It has often been said that the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. If that definition is true, then the Baltimore Ravens, or more accurately their coaches, are clearly “insane”.
Over the past two years, Ravens’ coordinators have trotted out what appears to be the same game plan against the Cincinnati Bengals and the results are either a loss or a close game where none should exist. With each encounter, Quarterback Joe Flacco attempts more passes, the Offensive Coordinators (all three of them) abandon the run and the Defense fails to put enough attention on the Bengals primary playmaker, AJ Green.
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In their 2013, week 17 collision with the Bengals, Ravens’ Quarterback Joe Flacco attempted 50 passes. Historically, when Flacco slings the ball around and the running game becomes a distant memory, bad things happen. In this case, the Ravens lost 34-17.
History repeated itself in the 2014 season opener in Baltimore. Flacco attempted 62 passes and the Ravens lost 23-16. Excluding Flacco’s three scrambles for seven yards, Baltimore’s rushing attack consisted of 17 rushing attempts for 87 yards; the Ravens lost 23-16.
“It has often been said that the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. If that definition is true, then the Baltimore Ravens, or more accurately their coaches, are clearly “insane.””
If the Ravens intend to beat the Cincinnati Bengals today, they must run the ball, they must sustain drives and they must dominate in Time of Possession.” Failure to do so will surely result in Joe Flacco launching rockets down field and the Ravens having a long, silent flight to BWI.
These last few Ravens-Bengals contests have also been the scene of some notable defensive insanity. The first thing any competent Defense does in preparing for an opponent is identifying the opposition’s playmakers; the guys that can hurt them in a heartbeat. When they lock horns with the Cincinnati Bengals, AJ Green is the number one threat to Ravens’ success. There should never be a moment during which his whereaboutson the field is unknown. But, in each of the last three games with Cincinnati, the Ravens’ forgot that Green was there and they got burned.
In their 2013, Week 10 overtime game, the Ravens secondary allowed AJ Green to beat them for a 51 yards touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. As if they were suffering with an acute case of amnesia, the Ravens’ Defense made the same mistake in week 17 of 2013, yielding a 53 yards touchdown pass to Green. Then, in their 2014 season opener, the Ravens managed to commit the same foul again, giving their favorite Bengals’ receiver a 77 yards game winning TD reception in the fourth quarter.
Today, AJ Green is listed on the Bengals’ injury report as “out” with a toe injury. Defensive Coordinator Pees and the Ravens’ Defense cannot give Green a fourth “bite at the apple” but Green’s “partner in crime”, Mohamed Sanu, is lurking in the shadows of Paul Brown Stadium, awaiting the opportunity to accept the Ravens’ gift on behalf of Green.
If the Ravens are to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, they must control the offensive tempo of the game. They must get into and out of the huddle at a quicker pace. They must run the ball and use ball control passes to extend the run game. They must play intelligent defense and take away their penchant for giving up big plays to the Bengals.
An effective Offense begins with great execution on the Offensive line. For the past couple of weeks, the Ravens have relied on two rookies to anchor their offensive left side. Hurst and Urschel were outstanding but nothing is a substitute for experience. Today, veteran Left Tackle Eugene Monroe and Left Guard Kelechi Osemele returns to the O-Line. With their return, pass protection should be better and run blocking should be stronger and more explosive. This will allow Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak to be more creative in the Ravens’ “run” game.
“The first thing any competent Defense does in preparing for an opponent is identifying the opposition’s playmakers; the guys that can hurt them in a heartbeat. Why does AJ Green continue to beat them?”
On the other side of the ball, Defensive Coordinator Dan Pees must to put pressure on Andy Dalton. The Defense must be relentless. Dumervil and Suggs will have to continually move Dalton off of his spot and make him “run for his life.” Haloti Ngata, Brandon Williams and Purnell McPhee must plug the middle and push the pocket into Dalton’s lap. Failure to do so is not an option. If they fail to get sufficient middle pressure, it will surely result in the Ravens’ weak but improving secondary being exposed.
The secondary must cover better and be more fundamentally sound. They must be more opportunistic and take advantage of the opportunities presented to them and they must tackle better. In every game this season, the Ravens’ secondary has demonstrated their mediocre cover skills and lack of ball skills. They have put on a clinic in horrible positioning, lack of reactive quickness and bad tackling. They have managed to get by because Baltimore’s front seven have been outstanding in bringing intense pressure on opposing Quarterbacks. However, they cannot continue to be satisfied with a ranking of thirtieth out of 32 teams in giving up passes of 20 yards or more.
The Baltimore Ravens are a good football team; however, they have not been good at generating turnovers, especially interceptions. The Ravens Defense has only produced four interceptions through seven games. Haloti Ngata, the Pro Bowl Defensive Tackle and pitch man for chicken and ATMs, leads the team with half of the teams’ interceptions. Only one interception has been recorded by a defensive back. No more excuses; if the ball can be intercepted, it must be intercepted.
This week, the Ravens have a golden opportunity to right the ship. If the Offense lives up to its potential by executing well, using a balanced (run versus pass) approach and mounting sustained drives to move the chains and control the clock, they will win. If the Defense plays good fundamental football, generating constant and consistent pressure on Andy Dalton, stopping Cincy’s receivers from getting free releases at the line and playing tighter coverage downfield; they will win.
Despite their “hard-headedness” and “insanity”, the Baltimore Ravens appears to have finally learned their lesson. If so, expect 28-33 pass attempts and 30-35 rushes on Offense. Also expect the Defense to make a greater effort at limiting big plays, rerouting Bengals receivers at the line, playing tighter coverage and tackling better. My guess on today’s game is Ravens win 24-17.