Tough­est matchup: ‘us ver­sus our­selves’

Sloppy, list­less play leads to 4th loss in row, long­est slide since Har­baugh took over

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

EAST RUTHER­FORD, N.J. — One by one, af­ter their lat­est mis­take-filled loss, Ravens play­ers stood up and bluntly as­sessed the state of the team.

“We’re not good right now,” quar­ter­back Joe Flacco said. “I think that’s the big­gest thing.”

Nose tackle Bran­don Wil­liams de­scribed the Ravens’ tough­est matchup as “us ver­sus our­selves.” Tight end Den­nis Pitta prob­a­bly summed things up best when he said: “We’re not in a good place.”

The Ravens limped out of MetLife Sta­dium late Sun­day af­ter­noon and into their bye week, buck­ling un­der a 24-16 loss to the NewYorkJets. It’s the first four-game los­ing streak in coach John Har­baugh’s ten­ure, and de­fi­cien­cies have emerged in pretty much ev­ery as­pect of their play.

The week off couldn’t come at a bet­ter time for a team that went 0-for-Oc­to­ber and has a ros­ter de­pleted by in­juries. Sev­eral prom­i­nent play­ers could be back by the time the Ravens face the ri­val Pitts­burgh Steel­ers on Nov. 6, but it isn’t clear whether that will be enough for them to sal­vage a once-promis­ing sea­son.

The AFC North stand­ings sug­gest the Ravens (3-4), who are tied for sec­ond with the Cincin­nati Ben­gals and one game be­hind the di­vi­sion-lead­ing Steel­ers, are very much in the thick of things. But the eyes of any­body who has watched this team over the past month likely tell them some­thing dif­fer­ent. The Ravens might not be fully bro­ken, but things cer­tainly are com­ing apart at a rapid rate.

Against a Jets team that had lost four straight games and had won just once, the Ravens re­peated the pat­tern of care­less and list­less play that has dogged them since they im­proved to 3-0 with a vic­tory over the Jack­sonville Jaguars on Sept. 25.

“We’re prac­tic­ing ex­cep­tion­ally well. That’s whyit’s so dis­ap­point­ing,” Har­baugh said. “I ex­pect to win all these games. We should have won all four of those games. We did the things to lose those games. That’s it. Not to take any­thing away from our op­po­nent, but we’re look­ing at our­selves, not our op­po­nent.”

Not only did the Ravens not score an of­fen­sive touch­down, they also didn’t even get into the red zone against a Jets de­fense that en­tered Sun­day ranked 28th in the NFL against the pass. The Ravens, who led 16-14 at half­time on the strength of rookie Chris Moore’s re­cov­ery of a muffed snap in the end zone and three long field goals by Justin Tucker, had 202 yards in the first half and only 43 in the sec­ond.

They fin­ished the game with a fran- chise-low 6 rush­ing yards. The Ravens de­fense, which came in ranked as the stingi­est in the league against the run, sur­ren­dered155 yards and a touch­down on the ground. Matt Forte’s 1-yard score late in the third quar­ter gave the Jets a 24-16 lead.

“We didn’t move the ball,” Flacco said. “Ob­vi­ously, we turned the ball over two times. The turnovers hurt, but we didn’t do any­thing. We just didn’t do any­thing.”

A six-minute se­quence in the third quar­ter ex­plains how the Ravens squan­dered a 10-0 lead at MetLife Sta­dium for the sec­ond straight week. When the Ravens got the ball mid­way through the third quar­ter, they led 16-14 and Flacco had gone a team-record 176 pass­ing at­tempts with­out throw­ing an in­ter­cep­tion.

He then threw two of them in a span of four of­fen­sive plays. The first pass was in­ter­cepted by much-ma­ligned Jets cor­ner­back Buster Skrine, who stepped in front of Bre­shad Per­ri­man’s out route and re­turned the pick 51 yards to the Ravens 3-yard line. Nick Folk hit a 22-yard field goal to give the Jets a lead they never lost.

On the Ravens’ next pos­ses­sion, Flacco air­mailed a throw in­tended for Per­ri­man into the arms of Mar­cus Gilchrist, who re­turned it to the Ravens’ 24. Four plays later, Lawrence Guy stripped Forte, and de­fen­sive tackle Timmy Jerni­gan scooped up the ball. But Jerni­gan was stripped by Jets re­ceiver Bran­don Mar­shall. Given a sec­ond chance, Forte got into the end zone.

“Mis­takes are frus­trat­ing and they hurt be­cause we ob­vi­ously gave the game away there, but the more frus­trat­ing thing is just the fact that we can’t con­sis­tently do things well,” Flacco said. “If we were out there and we were play­ing re­ally good foot­ball, we would prob­a­bly be able to live with a mis­take here and a mis­take there. I think when you look back at those types of tight games, you look at the penal­ties and you look at the things that you missed and you kind of for­get the fact that we’re just not play­ing good foot­ball.”

The Ravens were called for just four penal­ties, al­though a hold­ing call on Alex Lewis negated a 52-yard run by Ter­rance West (Tow­son Univer­sity, North­west­ern High) to the Jets 4 mid­way through the sec­ond quar­ter. Penal­ties weren’t a ma­jor is­sue this week. Nearly ev­ery­thing else was.

“We didn’t play good enough. I’m not go­ing to get into ‘We should do this.’ We’ve been out­played, and they played bet­ter than us,” said safety Eric Wed­dle, one of the cul­prits on Quincy Enunwa’s 69-yard sec­ond-quar­ter touch­down catch.

For much of the game, the de­fense looked old and slow, first against Jets starter Geno Smith and then against Ryan Fitz­patrick af­ter Smith hurt his knee in the sec­ond quar­ter. The Jets had five plays for 20 yards or more, and shoddy Ravens tack­ling fig­ured promi­nently.

On of­fense, the Ravens had a few big plays early, and Mike Wal­lace had 10 catches for 120 yards, but they didn’t get much else done. Un­der pres­sure much of the day and with the Jets not hav­ing to worry about the Ravens run­ning game, Flacco was 25-for-44 for 248 yards, no touch­down passes and two in­ter­cep­tions.

Flacco, who has just two touch­down passes over his past five games, in­sists his sore throw­ing shoul­der didn’t give him any trou­ble, but he’s hop­ing it will feel even bet­ter af­ter the bye week.

Could the bye week also cure some of the Ravens’ other prob­lems? It cer­tainly can’t hurt, but the Ravens showed again Sun­day that there’s no quick fix.

“There’s noth­ing any coach could do to help us, if you can’t help our­selves,” Wal­lace said.

KARL MER­TON FER­RON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN PHO­TOS

Jets cor­ner­back Mar­cus Wil­liams, right, breaks up a deep fourth-down pass in­tended for Ravens wide re­ceiver Chris Moore late in the fourth quar­ter. Ravens quar­ter­back Joe Flacco was 25-for-44 for 248 yards, no touch­down passes and two in­ter­cep­tions.

Ravens tight end Den­nis Pitta rubs his face af­ter the of­fense fails to con­vert on fourth down dur­ing the fourth quar­ter. The Ravens gained only 43 yards in the sec­ond half.

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