This was one of those Monday Night Football games that seemed like a head-scratcher. Why would ESPN pit a perennial contender like the Baltimore Ravens against an unpopular struggling team like the Jacksonville Jaguars? Experts predicted an ugly game with an easy Ravens victory.
Well, this game couldn't have been much uglier. For this underdog Jaguars team to win it needed an ugly game where it shut down the Ravens offense and the offense protected quarterback Blaine Gabbert by successfully running the ball. The Jaguars can consider that done with Monday's 12-7 victory over the Ravens.
The Ravens contributed greatly to the game's ugliness. They set a franchise low with an abysmal 16 yards of total offense in the first quarter and they failed to get a first down till midway through the third quarter. Had it not been for a late touchdown, the Ravens would easily have been shutout Monday.
As is so common with Ravens teams, the defense kept them in the game. Although it allowed the Jaguars to run down the clock, it ultimately prevented them from scoring a touchdown. Instead, clutch-kicker Josh Scobee connected on all four field goals, three of which were beyond 50 yards.
For the Ravens, this game reeks on all levels and causes serious doubt as to whether or not the Ravens are among the AFC's best. Now they go from being tied for best record in the conference to second in an extremely competitive division. If they're going to beat the Arizona Cardinals next week, they're going to have to improve in several areas.
Joe Flacco will receive a ton of blame for tonight's loss and rightly so. This was the third game this season where his numbers were terrible (21-of-38 for 137 yards, one touchdown and one interception). However, this game can't be put on one player.
Arguably, no Ravens offensive player is more important than Ray Rice and he let down in a major way tonight. He finished with 28 rushing yards and his first regular-season fumble since 2009. There were clearly some issues with him as he spent some time sitting alone on the bench, looking frustrated.
The Ravens receivers were also terrible. Although the Jaguars deserve credit for shutting them down, there were way too many drops and instances where they failed to get open. The offensive game plan in general was questionable as offensive coordinator Cam Cameron seemed content to call more conservative plays even as time ran out for the offense.
Finishing the first half without a first down tied a record set back in 2005. That dubious statistic was aided by their horrible third-down performance where they only converted 2-of-12. It's hard to say exactly what was at fault, but the Ravens are going to have to practice hard on offense and try not to get discouraged by Monday's game. It is almost impossible for them to be this bad again.
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Usually it's an impressive feat to prevent an offense from scoring a touchdown. However, as any offense-deprived Ravens fan can tell you, some of the worst losses can come in defensive games. Tonight was one of those as the Ravens defense played just bad enough to lose.
With three of Scobee's field goals coming from beyond 50 yards, had the defense pushed them back just a little the Jaguars would have instead punted the ball. Also, the Jaguars starters didn't have good ball security as star running back Maurice Jones-Drew fumbled three times and Gabbert fumbled once. They caught breaks, though, since the Ravens only recovered one fumble.
Dumb penalties were a factor as well. A questionable late hit called on Bernard Pollard kept a Jaguars drive alive that ended with a field goal. Paul Kruger's dumb running into the kicker penalty put the Jaguars in range for the longest of Scobee's field goals.
The little things added up. If the Ravens defense had played at full strength, one touchdown could have won the game. Instead it allowed 12 points, which was way too much for the offense to get.
Jones-Drew also had more than 100 rushing yards, a sore spot for a Ravens team that prides itself against stopping the run. His running was able to keep the Jaguars on the field and run down the clock in the second half. While the defense was not embarrassing like the offense, its performance still leaves something to be desired.
It would seem like it wouldn't be too hard to get a team excited for Monday Night Football—especially when this team is the Ravens and they are getting a chance to showcase themselves as an elite team to a national audience.
Yet John Harbaugh and his coaching staff failed to do that. For the second road game this year, the Ravens fell into an offensive hole and allowed themselves to lose to a worse team. This was only the third time under Harbaugh that the Ravens had lost to a team with a losing record, yet that trend seems to becoming more normal these days especially on the road.
Cameron will get tons of criticism this week for his offensive game plan. Already he's not a popular guy around Baltimore, but when the offense can't get a first down and nearly gets shut out by a team with a 1-5 record, that's when the cries for a midseason firing take place. He needs a good performance by the Ravens offense next week to at least slow down the talk of change.
Harbaugh also deserves criticism for some of his decisions. Kicking an onside kick late in the fourth quarter while trailing 9-7 was a poor decision. Although the kick was beautiful, the Ravens failed to recover and instead spotted the Jaguars another field goal.
Poor coaching was clearly a factor in this loss. Many Ravens fans will likely overreact and ask for changes in both coaches and players. There's no need for, that but the Ravens need Sunday to get here and they need to have a dominant win against the Cardinals.
It cannot be understated how bad this game was, but thankfully it's not the end of the season, and under Harbaugh, the Ravens rarely look bad two weeks in a row.