Har­baugh, play­ers voice frus­tra­tion af­ter de­feat

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS INSIDER - By Jeff Zre­biec jeff.zre­biec@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/jef­fzre­biec­sun

Joe Flacco vowed to stand tall in the face of crit­i­cism, and he did just that in his postgame news con­fer­ence Sun­day. He took ac­count­abil­ity for the Ravens pass­ing game’s strug­gles, ac­knowl­edged his em­bar­rass­ment and made no at­tempt to sug­ar­coat an­other bru­tal per­for­mance by the of­fense he leads.

What the quar­ter­back didn’t do, nor did any of his team­mates or his head coach, is pro­vide any an­swers on how to fix an of­fense that con­tin­ues to regress and now has cost the team back-to-back games, with help from the punt cov­er­age unit.

“I’m not get­ting into all that,” Flacco said when asked whether changes need to be made af­ter a tough-to-digest 16-10 loss to the Washington Red­skins be­fore an an­nounced 71,318 at windy M&T Bank Sta­dium. “We’re not play­ing well enough. We’re not mak­ing plays. We’re only giv­ing our­selves a cou­ple of plays to be made, but when they’re there, we’re just not mak­ing them. We are run­ning off the field way too much. Def­i­nitely not fun to be out there to­day af­ter the first se­ries.”

For the sec­ond straight week, the Ravens’ fate was sealed when Flacco fired in­com­plete on fourth down in op­pos­ing ter­ri­tory. Three plays af­ter Bre­shad Per­ri­man’s go-ahead touch­down was re­versed by re­play af­ter he was shown to have got­ten just one foot in­bounds, fel­low wide re­ceiver Mike Wal­lace dropped a con­tested pass on fourth-and-8.

The fo­cus, though, should be on what pre­ceded the fi­nal in­com­ple­tion: a pat­tern of poor and mis­take-prone of­fen­sive play — in­clud­ing cu­ri­ous play-call­ing by Marc Trest­man — that forced the Ravens (3-2) to come from be­hind in the fourth quar­ter de­spite a de­fense that con­tin­ued to give the team chances.

“I’m try­ing to be as pa­tient as I can and do all the right things, and when­things aren’t work­ing out, it is not pretty,” Flacco said. “It does not feel good to con­tinue to not score points. Right now, we’re play­ing to win on the last drive or have our de­fense hold on that last drive, and it’s not a good for­mula.”

The Ravens’ sea­son is sud­denly head­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion, their 3-0 start a dis­tant mem­ory af­ter back-to-back home losses in which the team did more to beat it­self than the op­po­nent. In fall­ing to the Red­skins (3-2), the Ravens had nine penal­ties, gave up their sec­ond-long­est punt re­turn touch­down in fran­chise his­tory, botched a fake-field-goal at­tempt and were shut out by one of the league’s worst de­fenses for the game’s last 44:56.

“Just very dis­ap­pointed,” said Ravens coach John Har­baugh, who watched kicker Justin Tucker throw an in­com­plete pass rather than at­tempt a rel­a­tively short field goal in the sec­ond quar­ter. “It starts with me. We’re not play­ing the type of foot­ball we need to play to win a foot­ball game like that. Way too many­self-in­flicted mis­takes. It’s a long sea­son. We’re 3-2; we­have plenty of time to get it fixed. We have the play­ers, we have the scheme, we have every­thing we­need. Butwe­can’tplay­likethatand­makethemis­takeswe made and win the foot­ball game.”

The Ravens have so many things to ad­dress be­fore Sun­day’s road game against the New York Gi­ants. In­juries Sun­day to wide re­ceiver Steve Smith Sr. (sprained an­kle), right tackle Rick Wag­ner (thigh), in­side line­backer C.J. Mosley (thigh) and cor­ner­back Shel­don Price, who started in place of the strug­gling and in­ac­tive Sha­reece Wright (back spasms) be­fore hurt­ing his thigh, will thrust other play­ers into big­ger roles.

Their nor­mally re­li­able punt cov­er­age team has been a mess in re­cent weeks, the lat­est in­dis­cre­tion be­ing Jami­son Crow­der’s mo­men­tum-shift­ing 85-yard re­turn late in the first quar­ter. The Red­skins wouldn’t score again un­til quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins hit wide re­ceiver Pierre Gar­con for a 21-yard touch­down pass to give the vis­i­tors a 13-10 lead in the third quar­ter.

“We let them back in the game with a punt re­turn for a touch­down,” Har­baugh said. “It’s not what we do. That’s not win­ning foot­ball.”

Line­backer C.J. Mosley also made a costly mis­take af­ter in­ter­cept­ing a pass from Cousins in the third quar­ter. Reach­ing for the goal line with the ball, he in­stead fum­bled it through the side of the end zone. Rather than a Ravens touch­down, or even a pos­ses­sion at the 1-yard line, the Red­skins had the ball af­ter a touch­back.

Above all, though, the Ravens’ big­gest ques­tions are on of­fense. The team fi­nally ap­peared to be on the verge of a qual­ity per­for­mance when it took the game’s first pos­ses­sion 75 yards, scor­ing on Flacco’s 7-yard Sun­day, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Gi­ants by 3 Ka­mar Aiken, right, can’t se­cure a pass in the end zone as the Red­skins’ Ken­dall Fuller, left, and Duke Ihenacho cover him in the Ravens’ last drive. pass to tight end Crock­ett Gill­more. The team’s smoothest drive all sea­son fea­tured five runs for 49 yards, in­clud­ing a 35-yard carry by run­ning back Ter­rance West on third-and-1, and four passes.

Yet af­ter an 11-carry, 74-yard first quar­ter, the Ravens had just seven de­signed runs over the fi­nal three quar­ters against the NFL’s 30th-ranked rush­ing de­fense.

“That’s not my de­ci­sion,” said West, who­had 95 yards on11­car­ries. “I don’t call the plays.”

West said ear­lier that the Ravens “beat our­selves,” a pop­u­lar opin­ion in the home locker room.

Har­baugh de­fended the play-call­ing and said he didn’t feel the team aban­doned the run­ning game. He cited the of­fense’s over­all lack of ex­e­cu­tion: The Ravens had eight con­sec­u­tive drives of four plays or fewer.

But they also ran the ball on just two of13 plays in the sec­ond quar­ter af­ter their ground game had got­ten off to such a strong start. Over­all, Flacco dropped back to pass 50 times in the game, and the Ravens av­er­aged 3.9 yards on those plays. On their 18 hand­offs, they av­er­aged 6.2 yards. Seem­ingly in­ca­pable of pick­ing up big chunks in the pass­ing game, es­pe­cially with Smith back in the locker room, why not rely more on the rush­ing at­tack?

“I think we­have to find our of­fense,” Har­baugh said. “We’ve had that all year, ba­si­cally. That’s been the story of the sea­son. We can’t find con­ti­nu­ity on of­fense. We didn’t pro­tect the quar­ter­back par­tic­u­larly well. He got hit way too much again. That has to stop. The run game was pretty good, for the most part, but you just can’t run the ball. You have to make some plays in the pass­ing game.”

When the Ravens last lost a reg­u­lar-sea­son game to the Red­skins, late in the 2012 sea­son, Har­baugh fired much-ma­ligned of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Cam Cameron and re­placed him with quar­ter­backs coach Jim Cald­well. The move helped jump-start a Su­per Bowl run. The Ravens have an­other for­mer of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in Marty Morn­hin­weg serv­ing as quar­ter­backs coach. There was no in­di­ca­tion af­ter the game that Har­baugh was pre­pared to make a change, but frus­tra­tion was pal­pa­ble from all cor­ners of the locker room.

Flacco seemed un­com­fort­able an­swer­ing ques­tions, which is rare. Right guard Mar­shal Yanda de­clined to speak to re­porters be­cause he didn’t want to say some­thing he’d re­gret. Out­side line­backer Ter­rell Suggs wasn’t feeling too good about him­self, ei­ther.

“Los­ing [stinks],” he said. “The way we are los­ing is very un­for­tu­nate, and it’s very dis­ap­point­ing. We have to dig our­selves out of the hole we just put our­selves in, and we have to play bet­ter all around.”

KARL MERTON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

The Red­skins’ Ter­ence Garvin, rear, and Trent Mur­phy com­bine to sack Ravens quar­ter­back Joe Flacco for an 8-yard loss in the third quar­ter.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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