Time for Ravens to scare rest of NFL

To have half a chance in playoffs, Ravens need strong effort for whole game

December 15, 2010|Kevin Cowherd

I am not one of those people who say the Ravens are going down the tubes.

I am not one of those people who think they can draw up better plays in their backyard dirt than Cam Cameron draws up as the offensive coordinator.

I am not one of those people who think they know more about blitz packages and the three-man rush than a defensive coordinator such as Greg Mattison.

But even I know this: It's time for the Ravens to play a complete 60-minute game.

It's time for this team to start scaring the rest of the NFL again.

It's time for the Ravens to take the training wheels off this offense, an offense that was expected to offer so much excitement with three new and talented wide receivers, but often produces only yawns.

And it's time for the defense to show it hasn't gotten old and slow and predictable, which is the whisper you hear around the league these days, even from the beefy ex-players in Armani suits who yak it up on the pre- and post-game shows.

Yep, all this has to happen, no doubt about it. And it better happen soon — this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints would be a good start — if the Ravens want to make any kind of run in the playoffs.

Let's talk about the Ravens offense first. And, please, no jokes. No cracks like: "The Ravens have an offense?" Those got old in a hurry this week.

Because the truth is, there were glimmers of what this offense can do in the first half of the Ravens' 34-28 win over the Houston Texans Monday night.

Perhaps you remember the Ravens drove 52 yards in eight plays on their second possession. Maybe you recall that nifty 16-yard pass from Joe Flacco to Ray Rice and the 17-yard throw to Le'Ron McClain before Willis McGahee rammed his way into the end zone from a yard out.

In the second quarter, Flacco seemed to really find his rhythm, firing a 9-yard bullet to Derrick Mason in the back of the end zone and a 26-yard scoring toss to Mason down the left sideline.

But after that, the offense did nothing.

Nada. Zero. Zip. Up 28-7 early in the third quarter, the Ravens managed 61 yards of total offense the rest of the way.

That can't happen if this team is serious about going to the Super Bowl this season.

You can't have a team down like that and let up on the gas pedal.

This isn't the old days, when the Ravens could score a few points and then turn the game over to the defense to win.

For one thing, the offense has too many weapons to be held down like that — not that you'd know by how reluctant the Ravens have been to take shots downfield and over the middle.

And the defense isn't what it used to be, either. It's not as intimidating as it once was. It's not nearly as feared, either.

Sure that was a great showing from the defense in that tough 13-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago. But you won't get that kind of game from this unit week in and week out. That's how it looks right now, anyway.

Even if the Ravens play a solid all-around game, beating the Saints won't be easy, of course.

The Saints are red-hot coming into M&T Bank Stadium, with six wins in a row, including a 20-10 beat-down of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

True, the Saints have beaten up some bad and so-so teams in that stretch, including the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and St. Louis Rams.

But that's what good teams do: they beat up on bad teams. And the Saints have scored at least 30 points in all five of those games, which is impressive no matter who you're playing.

One last thing: Perhaps you heard the rumors that snow is in the forecast for Sunday, which is supposed to favor the Ravens by hampering the passing game of Drew Brees and Co.

Uh-uh. Right now the long-range forecast calls for only a 10 percent chance of precipitation.

Still, it won't exactly be the Bahamas, not with an expected high temperature of only 32 degrees.

Which gives me an opportunity to break out the obscure stat of the week: The Ravens are 14-6 in games played in Baltimore against teams that play in domes or retractable-roof stadiums.

And they're 10-4 in games they've played here against indoor-wuss teams in November and December.

But forget about the weather. It's time for the Ravens to step up. It's time for them to play a complete game and show the rest of the league why they've been talking Super Bowl since training camp.

It's December. The playoffs are right around the corner.

And the Ravens still have a lot to prove.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

(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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