I am very confused. As a Ravens fan, I’ve spent the last decade watching football teams that stonewalled opposing offenses. Against Baltimore, teams couldn’t come up with first downs in the clutch to save their souls.
Suddenly, I’ve become a fan of a team that looks more like the 2008 New Orleans Saints. What happened?
While the coaching staff didn’t help its own cause in the Ravens' Week Six contest, Steve Hauschka missed a makeable game-winning field goal attempt.
The officiating was sketchy in the first half but the Ravens lost this game because they couldn’t get a stop when they had to (or really at all , for that matter).
This is a franchise that has lived by its defense and its swagger for years. Remember Ray Lewis ripping the ball away from Eddie George and taking the ball to the house in 2000? How about when they held Peyton Manning and the Colts to just five field goals in the 2006 playoffs? Well, forget about those feats, because this team has problems.
The defensive line and linebackers played decently, but they over-pursued on some plays and let Peterson into the secondary more than they should have. It was not the front seven’s best game, but they didn’t single-handedly lose the game.
That honor went to the offensive (as in abhorrent) defensive backs.
The only guy in the secondary that I thought played well was Lardarius Webb, and that’s only because he was right on Percy Harvin on a drag route. Otherwise, Webb didn’t get enough snaps on defense to properly judge his performance.
Ed Reed was a non-factor, but I didn’t see him commit any terrible or bonehead mistakes. Yes, he missed a tackle on Peterson on the big-gainer in the fourth quarter, but he was one-on-one in the open field. It’s possible that the Vikings just didn’t throw his way.
Everyone else in the secondary was miserable. Dominique Foxworth made one nice tackle in the flat and missed multiple others. Fabian Washington was beaten multiple times because he continued to give the receivers eight or even ten yards of cushion in man coverage.
Frank Walker should not ever be in man coverage on the outside against guys like Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice, and showed exactly why as he got called for pass interference both times he was thrown at deep.
As awful and unwatchable as everyone else was, Dawan Landry may get the game ball for being the absolute worst. He stood and stared at Visanthe Shiancoe on Shiancoe’s second TD of the game, he missed multiple tackles, and he was just out-sprinted by Rice on the slant that set up the Vikings’ first field goal.
On that play, Washington had to outrun Landry and then catch Rice in order to make the stop.
Basically, Landry has shown an inability to cover, makes tackles, run anyone down, or blitz. I will be furious if we don’t see either Tom Zbikowski, who has very good vertical speed and a hitter’s mentality, or Haruki Nakamura, who has a nose for the football, starting at strong safety after the team’s bye week.
As far as solutions for the defense go, I would recommend sitting both Landry and Foxworth for Zbikowski and Webb, at least to see if they can finally stop someone.
Webb, as a big body with very good speed, could be the presence they need on the back line. They can’t be any worse than the current starters. Mattison should also bring more pressure, as Favre (like all quarterbacks against the Ravens this year) had tons of time to step up and make easy throws to open receivers all day.
Going forward, this has the potential to be a good football team, but it also has the potential to be an 8-8 waste of a season if they can’t figure out how to stop the passing game.
Sometimes you can win shootouts, but if you're counting on going over 30 points every game, that style of play doesn’t bode well as the weather gets colder and the playoffs approach.
The bye will come at the right time for the reeling Ravens, who have shown that the offense can hang with the best of them but need some sort of salve for an awful pass defense.
If they can implement anything to improve the secondary, there’s still some (albeit slim) hope for a division title. The Bengals’ loss to the Texans is a nice boost for the Ravens' playoff hopes.