Beep, beep. At start of tough road, Ravens get run over

Ravens Insider

Ravens Gameday

October 13, 2008|By MIKE PRESTON | MIKE PRESTON,mike.preston@baltsun.com

INDIANAPOLIS - To keep the Ravens focused in preparation for the Indianapolis Colts last week, coach John Harbaugh came up with a slogan: "We know where we are going, don't we?"

But after yesterday's embarrassing 31-3 loss to the Colts, there was only one question: Where?

Just where in the world are the Ravens (2-3) headed?

In the previous four games, there was always something to build on, whether it was the play of the young offensive line, the development of rookie quarterback Joe Flacco or the constant improvement of a strong running game.

But with the exception of punter Sam Koch, there was not one positive thing that came out of Indianapolis.

Nothing.

And now, we ask, where are the Ravens headed? They have lost three in a row. Four of the team's next five games are on the road, and just in case you're not counting, they have lost seven straight away from home.

Road warriors, the Ravens aren't.

Worse yet, after losing two straight in brutal, physical games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans, the Ravens got pushed around by America's Soft Team, the soft-as-butter Colts.

"OK, obviously a disappointing performance," Harbaugh said. "We didn't play very well in all three phases. We got what we deserved, and that's what happens when you play the way we did. But I will say this: I like the way our team continued to compete, fight, and I like the way they are going to handle adversity. They are mighty men and I think we've got a great future in front of us. I can't wait to see where we go from here."

Mighty men? Is Knute Rockne in the house? Harbaugh was seething about the loss, but not enough to point fingers at anybody. To paraphrase Harbaugh, he said he wasn't going to throw anybody under the bus.

Fine. If he won't, I will. Beep, beep. Look out for the Preston Express. Cornerbacks Chris McAlister, Corey Ivy and Frank Walker were terrible. They have to improve their fundamentals and stop peeking into the backfield at the quarterback, which allowed the Colts to score on several touchdown passes.

Beep, beep. Quarterback Joe Flacco, look out. He threw three interceptions yesterday and doesn't know when to run or throw it away. You're playing against the Colts, son, not Delaware State.

Who's next? Beep, beep. Offensive line, come on down. The Colts entered the game with the worst run defense in the league. Everybody runs for more than 100 yards against the Colts. John McCain could get 100 yards against the Colts. But the Ravens finished with only 51 on 19 carries.

But the most frightening thing about the Ravens' poor performance yesterday was that it resembled what we saw in training camp at McDaniel College when a lot of people were predicting them to win only five or six games in 2008.

The Ravens' secondary was injured back then, and they were without two starters yesterday, and both McAlister and safety Ed Reed are slowed by injuries. In the team's first two games this season, the Ravens were crisp tacklers. During one long run yesterday, Colts running back Dominic Rhodes looked like Jim Brown with a 38-yard run in which he broke five tackles.

Maybe before the Ravens talk about where they are headed, they need to go back to the beginning and basics. They need to learn how to tackle better. Somebody has to teach return specialist Yamon Figurs that you can't field a punt or kickoff in the stadium tunnel and try to return it.

Somebody has to teach Flacco how to read a safety, and that he has to throw farther to the outside away from the safety when a team is in cover-2. And the Ravens might have to rethink their strategy about tight end Todd Heap pass-blocking before he gets the rookie killed.

"Every team has a game like this," said Ravens wide receiver Mason. "We'll regroup, and we'll come back."

But when, and where?

Oops. Excuse me. Beep, beep. There is one more person to chuck under the bus. It's Harbaugh. He didn't have his team ready to play. Rah-rah speech No. 8 didn't work.

The Ravens are at Miami on Sunday before possibly getting relief the next week against the Oakland Raiders at home. But then they're at Cleveland, at Houston and at the New York Giants before hosting the Philadelphia Eagles.

It's a tough road, but after yesterday, you don't know whether the Ravens are heading for success or self-destruction.

Listen to Mike Preston on Mondays from 4 to 6 p.m. on Fox Sports (1370 AM).

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