The Baltimore Ravens found out Saturday night in its 40-17 preseason loss to the Philadelphia Eagles that sometimes it’s just not your night. The final score of a preseason game is to a great extent useless, and coaching staffs typically focus on the execution of the various units and individual players.
The Ravens’ performance on Saturday reminds us of the line by former NFL head coach John McKay. When asked about the execution of his team after a terrible performance, he indicated he was in favor of it.
What went wrong? It all started with quarterback Joe Flacco. The plan in the second preseason game is to always give the starters additional series and reps. It seemed that initially Flacco was going to spend his drives just turning and handing the football off. And perhaps he should have. On Flacco’s second pass attempt of the game, Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Walter Thurmond made a great play on the football, killing Baltimore’s first drive near midfield.
However, Flacco had a chance to atone for it on the next drive. Unfortunately, what was a great individual play by Thurmond on the initial interception, Flacco’s second interception was simply a poor throw by him. It sailed over the head of wide receiver Marlon Brown and was an easy pick for Byron Maxwell.
Joe Flacco's first drive: Interception Joe Flacco's second drive: Interception It's only preseason. #BALvsPHI— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) August 22, 2015
At this point, all the Ravens fanbase really had to look forward to was the play of the defense. And the Ravens defense always comes to play. Except for Saturday night, I suppose. Teams don’t typically game-plan heavily for preseason, and defenses in particular keep things nice and vanilla. However, even with that, it didn’t take long to recognize the Ravens defense wasn’t ready for the pace the Eagles offense brings.
Ravens writer Turron Davenport shared a similar sentiment on Twitter.
It didn’t matter where on the depth chart either team was. The Eagles found a way to gash the Ravens defense. Philadelphia rolled up 476 total yards of offense, and had an almost blissful level of balance between pass and run. NFL Network’s Marc Sessler saw this as well.
Chip Kelly's offense having its way with the Ravens first-string defense. Eagles look smooth.— Marc Sessler (@MarcSesslerNFL) August 22, 2015
The hope was that what had been happening all week wouldn’t carry over into the game. Baltimore Sun columnist Jeff Zrebiec reported that the Ravens had been sloppy during the combined practice with Philadelphia. That sloppy, almost lethargic play carried over into the game, and it was over before it started.
One area that head coach John Harbaugh isn’t going to be happy with was the penalties. Baltimore committed 13 penalties in the first half (Philadelphia declined four of them) and finished the game with 17. That lack of discipline won’t be tolerated, and this group must get this ironed out before the start of the regular season.
All in all, this was a huge step back for the team. And I am merely talking about problems with effort and execution. This doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that injuries on this team continue to pile up. The wide receiver corps, offensive line and defensive secondary area all skeleton crews at this point. Even if most of these players are still going to be able to get back on the field for the start of the season, it doesn’t help now, as this team continues to try to build continuity.
Baltimore now has a week to get things back in order. That means figuring out what went wrong with Flacco and the passing offense, and trying to plug all the leaks in this defense. Saturday night’s game might have simply been an anomaly, and we will not see it again. That still won’t get the taste of this effort out of their mouths anytime soon.