Monday, October 12, 2009

Ravens stumble against Bengals

It was one of those games that could be brought up in the future for many reasons.

It could be the game where the Bengals showed us why they are to be taken seriously in 2009. After all, they are a fluke play away from being 5-0.

It could be the game where the Ravens showed that they are unable to play as a favorite.

And it could be the game where Ravens fans have to finally accept the fact that the defense is not the team's asset any more and is now the team's liability.

The Ravens allowed 403 yards of offense yesterday in their 17-14 loss to the Bengals including 120 rush yards and a touchdown to Cedric Benson, the first 100+ rusher they've allowed since Larry Johnson in 2006.

The Ravens also committed a ton of penalties that were either sloppy and undisciplined or were ticky-tack calls by the referees who seemed to be trigger-happy after the Ravens were critical of them after their loss to New England a week ago.

But penalties aside, the Ravens looked as flat as a pancake yesterday in pretty much every aspect of the game.

The offense couldn't get anything going for most of the game. They totaled just 257 yards and lost the game clock battle by almost 10 minutes. They scored one touchdown, and even that came on a Joe Flacco screen pass to Ray Rice, who scrambled 48 yards for a score. It was almost like they scored their one touchdown by accident.

But even after that TD, the Ravens were up 14-10 and looked to be in control. After stopping the Bengals on the following drive, all they had to do was burn the clock, which was at 5:29. They killed over 3 minutes of the clock, but after a deep 3rd down Flacco pass to Mark Clayton was overthrown, the Ravens had to punt with 2:10 minutes left. The Bengals had 2 timeouts and the two minute warning in their pocket.

And that was when the defense handed the Bengals the game. They allowed Cincinnati to waltz down the field on them, and even handed them an extra 25 yards on the drive via 2 penalties, which included a vicious late hit by Ray Lewis on Chad Ochocinco.

Carson Palmer found Bengals WR Andre Caldwell a few plays later for the go ahead score.

Ballgame. And my worst nightmare come true.

Where were Derrick Mason and Willis McGahee yesterday? Why was Cam Cameron both aggressive and conservative at the same time? And WTF is up with the penalties? The Ravens committed 10 for 76 yards and are the most penalized team in the NFL. I thought John Harbaugh had this team well disciplined after last season, but now they appear to be coming apart at the seams.

At least the Ravens are now in their comfort zone again. Their backs are against the wall and they are no longer the favorites. They seem to thrive in the underdog role, and that's exactly what they'll be next week when they travel to Minnesota to take on the 5-0 Vikings.

It doesn't look good. And if the Ravens lose next week, they'll be heading into the bye-week 3-3, which will be almost impossible to overcome. Teams like Denver, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh (twice) are still on the schedule. Ouch.

So in closing, yesterday's game could also be the game where the Ravens forced fans to re-evalaute their expectations for the season. And the post-season.

No comments: