It was one thing when the Baltimore Ravens could blame regular season swoons on convenient, unforeseen mishaps. A terrible quarterback here, a too-conservative coach there, injuries everywhere. Those were the calling cards that always dialed up patience from Ravens fans, relative tolerance from league observers, and less scrutiny for players in the huddle.
But what were once legitimate reasons for hard times in Purple City are no more. Now the reality sets in that the Ravens are not the talent-filled football team they once were. They aren’t the highly motivated, energetic bunch that flew to the football on defense, and once looked like a premier offense in the early weeks of the 2009 season.
Yesterday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals showed everything the Ravens are not. They are no longer have the stout interior against the run, and surely aren’t the ball-hawking secondary they once were. Yeah, injuries may have a lot to do with problems in the secondary , but free agents Fabian Washington, Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr haven’t developed into practice squad members, let alone starting defensive backs.
Ray Lewis isn’t what he once was , and because he isn’t,the Ravens lack discipline and fortitude on running and passing plays. It doesn’t matter how long he’s been in the league, or how hard he still hits; if he’s missing assignments and tackles, why would the other ten men on defense feel any pressure for perfection?
And the offense? For as masterful as Joe Flacco has been, some predictability is starting to settle around the Ravens’ direction on offense . For several weeks, the Ravens have played three-fourths of every game like three-and-outs were going out of style. There’s a lot of complaining that bad and no-calls frequently go against the Ravens , but the best antidote is to make plays and force opposing defenders to make bad ones.
At 4-4 and two games back of the Bengals, there is still reason to believe that the Ravens will find some semblance of defense to ease the burden on offense. Certainly the Ravens have seen worse and still been capable of performing to a caliber worthy of playoff contention. Fans should be hopeful, but the reasons to remain so are slim at best.