In all my years for following Maryland sports – Orioles, the University of Maryland, and The Ravens last night’s loss will rank for me as one of the worst meltdowns in Maryland sports history.
Staked with a 21-7 lead at Halftime the Ravens offense pulled a Keyser Soze (poof and he was gone) and scored only three the rest of the way while fumbling and bumbling their way into multiple turnovers. The Steelers took full advantage and posted another playoff victory over Baltimore.
For fans of the Ravens it’s maddening to the point of absurdity how this team finds ways to lose in the big games. But more on that later. There is a lot to discuss here not just about this game but about the future of the franchise.
* One of the biggest letdowns of this season has been the Ravens offense.
It’s been the Achilles of this team since they became a playoff contender and I feel they aren’t that much closer than they were almost ten years ago.
127 Total yards of Offense – 23 in the Second Half – 3 Turnovers
You don’t deserve to win with such an ugly stat line.
The offense was a point of emphasis in the off-season but for all the money spent on draft picks, and signings this is still a very mediocre unit.
I’ll begin with the skill players. I have a whole section reserved for Joe Flacco so I’ll be brief here. He’s made strides over his first three seasons but he’s not good enough yet. Will he ever be? I have no idea right now.
Ray Rice, who fought a stomach bug over the last few days, made a concerted effort to eliminate the fumbling issue he had a season ago. He looked to have it cured as he did not fumble at all this season. Ryan Clark made a nice play but watch the replay and Rice’s ball security looks questionable at best. Most of the night he was indecisive running the ball and while the Steelers can close lanes quickly he had opportunities that he missed.
Anquan Boldin was signed with the Steeler games in mind but he was rarely targeted last night and the times that he was he failed to produce. During the first series, Flacco tried to force the ball into Todd Heap causing the Ravens to punt. On the replay you see Boldin wide open to the opposite side calling for the ball. That picture sums up his time here. He’s been a forgotten man in the offense for the second half of the season. However when Flacco looked his way in crunch time and delivered a pass that only he could get too -he muffed it.
Derrick Mason looked old last night. Mason was non-commital when asked if he would return with one year left on his contract. He should take some time and see what he wants to do but I think it’s time for him to move on.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh has never been shy about his feeling in regards to his reduced role in the offense. He was signed late to this team and I wondered when they got him just where he would fit in. He’s a confident man and has openly asked for more targets. He got a big one last night and dropped a ball thrown into his hands. I’m unsure what his future will be here. I’d like to see him come back, only if Mason retires. He may wish to look elsewhere though.
The Offensive Line needs some re-tooling. Matt Birk was a good pickup to replace an overpriced Jason Brown a few years ago but that was two years ago and Birk is showing some signs of slowing. They’ll need to find a back-up to ease into the spot or look for a replacement immediately. I also wonder what will become of Jared Gaither who oddly enough wants to come back next season. Has too much damage been done to repair this relationship? The line gave up 40 sacks in the regular season and pass protection regardless of the opponent has been an issue.
Cam Cameron. I thought he called a great game – in the First Half. But Cameron can’t seem to made the proper adjustments after Half-time. Of course he didn’t fumble or drop crucial passes but he is just another element to the underachievement of the offense. The Ravens need some fresh eyes on the problem and I think Cameron will be forced to depart.
*Joe Flacco has improved as a Quarterback but the jury is still on weather or not he is “the guy”.
Last night Ravens fans were treated to another pain inducing episode of “Good Flacco/Bad Flacco”. In the first half he looked like the poised and talented player that seemed ready to shake off past performances and finally slay the Pittsburgh demon. In the second, he looked confused and almost paralyzed on the sidelines. His body language told the story. He sailed passes, he fumbled, and he threw a costly interception that was an awful decision when you look at the coverage.
Even though he staggered through the last half of the game he still got no help when he could have used it. Boldin and Houschmanzadeh’s drops were crucial. Two missed plays that will haunt both players throughout the off-season. And that’s a part of my point – he can’t carry the offense with things break down around him. Can he improve in that area? I don’t know.
If Baltimore wants to make Flacco their quarterback for the foreseeable future then an effort must be made to emphasize his strengths- quick reads, and plenty of shotgun. Which brings me back to Cameron. He’d done a nice job with Flacco but can he help him get to that next level? I don’t think so.
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