For the second straight week, the Ravens lost at M&T Bank Stadium in heartbreaking fashion. This week, it was the Washington Redskins who were able to walk out of Baltimore with a victory, by the score of 16-10.
Problem #1: Coaching
The same themes that have plagued the Ravens so far this season showed up again on Sunday. Last week, head coach John Harbaugh was criticized for his decision to accept a penalty instead of declining it. This decision led to an Oakland Raiders touchdown in their one-point victory over the Ravens.
This week, the coaching staff continued to make some questionable decisions. In the second quarter, the Ravens were faced with a third and 11 play on Washington’s 14-yard line. Instead of passing the football, offensive coordinator Marc Trestman ran a draw play in shotgun formation that resulted in a three-yard loss. On the fourth down play immediately following, the Ravens faked a field goal in which Justin Tucker attempted a pass to tight end Crockett Gillmore. Gillmore could not haul in the catch, and the Ravens’ drive stalled. Trestman was probably not responsible for the fourth down play call, but the coaching staff should have taken the three points, even with the wind gusts being a factor.
“We saw something that we felt that we could exploit,” Harbaugh said after the game.”We had [it] executed, but [Gillmore] stumbled a little bit inside, so it wasn’t as clean as we wanted it to be.”
Running back Terrance West had a great day on the ground, recording 95 rushing yards on 11 carries (4.5 yards-per-rush). The problem was, West was only given 11 attempts to run the ball, and the Ravens ran the ball just 19 times for 118 total yards. With quarterback Joe Flacco having 46 pass attempts, and getting hit eight times (three sacks), why West was not given more chances to pick up yards on the ground is puzzling. The Ravens’ coaching staff failed to utilize West correctly, and it took its toll on the offense as the game went of.
With an offensive line that is missing two starters, the Ravens need to do everything they can to get the running game going. Otherwise, Flacco will continue to get abused in the backfield.
Problem #2: Failure to finish
The Ravens were unable to finish several plays and drives in Sunday’s loss, and no football team can expect to be successful when the players cannot finish the task at hand.
The biggest of these miscues came in the third quarter, when Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley intercepted a Kirk Cousins pass at Washington’s 13-yard line. Mosley returned the interception all the way to the Ravens’ goal line, but let go of the ball just before reaching the end zone. The ball rolled into the end zone and out of bounds, giving the Redskins the ball back via touch-back.
This was a very strange sequence, but the Redskins drive that ensued turned out to be an 11 play, 72-yard drive that ended in a field goal. Had Mosley finished the play and scored, the Ravens would have extended their lead.
Wide receiver Breshad Perriman failed to make a big play in the second quarter, when he ran a deep route and let a ball go right through his hands. Had Perriman caught the pass, he would have scored. Perriman has had his issues with drops this season, so he needs to figure out what the problem is and find ways to make big plays without worrying about catching the football.
As a unit, the entire Ravens offense had issues finishing. The offense punted eight times, and had two drives stall in a loss of downs. One of those drives was Baltimore’s final drive of the game, where once again the Ravens failed to score with the game on the line.
“It’s embarrassing to run off of the field in front of your home fans,” Flacco said after the game. “Our defense is putting up awesome fights every week, and we are just running on and off the field.”
Problem #3: Special Teams Slip-Ups
The Ravens’ special teams unit, particularly the players on the return units, let up big plays once again. The Redskins scored their first touchdown on a Jamison Crowder 85-yard punt return. On the ensuing drive, the Ravens kicked a field goal. Washington’s next drive started at Baltimore’s 48-yard line after Will Blackmon’s 45-yard kickoff return.
The field position battle has hurt the Ravens a lot in recent weeks. The special teams unit cannot continue to allow their opponents to get great field position multiple times in a game.
Problem #4: Injuries
The Ravens have been fortunate to avoid the injury bug before Sunday, but it finally took its toll on the team five games into the season.
Coming into the game, the Ravens knew they were going to be without rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who is dealing with a foot injury. What they did not know was that starting right tackle Rick Wagner would leave the game with a thigh injury. As a result, the Ravens had to play the majority of the second half with a makeshift offensive line that only had one starter (center Jeremy Zuttah) in their normal role.
Wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., the Ravens’ top wide receiver, left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace took a big hit on the Ravens’ final offensive play of the game, but walked off on his own power.
C.J. Mosley injured his hamstring during his interception return, and will be getting an MRI on the hamstring this week. He did not return to the game after suffering the injury.
After winning their first three games, the Ravens clearly have their work cut out for them in order to get back on the winning track. There are several issues, particularly on offense, that need to be looked at. The coaching staff needs to make smarter decisions and not beat themselves. There are now injuries to overcome.
On top of all of this, the Ravens’ schedule does not get any easier from here. Baltimore will now hit the road for two road games to be played at Met Life Stadium; next week’s game is against the New York Giants. After that, the Ravens will have a bye week before hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are now 4-1.