Biggest Takeaways from the Baltimore Ravens' Week 3 Loss
Things certainly did not go according to plan for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. The Ravens went into their game against the Cincinnati Bengals 0-2 and staring up at the undefeated Bengals. A win would mean their playoffs hopes remain on life support, but a division loss would spell disaster for the season.
Well, once again the Ravens got into a shootout late, just like the week before against the Oakland Raiders, and once again it was the opposition that got the last laugh, as the Bengals beat the Ravens 28-24.
But what did we learn from this loss? Read on and find out.
Joe Flacco Has Tunnel Vision
Another week and another huge statistical game for wide receiver Steve Smith. Against Cincinnati, quarterback Joe Flacco found Smith 13 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns. For the season Smith has 25 catches, with 23 coming in the past two games. This all looks great in the box score, but this tunnel vision to Smith isn’t netting wins. ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley provided stats on the quarterback-receiver tandem on:
Of Joe Flacco's 26 completions through three quarters, 10 have gone to Steve Smith. Flacco isn't hiding where the ball is going.— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) September 20, 2015
It’s tough to fault Flacco for counting on the future Hall of Famer, but it’s starting to feel like Flacco might be missing reads because he’s constantly counting on Smith to make the play. If that is the case, teams are going to eventually find an answer for Smith, and Flacco isn’t going to know what to do.
Justin Forsett Might Not Be Great
It might be time to start to wonder out loud if running back Justin Forsett’s 2014 season was the exception rather than the rule. After all, going into 2014, Forsett was nothing more than a veteran journeyman with a career-best 619 yards rushing. You can’t put all the blame on Forsett for the struggles the rushing offense has had, but when you are the franchise running back, you must shoulder some of the blame. That's especially true when, any toughness you displayed in 2014, you seem to have left there. ESPN's Field Yates provided a 2014-15 stat comparison:
Justin Forsett led the NFL with 3.8 yards before contact per rush last year. This year he's 39th out of 49 qualified RB's at 1.5.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 28, 2015
At this point, Baltimore doesn't have a backup plan at running back. Forsett feasted on defenses in Gary Kubiak’s offense, but with him gone, there seems to be a disconnect between him and the offense. So, it’s going to be up to him to adjust, or Baltimore might need to turn to one of the backup running backs, either Javorius Allen or Lorenzo Taliaferro, to spark the offense.
This Team Really Misses Terrell Suggs
There was very little doubt when the Ravens lost outside linebacker Terrell Suggs to an Achilles tear in the season opener that he would be missed. Suggs was not only the vocal and emotional leader of this defense, but he was also one of the NFL's most relentless pass-rushing outside linebackers.
And now, three games into the regular season, his absence is cutting this entire defense off at the knees. Baltimore has only been able to muster up seven total sacks, and only two of those have come from outside linebackers. This pressure leaves the secondary on its heels far too often. NFL.com's used a yardage stat to illustrate the impact Suggs' absence has on the Ravens' overall game:
Ravens defense has allowed an extra 2.5 yards per play without Terrell Suggs on field this season.— Marc Sessler (@MarcSesslerNFL) September 27, 2015
Against the Bengals, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil finally notched a sack, but with such limited talent opposite him, they will be at a premium. Best-case scenario is that linebacker Za’Darius Smith can develop quickly because Courtney Upshaw is not meant to be a three-down linebacker.
Penalties Are a Sign of a Bigger Problem
When a team starts to rack up penalties, that can often be a symptom of bigger issues like a lack of discipline. Baltimore went all out against Cincinnati with 13 penalties for 116 yards, bringing the season total to 26 for 240 yards. Head Coach John Harbaugh was not pleased about the problems this team has had in that area, per his comments (via the team's official Twitter account):
On one key touchdown drive for Cincinnati, the Ravens defense aided them with three penalties (via Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com):
Harbaugh is going to lose control of this team in a hurry if he can’t solve this puzzle. Killing drives on offense and extended opponents’ drives are a recipe for a high draft pick. When yards and points are already hard to come by, mental mistakes can't be part of the equation.
The Season Is Over
Some may say it is too soon to think like this, but history says otherwise. According to Bill Barnwell of Grantland, the last 82 teams to start the season missed the playoffs. It's not a great omen for the rest of the Ravens season.
This is rare territory for Baltimore. According to Andrew Siciliano of the NFL Network, the Ravens have never found themselves in a hole like this:
First time the Ravens have ever started 0-3. No team has made the playoffs after starting 0-3 since the 1998 Bills.— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) September 27, 2015
Yes, there’s no doubt that in the NFL anything can happen. And, yes, other than the Bengals and the New England Patriots, the AFC is wide-open. Nevertheless, 0-of-82 is a lot of history to overcome.
If you think that the Ravens can make the playoffs, you are assuming they can correct all these problems that have haunted them the first three games. You are also assuming a team like Cincinnati is going to falter and allow Baltimore to take the lead in the AFC North. Those are a lot of assumptions in a league like this.
Unless specified otherwise, all stats and player data is courtesy of NFL.com.