Failed Test: Questions Unanswered

November 09, 2009|By Kevin Cowherd

CINCINNATI -- As the Ravens trooped wearily off the field at Paul Brown Stadium after Sunday's stunning 17-7 loss to the Bengals, the Cincinnati fans let them have it.

"You're not a playoff team!" one guy yelled in a voice that could be heard across the Ohio River.

Sure, you might wonder about the football acumen of a beered-up fat guy in a tiger costume.

But after watching the Ravens sleepwalk through their second depressing loss to the Bengals this season, you also have to wonder whether the guy is right.

How do you explain this one?

How do you explain such an awful letdown after last week's dominating 30-7 win over the then-unbeaten Denver Broncos, a win that made you think this team had turned a corner?

The short answer is: You can't.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh sure can't - we'll get to his comments in a moment.

And his players seem equally baffled, at least judging by the thousand-yard stares and mumbled answers in the locker room when this one was over.

No, you would need every shrink in the Yellow Pages to get to the bottom of this one.

"This is frustrating," said running back Ray Rice, held to 48 yards in 12 carries as the offense failed to show up for the first three quarters. "I'm not going to be naive about it, it's frustrating."

"But in this league, if you stay frustrated, you'll be frustrated for the rest of the season."

How frustrating was it?

Let's go right to the ugly numbers:

Through three quarters, the Bengals totaled 18 first downs to just six for the Ravens. They held the ball for almost 31 minutes to 14:07 for the Ravens. They gained 300 net yards to 98 for the Ravens.

Derrick Mason didn't catch his first pass until the beginning of the fourth quarter and finished with three catches for 31 yards.

And Joe Flacco struggled all afternoon. He threw two picks but could have easily thrown two more as he forced the ball into shifting Bengals coverages.

OK, now that we've carved up the offense, how did the "D" play?

Uh - I know this'll shock you - not so well.

Carson Palmer, the Bengals' superb quarterback, shredded the secondary for 224 yards and a touchdown, completing 20 of 33 passes.

The Ravens' defensive backs were abused by Bengals wide receivers Laveranues Coles (six catches for 72 yards) and the Twitter Master himself, Chad Ochocinco (five catches for 66 yards).

And even when the Ravens' defensive backs were locked on a receiver, their tackling was awful at times.

Ed Reed, the All-Pro safety, was especially guilty of arm-tackling and played like a guy worried about his neck injury.

So if you're a Ravens fan, you have to ask yourself: Is this a team that looks like a playoff contender?

Right now, the answer is no.

Sure, at the halfway point of the season, the Ravens are 4-4.

If they run the table the rest of the way, no worries. If they win six of their last eight games, they probably have a shot at postseason play.

But does anything in the way the Ravens played yesterday suggest they can beat the tough teams left on their schedule? Or even the not-so-tough teams?

Play like that against the Indianapolis Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers and the game will be over by halftime.

If I'm Harbaugh right now, what concerns me most is this: Why does this team keep getting off to such slow starts?

They started slow in the Bengals' 17-14 win at M&T Bank Stadium.

They started slow in the 33-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome.

What's the deal here?

Why aren't these guys ready to go full-bore at the 1 p.m. kickoff?

Are they still on daylight saving time or something?

Or do they just need better multivitamins to shake the lethargy?

"The slow starts are not good," Harbaugh said. "It's got to be an emphasis. We did it last week [against the Broncos].We came out strong. We wanted to come out aggressive and making plays, but we didn't do it.

"We've got to find a way to start the game better. We'll look at it and try to figure it out."

They had better figure it out soon.

"We have eight games [left]," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We have to make the most of it. We have to win the ones we're supposed to win. That's what it is right now.

"That's reality. That's where we put ourselves."

It's not the greatest place to be.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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