After the Baltimore Ravens lost a seemingly easy game to the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, many people no longer know what to expect from the Ravens—not even going into another seemingly easy game against the 1-5 Arizona Cardinals.
Going into Jacksonville, the Ravens were heavily favored and the players and fans were all anticipating a strong showing in front of a national audience. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
It was an ugly game all around, and not even the Jaguars played a great game. They pulled out the win by forcing the Ravens to put on the worst offensive performance in team history and playing a steady, safe run-based offense.
It really wasn’t rocket science. They simply played man coverage on the Ravens receivers and used a few stunts and delayed blitzes up front. Unfortunately for the Ravens, the Jaguars players were simply winning their assignments one on one and beating the Ravens receivers trying to get open and the Ravens’ pass-protectors trying to keep quarterback Joe Flacco upright.
“I don’t think there’s any one thing,” head coach John Harbaugh said at the postgame press conference. “It’s just basically lack of execution. We had some missed assignments. We had some missed blocks. They outplayed us one on one. We talk about beating your man, but they beat their man a heck of a lot more than we beat our man. It’s about as bad as you can play on offense.”
Anyone watching the game could tell you that the Ravens weren’t executing and were having a bad game on offense, but the question is why. Why did they struggle in what was supposed to be an easy game? They did the same thing in Tennessee in Week 2 and were heavily favored in that game as well.
It’s very clear that the Ravens committed the unforgivable sin in football—they overlooked their opponent to some extent. That’s not to say that they completely lost their focus, but they did assume that their standard game plan was good enough to beat the Jaguars. They didn’t have a plan for their man coverage or their defensive front seven. They simply weren’t expecting the Jaguars to be able to hang with them, and that was a huge error.
That being said, no amount of gameplanning could have helped the Ravens if they couldn’t execute it –if they couldn’t beat their man as Harbaugh said. The horrible game plan was a factor, but the lack of execution and the lack of focus on offense was also a huge factor.
In many ways, it was the result of the Jaguars forcing the Ravens into mistakes and causing them to be inconsistent, but it ultimately falls to the players to beat the man in front of them. If they cannot do that, there’s no game plan that could help them.
Obviously, the gameplanning and execution of the offense all work together. The coaches need to put the players in the best position to have success, and the players need to execute and beat their man in one-on-one situations. If one of them is not doing their job, it puts the other in a tough position, and if both of them aren’t doing their job, we’ll see a performance like we did Monday night.
Moving forward, the Ravens should be much better than they were against the Jaguars. At this point, they need to chalk it up to a bad game. That’s not what Ravens fans want to hear because they’re still mad about the losses to not only the Jaguars, but also the Titans. Many fans would say that real Super Bowl contenders don’t ever play like that.
That’s true to some extent, but remember that the Ravens’ Super Bowl team went five games without scoring an offensive touchdown during the 2000 season. Not many people thought the Ravens were contenders and that point either.
The Ravens won’t win another game playing like they did Monday night. They understand that, and it would be foolish to take the Ravens' poor performance against the Jaguars too seriously. There’s no way that they’re as bad as they looked, but at the same time, they do have issues to figure out. The real question is regarding their potential. How good can they really be, and is it good enough to win a championship?
The answer to that question is unclear at this point. The Ravens defense is absolutely good enough to win a Super Bowl. The offense is holding them back, and there are no magical ways to fix the problems that the Ravens have on offense. The Ravens just need to buckle down an focus on one game at a time. That’s how the Ravens won games in 2008 with a rookie quarterback and a rookie head coach, and it should be how they approach games now.
Flacco doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards per game, and not even Ray Rice’s touches are all that important. Obviously, the Ravens will need to use their best players, but the point is that there’s nothing shameful about doing whatever it takes to win. Look at the Jaguar’s game plan against the Ravens, for example. There was nothing all that special or flashy about it, but they came away with the win against a superior opponent.
That’s what the Ravens need to focus on now. With the defense they have, they simply need to focus on finding ways to move the ball—even if it isn’t pretty or making Flacco look good. Any type of offense will put an incredible amount of pressure on the opposing offense to score against the best defense in the league, and when teams start pressing against the Ravens defense, good things usually happen.