The Baltimore Ravens suffered a crushing 12-7 loss against a bad Jacksonville Jaguars team in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football.
The Ravens looked unstoppable after dismantling the Steelers in Week 1 and since have looked very up and down. They had a bad loss to the Titans in Week 2 but then riddled off three straight convincing victories against the Rams, Jets and Texans.
We know which Ravens team came to play on Monday night. The question is whether or not they can fix those problems and catch the Steelers for the all-important first-round playoff bye. Let's hope they can.
There's been recent talk on ESPN and shows like Numbers Never Lie that Ray Rice just isn't really running the ball well. Profootballfocus.com agrees, ranking Rice has the 19th-best back rushing the ball this season.
It certainly looked like they were right Monday night. Rice had only eight carries for 28 yards. Rice may be averaging 4.4 yards per attempt this year, but most of his yards have come against porous run defenses like the Rams, Texans and Steelers.
The Jags' front seven absolutely smothered Rice. On almost every single carry there seemed to be a defender in the backfield, and even when there wasn't Rice failed to break tackles or make plays.
Rice is playing very well in the passing game, but the Ravens need him to come back and rush the ball effectively against decent or strong defenses.
Flacco has been awful as of late, to put it politely.
In the last three games Flacco has thrown three interceptions and only one touchdown. He's completed only 49.4 percent of his passes in game against the Jets, Texans and Jags. Only one of those teams has a secondary that really scares me—or a defense that scares me, period.
The offensive line isn't exactly helping him. It's been giving up too much pressure, especially Monday night against the Jags, but that doesn't excuse Flacco. Good quarterbacks make plays, and even when he had the time he couldn't hit receivers. He put together one good drive in the last five minutes of the game and that was it. Then he quickly threw an interception on the next drive and ended the game.
Flacco needs to step up. The Ravens continue to provide him with good enough targets, and that should be enough.
You have to give it to the Jags. They came in with a solid game plan and they stuck to it.
They didn't expect their rookie quarterback to come in and sling it down the field against the Baltimore Ravens. Maurice Jones-Drew churned out just enough in the rushing game to move the ball into field goal range for the Jags and put up 12 points.
The Ravens defense was stifling for the entire night. It's hard to pick off a quarterback that doesn't throw the ball much so they took the opportunity to strip Jones-Drew three times, including once on the goal line.
The poor Ravens defense has to carry the struggling offense yet again.
Big Ben and the Steelers now lead the AFC North
This was a bad game for the Ravens to drop. The AFC North is basically a lock for a first-round bye considering it gets to match up with the league's worst divisions in the NFC West and AFC South this year. The Steelers are now in first place at 5-2, and the Bengals are tied with the Ravens at 4-2.
It's not inconceivable for the Bengals to even beat out the Ravens for second place in the AFC North. Andy Dalton is playing as well as Cam Newton and getting way less credit for doing so. Their defense is tough.
Their schedules are the same, and this will be a tight division race. It's very possible the AFC North could send both wild cards, but with schedules this easy and the Steelers' struggling offensive line and defense the Ravens should be taking advantage of teams like the Jaguars.
Everyone expects the NFL's greatest middle linebacker to start slowing down someday, but it won't be this season.
Ray Lewis is still playing at a very high level, and he led the defensive effort Monday night. He had eight tackles—six of them solo—and a pass deflection. Without him MJD might've destroyed the Ravens. The Ravens' defensive interior was getting pushed at the line of scrimmage, which is hard to imagine considering the presence of Haloti Ngata.
What's more important is Lewis' leadership. After the Joe Flacco interception that ended the game Lewis didn't look down and depressed. He kept his spirit up, and that's what the Ravens are going to need after a tough loss.
I feel sorry for the Arizona Cardinals, who visit Baltimore next week.