A week after Ed Reed blasted the Denver Broncos' Knowshon Moreno to force a big fumble, the Ravens safety was conspicuous for three missed arm tackles in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Although it was an uncharacteristic performance for Reed, coach John Harbaugh said he doesn't believe it was the result of Reed's playing hurt.
"I think he's tackled very well this year, up until this game," Harbaugh said at his weekly news conference Monday. "Obviously, the hit against Denver was as good a tackle as you're ever going to see. From my understanding, the neck is as good as it's been in two years, but I think it's a factor. But it's not a dangerous type thing where he's at risk, or he wouldn't be playing."
Reed, who has played the past season and a half with a nerve impingement in his neck, had five tackles in the 17-7 loss to the Bengals, and forced another fumble when he stripped Chad Ochocinco. But he also whiffed on three would-be tackles, twice against wide receiver Laveranues Coles on a run of 8 yards and a pass of 32.
"He's worked extremely hard in the weight room," Harbaugh said. "He's as muscled up as he's been since we've been here in the last two years. So I think Ed's worked really hard to get himself in position to play really well. I'm sure he's disappointed with those three tackles. Those three tackles are tackles you normally see him make."
Injured or not, Reed remains a playmaker on defense. He has forced fumbles in three of the past four games and returned an interception for a touchdown. After he stripped the ball from Ochocinco at the Ravens' 36 in the fourth quarter, he recovered it himself, ran 13 yards and then lateraled to Chris Carr for 4 more yards. That series ended with a missed field goal by Steve Hauschka.
'It starts with me'
Harbaugh began his postmortem with the observation that the Bengals beat the Ravens "every way you can beat a team, all three phases," and then pointed the finger of blame at himself.
"First of all, it starts with me," he said. "It's my job to give our guys every opportunity to play as well as they can play, and I need to find a way to do my job better."
There were a myriad of problems resulting from the Cincinnati debacle, including third-down issues, penalty issues and another slow start by the Ravens' offense. And while the solution starts with Harbaugh, he said it filters all the way through the organization.
"Our guys take responsibility," he said. "There's not a guy in this building that doesn't take responsibility for finding a way to get his game, coaching or playing, right. My job is to make sure I can be the best head coach I can be, and right now, I'm not getting the job done."
Hauschka's miss of a 38-yard field goal in the fourth quarter was eerily reminiscent of his missed 44-yarder that would have beaten the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 18: wide left. The problem, Harbaugh said, was in the swing.
"If you look at those two swings, those are both poor swings, [where he] came off the ball," Harbaugh said. "When you see his good kicks, you can tell what they look like as far as his swings, and those two swings were not good swings. So we've got to find out what the reason for that is, because you can do it 1,000 times over and over again, and then you get in that pressure moment and you can't repeat it. That's kind of a critical issue."
Harbaugh declined to say whether the team would bring in any kickers for tryouts this week.