Loss produces reality show - and it becomes a flop

October 14, 2008|By MIKE PRESTON | MIKE PRESTON,mike.preston@baltsun.com

Now that the smoke has cleared and the Ravens have brought the remains of the wreckage back to Baltimore, nothing has really changed except the Ravens got a taste of reality.

In the team's 31-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, all the Ravens' weaknesses were exposed after being hidden in the first four games.

The NFL is so watered down and mediocre that a team like the Ravens can be almost as good as any other on any given Sunday.

But a serious playoff contender has impact players at the skilled positions, and the Ravens are desperately lacking in those areas.

They have Joe Flacco, a rookie quarterback playing like a rookie. There are no Randy Mosses or Marvin Harrisons on this roster. Wherever there is a great receiver, there is usually a great quarterback and vice versa. The Ravens don't have a big-play-caliber running back, either, and their top two cornerbacks have age and injury.

When the Ravens fell behind 17-0 to Indianapolis in the first quarter, the game was virtually over. And until they address certain needs, they won't be a serious contender.

Overall, the Ravens have played well in four of five games, but they bombed against the Colts. Realistically, they have a shot at winning four of their next five games, even though four are on the road.

If the Ravens are 6-4 or 5-5 after 10 games, that's a lot better than most of us expected at the beginning of the season.

Yanda big loss

It was not a good sign to watch Ravens starting guard Marshal Yanda leave the locker room on crutches Sunday, and apparently he could be out for the season with a knee injury.

The loss of Yanda would hurt severely. The main strength of this offense has been running the ball, and the middle of the line - center Jason Brown, Yanda and guard Ben Grubbs - has played well.

The Ravens have gotten solid play from the tackle positions, but they played the Colts without starting right tackle Adam Terry. Chris Chester, Terry or Oniel Cousins could replace Yanda, but Cousins and Terry are tackles having to make the transition to guard.

Chester has experience, but he doesn't have that Yanda explosion in which he can knock big defensive tackles off the ball.

If the Ravens can't run the ball successfully, they are in big trouble.

No out for Harbaugh

I wonder whether coach John Harbaugh is having second thoughts about endorsing Flacco last week as his starting quarterback for the rest of the season.

We all know the team has invested in Flacco and that it is his job to lose. But Harbaugh kind of backed himself into a corner by endorsing Flacco, and he didn't have to make those statements.

No, I'm not endorsing Troy Smith. Flacco should be the guy. But if he doesn't make progress and the Ravens need a spark, then Harbaugh should have kept Smith as an option.

Last week, he virtually closed the door on Smith as the starter and didn't leave himself an out.

Testy coach

Only five games into his NFL head coaching career, Harbaugh got a little thin-skinned and testy with reporters after the game when asked whether cornerback Chris McAlister's knee injury had an impact on his play against the Colts.

It was a legitimate question.

We'll attribute it to growing pains for Harbaugh, and hopefully this isn't an early sign of the pressure getting to him already.

And, oh, by the way, McAlister's knee is an issue and affecting his play.

Where's the ball?

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning made some great throws, but it was disturbing that some of the cornerbacks never turned to find the ball to make a play.

It looked as though they hadn't been coached, but that's impossible at this level. Right?

Not straight ahead

Running back Willis McGahee handled most of the Ravens' running load against the Colts, finishing with 18 yards on eight carries. For the game, the Ravens had 51 yards on 19 carries.

But it seemed as though the Ravens kept running more east and west instead of north and south.

It made no sense, especially since the Colts are small but run extremely well to the ball. It would have been better to run straight at them to let the Ravens' size wear them down.

Who's more motivated?

It will be interesting to see which team has more motivation going into the Ravens-Dolphins game Sunday.

Certainly, the Ravens were embarrassed last season being the only team in the NFL to lose to Miami, and they are coming off the Colts spanking.

Like the Ravens, the Dolphins (2-3) have surprised some people early in the season, but they lost to the winless Houston Texans on Sunday, 29-28, on a late touchdown.

Listen to Mike Preston every Monday at 4 p.m. on Fox Sports (1370 AM).

RAVENS

@DOLPHINS

Sunday, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13

Line: Miami by 3

Inside: Yanda likely done for year. PG 4

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