Toughest matchup: ‘us versus ourselves’
Sloppy, listless play leads to 4th loss in row, longest slide since Harbaugh took over
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.
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.