Ravens won't look much different Sunday, but results need to be

System will be the same in Caldwell's debut, albeit with a few 'wrinkles'

December 15, 2012|Kevin Cowherd

Let's start with this: Don't expect the Ravens to put up 60 points Sunday.

Don't expect Joe Flacco to take endless shots downfield to Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. Don't expect Anquan Boldin to suddenly run wild in the middle of the field off a lot of intricate rub routes.

Don't expect a lot of razzle-dazzle plays involving Ray Rice. Or for the Ravens to march down up and down the field in the no-huddle offense as if they had they invented it.

Bottom line?

Don't expect this team to suddenly morph into The Greatest Show on Synthetic Fiber Turf.

No, the odds are that when the Ravens take on the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium, the offense won't look a whole lot different with Jim Caldwell calling the plays than it did when Cam Cameron wore the headset.

"Obviously there's not going to be a system change of any sort," Caldwell said the other day. "But we are going to add a few wrinkles here and there where need be."

OK, fine. But even a few wrinkles would be nice to see at this point.

As for a system change, maybe you'll get that next year if Caldwell passes this little late-season audition and another team hasn't snapped him up to be its head coach.

Maybe over an entire offseason, he can overhaul an offense that has underperformed the past four months despite all the preseason hype about how it would be more daring and aggressive and put up points in bunches.

Say, here's a bonus. At least Caldwell is supposed to be upstairs in the coaches' booth Sunday instead of on the sideline. Which means we won't be treated to endless shots of him holding a laminated play sheet in front of his mouth.

Why do the networks love that shot so much? I can't figure it out. You see one coach doing that on the sideline, haven't you pretty much seen them all?

I'm not going to say Caldwell is on the hot seat already, but there's tremendous pressure on the Ravens to play well and snap out of this two-game funk they've been in.

The last thing they want to do is continue to play poorly and back into the playoffs — assuming they don't lose all three of their remaining games and blow a shot at the postseason altogether.

And if you think the heat's just on Caldwell and the offense, consider what Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees faces in the 10-3 Broncos, the hottest team in the NFL with eight wins in a row.

For starters, Peyton Manning is playing as if complicated neck surgery is actually a good thing, as though every quarterback in the league should rush out and have it done.

Pees says it's almost as if time stood still for Manning and he's back in his prime with the Indianapolis Colts, picking apart defenses as in a video game.

He's thrown for 30 touchdowns, the second-most in the league, and has the NFL best completion rate at 68.3. And with Peyton playing like Peyton again, Denver's offense ranks fourth in the league.

Making matters worse for Pees is the ridiculous injury situation on defense.

It's almost of biblical proportions now. John Harbaugh says he's never seen anything like it in his five years as the head coach. Pees, with nine years in the league, says he's never seen anything like it, period.

"I don't think I've ever had so many [players] out for long periods of time and all at the same time," he said. "It's been, uh, interesting."

Oh, yeah. Interesting in a way that, say, nausea is interesting.

But look at what Pees is dealing with — no Lardarius Webb (torn anterior cruciate ligament), no Dannell Ellerbe (sprained ankle) and no Jameel McClain (neck stinger). Bernard Pollard (bruised rib), Arthur Jones (bruised shoulder) and Pernell McPhee (strained groin) are not exactly the picture of health, either.

Ray Lewis (torn triceps) is practicing again but wasn't activated for this game. As for Terrell Suggs (torn biceps), he came back from the Achilles tendon tear and he's put his heart and soul into coming back from this injury, too. But he says he won't know whether he's playing against the Broncos until right before game time.

Still, as Harbaugh like to point out, no one's feeling sorry for the Ravens.

Me, I like their chances Sunday, even with the turmoil and the injuries and the two-game losing streak.

For one thing, they're at home, where they usually play well and the swagger comes out. (Being three-point underdogs at their own house — that ought to cheese them but good.)

For another thing, they're desperate. And desperate teams often do great things and play great games.

Sunday would be a good time to start.



Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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