the way we played. I'm very disappointed," Harbaugh said. "It starts with me."

Agreed. The first thing Harbaugh has to do is clear up the Trestman situation. The Ravens have no offensive identity. They do silly things like run a five-yard route on third-and-10. They might have more one-yard patterns in their offense than any team in the NFL. They can't find a rhythm

On the sidelines, there isn't a lot of communication between Harbaugh and Trestman, and only slightly more between Trestman and Flacco. Trestman is at the point where he is on the verge of losing these offensive players unless Harbaugh endorses him or makes a change.

The NFL has become a composition of a lot of poor-to-mediocre teams. On any given day, one team can be as bad as another. But in those types of games, coaching can make a difference. The Ravens coaching staff didn't get it done Sunday.

This loss was on them. They came up empty.

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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