The Baltimore Ravens suffered another letdown as they lost to the Seattle Seahawks 22-17. Just like their loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 2, this loss came right after playing and beating the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Furthermore, the Ravens are showing some alarming patterns when it comes to their losses this season. All of their three losses have come against teams with losing records, in games which they are favored and right after big wins.
The Ravens lost to the Titans after beating the Steelers, lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars after beating Houston and, just today, lost to the Seahawks after their second win against the Steelers last week.
Against the Seahawks, the defense surprisingly struggled to stop the run but was solid for the most part, and the Ravens offense was again extremely inconsistent and seemed to lack any sort of balance.
Even with the poor play by the offense, the Ravens were still in the game and probably could have pulled off the win relatively easily if the special teams hadn’t been so bad. Wide receiver David Reed fumbled twice on kickoff returns and gave the Seahawks two easy scores. With the offense and defense struggling, those turnovers were too much to overcome.
There’s no question there’s a pattern, but what exactly is it? Why have the Ravens lost three games this season to losing teams? The answers to those questions are actually a little clearer after this loss. We may have learned more about the Ravens from this loss than any other game so far, so let’s look at what we learned from the Ravens 22-17 loss to the Seahawks.
The Ravens defense has been excellent so far this season. They are still the strength of the team, but even they would tell you that they didn’t play their best football today.
Much of their struggles were not their fault. In fact, they actually played very well apart from the first and last drives of the game, and that is the most puzzling part. The Ravens defense has typically been very strong early in games and always seems to come up with clutch performances with games on the line.
On the Seahawks’ first drive, the Ravens didn’t have an answer for Seahawks’ quarterback Tarvaris Jackson or running back Marshawn Lynch, who was spectacular all game long and in self-proclaimed “beast mode.”
That first drive really set the tone of the whole game. Once the Seahawks knew that they could have success running the ball on the Ravens, they continued to pound the ball right up the middle of the Ravens defense with surprising success. The Ravens defensive tackles, Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody and Brandon McKinney, were all being driven backwards, and the Seahawks were getting an easy 4-5 yards per carry for most of the game.
Even with those struggles, the Ravens defense still kept the Ravens in the game. They were especially strong in the red zone and managed to hold the Seahawks’ offense to field goals after their first drive despite the fact that the Ravens’ offense and special teams unit was constantly giving them short fields to work with.
Ravens fans should not blame this loss on the defense. They were manhandled a little on the line of scrimmage, but the kept the team in the game. That’s all you could really ask for in a game like they just played.
The Ravens defense will still keep them in every game, but offensive consistency and production is absolutely essential for this team to win games. The fact is that the Ravens defense was exhausted at the end of the game. They had been pounded on all game long by Marshawn Lynch, and on the last drive, the mighty defense caved.
Again, we cannot blame this solely on the defense. The offense and special teams unit deserve blame for completely failing to help the defense in any way. The defense is very good and will keep them in every game, but they are not invincible.
If the Ravens want to start winning games consistently and avoid these let downs, they need to find a key to find some consistency on offense, because that has been the key to their success—and failure—so far this season.
Special teams play is usually forgotten by most people unless there is a big play, and that’s exactly what happened against the Seahawks. The Ravens’ special teams unit had two turnovers and two big penalties that gave the Seahawks great field position.
Against the Seahawks, the excellent field position that the special teams kept giving the Seahawks was one of the biggest reasons behind their loss. When the Seahawks weren’t given a short field, they had a hard time moving the ball on the Ravens, but they managed a field goal on every possession after a special teams’ turnover or penalty. Ultimately, the Seahawks managed four field goals after special teams’ mistakes.
That’s nearly an unforgivable error since, unlike the other phases of football, special teams always has the option to play it safe. They could always take a knee in the end zone, wave for a fair catch and play conservative coverage to avoid penalties. Mistakes should be relatively easy to avoid, but the Ravens, who have every reason to play conservatively on special teams, continue to make mistakes in returns and in coverage.
We talked about it last week before the Seahawks game. The Ravens consistency on offense is the key to their success or failure. We’ve seen this time and time again this season, and the Ravens continue to struggle with the same issues.
It’s clear that the Ravens struggle with the 4-3 cover two defenses. They struggled against the Titans, the Jaguars and the Seahawks, and each of those teams use a 4-3 defense. Furthermore, each of those teams used a cover two base defense with tight, press man-coverage on the Ravens receivers.
The Seahawks were being extremely physical with the Ravens receivers, and that has become a definite pattern. The Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers and the Seahawks were all flagged several times for pass interference, illegal contact or holding.
The Ravens opponents would say that the Ravens’ receivers get cheap calls, but the majority of the calls that the Ravens have gotten in the last few games have been legitimate. The fact is that opposing defenses have been playing extremely tight one-on-one coverage with the Ravens receivers and that has led to the penalties.
The point is that defenses are playing the receivers one-on-one and even in key situations, are neglecting to double cover any of the Ravens receivers. That’s because they don’t view any of the Ravens receivers as a legitimate threat and because they are committed to stopping Ravens running back Ray Rice.
Offenses will usually make a defense pay for refusing to double cover any receivers, but aside from a few long catches by Ravens receiver Torrey Smith, the Ravens have not consistently capitalized on that strategy. Unfortunately, the Ravens receivers have been unable to consistently separate in coverage, and that has been a major problem for the offense.
Another serious problem that showed itself again against the Seahawks is the play-calling. After calling a fantastic game against the Steelers last week, Cam Cameron went back to his questionable play-calling.
The Ravens passed a disproportionate amount of attempts against the Seahawks. Much of the reason for that strategy was because the Ravens were trailing for the entire game, but the biggest problem with the game plan wasn’t that they were passing too much. It’s that they seemed unconcerned with getting into third down and short situations.
The reason that the Ravens were very successful on offense against the Steelers—especially on third down—was because they consistently set themselves up with manageable third down situations. They did that by taking the short completions and runs and whatever the defense would give them.
A dink-and-dunk offense may not be flashy, but it works. With the inconsistency at the receiver position, the Ravens are not going to be very effective completing passes down the field. The receivers aren’t running the best routes are not catching contested passes.
The Ravens need to take what the defense gives them and set themselves up with manageable third downs. They were successful with that type of offense against the Steelers and in the fourth quarter today. Unfortunately, they started too late to do any good against Seattle, but they can learn from this.
If they start games on offense by setting themselves up with manageable first downs and taking what the defense gives, things will begin to open up down the field. They problem is—and has been all season—that the Ravens try to run before they can walk.
The Ravens have a reputation around the league as a tough, physical football team. That reputation is sometimes a good thing for intimidation, but it has been working against them this season.
Part of the reason why the Ravens have struggled after winning big games against quality opponents is that the next team on their schedule is going to watch the game too. They’re going to watch the Ravens throw everything at a quality opponent—like they did against the Steelers and the Texans—and they’re going to prepare for that.
Furthermore, they’re going to hear the hype about the Ravens being the best team in the AFC. That will make them study and play harder for the Ravens… It’s like when the Ravens play the Steelers. They are mentally and physically prepare for an all-out war, while the Ravens are going into the game looking to push around an easy opponent.
That’s the problem with the Ravens style. It appeals to the pure football player, and even the players on the losing team respect it. That’s why every team that plays the Ravens seems to always play their best, most physical game, and that’s also another big reason why even the losing teams have given the Ravens trouble this season.
The Ravens need to start preparing for their opponents’ best game for the rest of the season, because as long as the Ravens play the type of football that they do at the level that they do, they’re not going to get very many easy games.