Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston talks about the Ravens 27-23 loss to the New York Giants. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J — A major weakness the Ravens claimed they had overcome showed up again Sunday.
Despite the New York Giants trying to give the game away, and the officials nearly helping, the Ravens were too inept in the secondary in a 27-23 loss to the Giants.
The Ravens have had this problem for the last couple of years, but thought they solved it, or at least improved the coverage with the addition of safety Eric Weddle and the move of cornerback Lardarius Webb to safety.
They also drafted a gifted young cornerback in Tavon Young to a roster which already included Jimmy Smith, Will Davis and Shareece Wright.
They all got toasted Sunday. New York quarterback Eli Manning completed 32 of 46 passes for 403 yards and two touchdowns. On the other end of most of his tosses was receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who caught eight passes for 222 yards including a 66-yard touchdown that proved to be the game-winner with 1:24 remaining.
Worse yet, it was a short pass of about 5-to-10 yards which Beckham turned into a long run that showed a lot of problems in the Ravens secondary. They couldn't tackle, and the Ravens looked awfully slow as Beckham ran across the field untouched.
"You have to play tight coverage; you have to tackle," Weddle said. "...Big plays always kill you. We say it every day.
"When you miss a tackle or are out of position in a quick passing game like this, it can kill you. That's what happened. We'll get better from this. You learn from your mistakes and get better."
Hmm, we've heard that before through the years, too. The Ravens get it together against weak passing teams such as Cleveland, Buffalo and Jacksonville, which is why they were ranked fifth in the NFL in pass defense before Sunday's game.
But when they play a decent quarterback like Manning, they struggle. And it will get worse when they face Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz in future games.
Some will say rules favor offensive players and that good passing teams will consistently run up big yards, but there are no reasons for missed tackles and poor pursuit angles. Young admitted he botched the coverage on Beckham's touchdown catch in which he got bumped and knocked to the ground by Weddle.
"I'll take the blame on that one," Young said. "They ran some kind of pick and slant, and I have to improve my technique. I have to be flatter, get the receiver flatter and then I wouldn't have gotten picked. But give Beckham credit; he made a good play."
Okay, Young gets some slack because he is a rookie. Davis has no excuses because coach John Harbaugh had warned the Ravens all week about double moves. Then in the third quarter, Beckham ran a little seven yard turn that Davis tried to jump. Beckham turned to the outside and goodbye. He caught a 76 yard touchdown pass down the right sideline.
"We got to have better coverage. Can't give up big plays and touchdowns," Davis said. "Against this team, you have to stay disciplined, take the leverage and use your help to make tackles. I definitely got beat on that double move."
The Ravens were without their top cornerback, Smith, who did not return after a concussion in the second quarter. They also lost cornerback Jerraud Powers in the second quarter with a groin injury. But Smith has struggled this season and also had problems laying off receivers and getting caught peeking into the backfield instead of covering his man.
Regardless, all teams have injuries. Next man up, isn't that the mantra?
"Guys just got to step up. Guys filled in. I was playing outside, back to nickel, back to the outside," Young said. "You've got to have that mindset. Be a dog. Everybody has got to know what each position is and know the plays."
There are no excuses. The Ravens have some young players with potential, but not one who can shut down the other team's top receiver week to week. They haven't had one since Chris McAlister left the team following the 2008 season.
It becomes more glaring when the Ravens face a quality quarterback and they can't get pressure. Manning was sacked only once and hit just two other times.
"We're certainly capable of not giving up big plays, so that's the thing — it's not going to be OK," Harbaugh said. "I believe we have talented guys. We have guys who are fully capable of covering a guy out there. We've done it all year. But, we don't have our eyes in the right spot all the time. So, I want disciplined guys back there and those are the guys that are going to play going forward."