Ravens fore­cast: Even gloomier

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

EAST RUTHER­FORD, N.J. — There is no sil­ver lin­ing in the dark cloud that hangs over the Ravens.

They are just a bad foot­ball team.

They lost Sun­day to the New York Jets, one of the worst teams in the NFL. The Ravens are mov­ing into that class now. Be­fore the game, the Jets had lost four straight. Now it’s the Ravens who have dropped four in a row.

In the mid­dle of these types of crises, foot­ball teams lose their souls, and the Ravens were on a soul-search­ing mis­sion af­ter the 24-16 loss to the Jets.

“Yeah, I mean, mis­takes are frus­trat­ing and they hurt be­cause ob­vi­ously, we­gave the game away there, but the more frus­trat­ing thing is just the fact that we can’t con­sis­tently do things well,” quar­ter­back Joe Flacco said. “We’re not good right now, and I think that’s the big­gest thing.”

There is no ar­gu­ment here. On Sun­day, the Ravens couldn’t run or stop the run. They couldn’t tackle or block op­pos­ing tack­lers. They got a turnover and turned it over again on the same play.

These things hap­pen to bad teams. They take bad luck to an­other level.

Some might point to kicker Justin Tucker’s 50-, 49- and 44-yard field goals, but they only un­der­score the fact that the Ravens can’t score touch­downs, or even get in­side an op­po­nent’s 20-yard line. Wasn’t new co­or­di­na­tor Marty Morn­hin­weg sup­posed to give this of­fense a spark? Why do the new Ravens look a lot like the old Ravens?

For­mer co­or­di­na­tor Marc Trest­man is prob­a­bly sit­ting at home and smil­ing these days. His prob­lem is now Morn­hin­weg’s, be­cause the Ravens still don’t have play­mak­ers on of­fense.

The dark cloud won’t be go­ing away soon. The Ravens have a bye week com­ing up but play the Dal­las Cow­boys, Philadel­phia Ea­gles and New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots in the sec­ond half of the sea­son, as well as the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers and Cincin­nati Ben­gals twice. It’s go­ing to pour.

If the Ravens were to have a chance to make the play­offs this sea­son, they had to get off to a strong start in the first half of the sched­ule. But they’re 3-4.

If this sea­son con­tin­ues to get ugly, there will be some changes at the end of it. There have to be, be­cause the Ravens will have missed the post­sea­son three out of four years. Last sea­son was con­sid­ered an aber­ra­tion be­cause of the in­juries, which led to a 5-11 record.

But that won’t fly this sea­son. The Ravens have enough tal­ent to win against mar­ginal op­po­nents, but they lack a killer in­stinct. They have jumped out to 10-0 leads in the past two weeks, only to sur­ren­der them and lose.

A hold­ing penalty by rookie of­fen­sive tackle Alex Lewis halted a drive that should have been deep in­side Jets ter­ri­tory and could have led to a 20-7 lead late in the sec­ond quar­ter. Then rookie cor­ner­back Tavon Young couldn’t make a tackle on a key third-down play, which al­lowed the Jets to score a touch­down on the en­su­ing series. It’s al­ways some­thing. “Killer in­stinct is ex­e­cut­ing when you get ahead, putting peo­ple away and mak­ing plays — tak­ing ad­van­tage of the fact that they’re down,” coach John Har­baugh said. “What­ever killer in­stinct trans­lates to, we cer­tainly don’t have it right now. It’s not just “What­ever killer in­stinct trans­lates to, we cer­tainly don’t have it right now,” Ravens coach John Har­baugh said af­ter Sun­day’s loss to the Jets, the Ravens’ fourth in a row. this group; it’s been ev­ery sin­gle game for the last four weeks that we’ve lost. That’s got to be fixed.”

There are no quick-fix so­lu­tions. Flacco is beaten up and play­ing poorly, but he was play­ing that way be­fore he got hurt. His me­chan­ics are sloppy and he seems to tire in the sec­ond half of games; he threw two in­ter­cep­tions in the fi­nal two quar­ters Sun­day.

Ter­rance West had a 52-yard run nul­li­fied by Lewis’ penalty, and the Ravens fin­ished with only 6 yards on 12 at­tempts. You al­most have to try to be that bad.

The of­fen­sive line was miss­ing two starters, but the Ravens couldn’t run early in the sea­son when they were in the lineup. Har­baugh’s once-mighty men aren’t so mighty any­more.

On de­fense, you would have fig­ured that the Ravens would tackle bet­ter af­ter the New York Gi­ants’ Odell Beck­ham Jr. turned a short pass into a long game-win­ning touch­down last week, but the Ravens gave up a 69-yard touch­down to Quincy Enunwa on Sun­day.

The Ravens en­tered the game with the No. 1 run de­fense in the NFL, but their front seven ap­peared to tire in the sec­ond half be­cause the of­fense couldn’t sus­tain a drive.

That’s a bad sign. This team and this city al­ways have prided them­selves on de­fense and stop­ping the run, and now they’re gone.

The blin­ders are on, and noth­ing looks good straight ahead. In the first three weeks of the sea­son, the Ravens beat some poor teams, but they made plays and there was hope that they would get bet­ter.

In the three weeks lead­ing up to Sun­day, they lost to ca­pa­ble quar­ter­backs Kirk Cousins, Eli Man­ning and Derek Carr.

On Sun­day, they lost to Ryan Fitz­patrick and Geno Smith, two quar­ter­backs the Jets re­ally don’t even want. At times, the Ravens go back to their prob­lems of last year: no play­mak­ers at re­ceiver or in the sec­ondary.

But now, there is an­other prob­lem: The con­fi­dence might be wan­ing.

“We could have won all four of them,” de­fen­sive tackle Timmy Jerni­gan said of the past four losses. “I feel like we could be un­de­feated right now. The only one that could stop us is us. So we have to do a great job to fig­ure our­selves out, fig­ure out what we’re lack­ing as a team. Not just one side of the ball or any­thing like that. It’s all about us. We win to­gether, we lose to­gether.

“Once we fig­ure this thing out, the sky is the limit.”

Right now, the sky is fall­ing.


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