Baltimore Ravens: 3 Things Learned from 22-17 Loss to Seattle Seahawks
Well in that case, the win against the Steelers must be considered insignificant and possibly a fluke victory because there were almost no similarities between the team that beat the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens that played in yesterday's 22-17 loss.
One thing that is not a fluke is the Ravens recent performance against the league's worst teams. Before this year they had only lost to one sub .500 team under Harbaugh. This year, all three of their losses have come to teams that were under .500 at the time they played them.
Several early fumbles gave the Seahawks good starting position and put the Ravens in a 12 point hole going into halftime. Even with this being their third straight week of attempting a furious comeback, they were unable to do so in a noisy Seattle stadium. In fact, the offense didn't even get a chance for a game-winning drive, as the defense couldn't stop Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.
So yet again the Ravens are left to pick up the pieces from another abysmal loss. This one hurts even more as they are now essentially tied with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Steelers for first in the extremely competitive AFC North. Because of this, margin for error will be very small in the seven remaining weeks of the season.
Here are three things that I learned from yesterday's loss.
Run Defense Is Not What It Once Was
John Harbaugh has good reason to look exasperated in this photo. There was a time not long ago where the Ravens had a reputation for shutting down the oppositions running game. They used to pride themselves on not allowing 100 yard rushers.
Those days are apparently over. Marshawn Lynch was the key figure in the Seahawks offense today with 109 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown and 58 receiving yards. He was in "Beast Mode" today as he broke tackles and frequently made Ravens defenders miss.
Lynch was not the first running back to do well against the Ravens defense this year. Even with the NFL's third ranked defense, the Ravens have struggled against elite running backs like Beanie Wells and Maurice Jones-Drew.
But the pass defense can't boast to being much better. Tarvaris Jackson threw for 217 yards including completions of more than 20 yards to unproven receivers Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate. The Seahawks kept the ball and controlled the clock which was ultimately demonstrated by the final drive of the game where the Ravens couldn't get them off the field.
Offensive Play-Calling Remains Iffy, Execution Is More to Blame
Just like in the loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Ravens interestingly decided to abandon the run yesterday. This time the abandonment was even more drastic as Ray Rice had only five carries for 27 yards. It seemed that with the Seahawks up by a lot early on, Cam Cameron was content to let the game rest on the shoulders of Joe Flacco.
Obviously in that kind of instance, passing the ball is the wiser option. The Seahawks, despite all their problems, have an extremely stout run defense. Being down two scores, the Ravens were in a position where they had to pass the ball.
However, that doesn't mean that your star running back should be restricted to the point where he only has five carries. Rice is the most explosive player on the Ravens offense, and getting the ball to him usually leads to victories. This is especially true with the kind of day the Ravens receivers had.
Both Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith were the only receivers to catch balls. They did not have noticeable impacts either as both finished less than 30 receiving yards. This left the catching duties to Rice and the two young tight ends.
Rice and the tight ends did well catching the ball, significantly contributing to Flacco's 255 passing yards. It's clear the receivers need to play better whether it's making catches or finding ways to get open. Hopefully the return of free agent acquisition Lee Evans can give Flacco another reliable target.
Special Teams Are a Mess
With Harbaugh's background as a special teams coach, it is surprising how bad the Ravens' special teams are playing. This is the part of the team that is likely most to blame for the loss.
Kick returner David Reed had not one but two costly fumbles on kick returns. I don't know what he was doing in there as kick returner the second time, but it's clear he's not the guy for returning. Ball security is a crucial part of kick returning, and there are plenty of players that will protect the ball and occasionally give you a big return (something that doesn't happen much with Reed).
Field goals were a crucial part of this game, and the Ravens were on the wrong end there as well. Billy Cundiff continued his streak of kicking awfully from beyond 50 yards with two long misses. Although Cundiff is usually on the money with short kicks, he obviously can't make the long ones, as he is 1-of-9 from 50-plus yards as a Raven.
What hurt even more was seeing the success of the other kicker in the game. Steven Hauschka, a former Ravens kicker, was 5-for-5 on his field goal attempts yesterday. Granted, none of them were that far out, but ultimately Hauschka accounted for 15 of the Seahawks' 22 points.
Both the kicking and the return game must improve for the Ravens to have success. Special teams are a crucial part of the game and the Ravens' lack of attentiveness to that area hurt them yesterday. Overall their effort was terrible as yet again this veteran team got so caught up in a big win last week that they didn't show up for the next game.