Words: Kyle Simpson
Disappointment, shame, frustration. There are not enough words in the English language to describe the Ravens third straight loss, this time to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Mistake after mistake left fans stunned as the Ravens struggled through most of the game, getting shut out going into halftime 17-0. The offense was dead (it took two quarters to get a first down), the banged-up defense played fairly well considering they were up against one of the greatest quarterbacks to walk the Earth with their five best tacklers injured. But the Ravens fired Cam Cameron! Their problems were supposed to be over on offense! So why did the offense still perform extremely poorly (to put it mildly)?
What yesterday proved is that Cameron was not the entire (although he was a major part of) the problem. Joe Flacco let down the team this time, though most fans would argue that he is the reason the Ravens have lost three straight. I would argue that the blame needs to be partially shifted away from Flacco and to the offensive line. They have had problems last few years but especially atrocious the last few games. Flacco has little to no time in the pocket to get the ball out before the other team’s defense is in his face. The counter to that is Flacco needs to get the ball out to his receivers quicker and Jim Caldwell needs to change the place to compensate for the weak line, forcing Flacco to make shorter but quicker passes as opposed to longer plays that force him to spend time trying to sling the ball down the field while the offensive line collapses in front of him. As much as you can blame the offensive line for the offense woes, I will give the Flacco-haters merit and admit that Flacco needs to get it together. My message to him is that if he wants $100 million, he has to play like he deserves it. Quarterbacks that get paid that kind of money do not throw stupid picks that give away seven points like he did yesterday. He does not play consistently, he cannot read the defense, and he just does not make smart choices.
Flacco is due to get his contract re-negotiated this year, which leaves the Ravens with a choice. To get rid of or not to get rid of number 5? If you get rid of Flacco, you have a chance to pick up Matt Flynn from Seattle, who was a very productive back-up to Aaron Rodgers at one point, or Alex Smith from San Francisco, who has also proven himself not to be a push over. Those options are not guaranteed however, and I would not bet on either of those guys to end up wearing purple and black next year. You could trade him from a high pick to teams like Kansas City or Arizona to try and get somebody in the draft, but then you risk the guy you pick up being a bust. The third, and I feel most likely scenario is that the Ravens resign Flacco for one last shot to prove himself to not be Kyle Boller round two. It is hard to imagine, but Flacco is too good to let go, he has taken us to the playoffs 5 straight years now and, although inconsistent at times, he has proven that he can play at an elite level. The off-season will be very interesting this year for general manager Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh, and Steve Bisciotti as they discuss the quarterback’s fate.
On a more positive note, despite that terrible loss on Sunday, the Ravens have clinched a playoff berth with Pittsburgh’s loss to the Cowboys in overtime. Although many are saying that the Ravens don’t deserve to utter the “P-Word”, it is a bright spot in an otherwise gray day of football. The Ravens are currently gearing up to take on Manning’s brother, Eli, next Sunday at 4:15. If the Ravens pull out a win, they clinch the AFC North for the second straight year. This will be the fourth week in a row they have had the opportunity to clinch.