Coaches let the play­ers down in this one

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS INSIDER - Mike Pre­ston mike.pre­ston@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/MikePre­stonSun

When the Ravens be­gin break­ing down the film to­day of their 16-10 loss to the Washington Red­skins, coach John Har­baugh needs to eval­u­ate him­self and his coach­ing staff more than the play­ers.

Ex­cept for de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dean Pees, the Ravens staff should shoul­der more blame than the play­ers.

There are plenty of play­ers to point fin­gers at — re­ceivers who can’t catch, of­fen­sive line­men who­can’t block and de­fen­sive backs who can’t cover — but when two bad foot­ball teams are play­ing, good coach­ing makes a dif­fer­ence.

It did Sun­day, and that’s why the Ravens lost.

Har­baugh can’t move past his “We­must be ag­gres­sive” at­ti­tude or over­come his clock man­age­ment prob­lems. Spe­cial teams coach Jerry Ros­burg, for the sec­ond straight week, hasn’t been able to fix his cov­er­age units, and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Marc Trest­man’s play­call­ing was ter­ri­ble again.

Har­baugh ei­ther needs to make a move to im­prove his of­fen­sive staff or give Trest­man an en­dorse­ment. Frus­tra­tion is start­ing to set in with play­ers.

“It’s frus­trat­ing. I’m not happy, es­pe­cially when you play that” way, quar­ter­back Joe Flacco said of two straight home losses against two of the NFL’s worst de­fenses. “It’s em­bar­rass­ing to run off the field in front of your home fans, in front of your team­mates. Our de­fense is putting up awe­some fights ev­ery week, and we’re just run­ning on and off the field, ba­si­cally.”

Even when the Ravens got into field-goal range, they man­aged to mess that up. That falls on Har­baugh, not Trest­man. Fac­ing a Ravens coach John Har­baugh and quar­ter­back Joe Flacco watch as a fourth-quar­ter touch­down is over­turned af­ter a video re­view. “It’s em­bar­rass­ing,” Flacco said of the of­fenses’ strug­gles. fourth-and-12 at the Washington 17-yard line with 6:31 left in the half and a 10-6 lead, Har­baugh called for a fake field goal. Kicker Justin Tucker threw a pass that was short of tight end Crock­ett Gill­more.

Gill­more was open, but the Ravens didn’t need to call a fake. The Ravens de­fense, one of the best in the NFL, was play­ing well. The Ravens also have one of the league’s best kick­ers, so why not just take the three points?

“It was an ag­gres­sive call; I’m not sec­ondguess­ing it,” Har­baugh said. “I’ve been here nine years and said we’re go­ing to be ag­gres­sive.”

But let’s use some logic here. The Ravens were play­ing the Red­skins, not the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots. They didn’t need to man­u­fac­ture a lot of points. This was the kind of game that could have been won with field goals, not touch­downs.

There were other times when you won­dered what Har­baugh was think­ing.

Har­baugh called his last time­out of the game with the clock al­ready stopped at 20 sec­onds left, and the Ravens fac­ing fourt­hand-8 at the Washington 21. That time­out vir­tu­ally en­sured the Ravens would have just one more op­por­tu­nity. If they had saved the time­out and been able to con­vert the first down, they would have had an ex­tra play or two to score.

It was a poor day for Har­baugh. I thought it was go­ing to be a good one be­cause he fi­nally got cor­ner­back Sha­reece Wright out of the lineup and in­serted young play­ers Tavon Young and Shel­don Price. Healso cut run­ning back Justin Forsett in fa­vor of Ter­rance West.

But Trest­man doesn’t know how to use West. He doesn’t have a feel for the game, and Har­baugh doesn’t have an of­fen­sive back- ground. West had seven car­ries for 60 yards in the first half but got just four car­ries in the sec­ond to fin­ish with 95 yards.

There was never more of a blown op­por­tu­nity than mid­waythrough the sec­ond quar­ter, when the Ravens re­cov­ered a fum­ble by Washington at the Red­skins 15. In­stead of hand­ing off to West, the Ravens threw three passes be­fore set­ting up Tucker’s er­rant pass to Gill­more.

One more thing about that fake field goal: Tuck­er­set up­toap­proachthe­bal­lasif hewere a left-footed kicker, which was un­usual, be­cause he’s right-footed. That was a dead give­away that it was a fake. Har­baugh, though, liked the play. Ap­par­ently, so did Ros­burg.

The Ravens need to for­get the trick­ery and get back to fun­da­men­tals in kick cov­er­age. They al­lowed a 45-yard kick­off re­turn and an 85-yard punt re­turn for a touch­down. This kind of thing has been hap­pen­ing ev­ery week.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed in the way we played. I’m very dis­ap­pointed,” Har­baugh said. “It starts with me.”

Agreed. The first thing Har­baugh has to do is clear up the sit­u­a­tion with Trest­man. The Ravens have no of­fen­sive iden­tity. They might have more 1-yard routes in their of­fense than any team in the NFL. They can’t find a rhythm.

On the side­line, there isn’t a lot of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween Har­baugh and Trest­man, and only slightly more be­tween Trest­manandFlacco. Trest­man­ison­thev­erge of los­ing of­fen­sive play­ers un­less Har­baugh en­dorses him or makes a change.

The NFL has be­come a com­po­si­tion of poor-to-medi­ocre teams. On any given day, one team can be as bad as an­other. But in these types of games, coach­ing can make a dif­fer­ence. The Ravens staff didn’t get it done Sun­day.

This loss was on them. They came up empty.

KARL MERTON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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