Diner morning news: Too many Flacco mistakes

QUOTE: “It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.” -- Isaac Asimov

Things have changed for the Baltimore Ravens. Once a dominating team on defense, they are now just average, and Monday night, change continued with their offense. They now look like the Baltimore Ravens offense of the past. You might think they just ran into a very good Green Bay Packers defensive team, but the reality is that in the last five games, they are averaging just 14.4 points a game, can’t convert third downs (32.8 percent) and have turned the ball over 10 times. Those are pathetic numbers for an offense that was supposed to carry the team as the defense tried to regroup. As we enter week 14, the Ravens are still just average on defense and below average on offense. Certainly they don’t have the feel or look of a playoff team.

Year two for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was supposed to be his big year. He was supposed to continue his impressive play from his rookie season, but after his hot start this year, his last six games have been very inconsistent — and last night he played badly, very badly. For inexplicable reasons, Flacco was careless with the football, costing his team opportunities to score points. His first interception on the flea flicker was a horrible decision because the Packers weren’t fooled on the play. Flacco needs to realize that throwing away the ball is a good thing, which is what he did last year. Then his red zone interception was inexcusable – especially when the Ravens at that point were two scores down in the game. These are mistakes you can make as a rookie, but not as a second-year player who showed so much promise. I understand he had some drops last night as the cold air made the football very hard to catch for both teams. But forgetting the drops, his decision-making was perplexing, and now the Ravens must re-evaluate how much of the offense they want to rest in his hands.

Entering the season, the Ravens were not an explosively talented team on offense, but they were a physical team with a complement of running backs and a play caller who could exploit the opponent’s weak areas. They won last year playing a style that was very similar to the Broncos this season -- protecting the football, playing smart and making sure they didn’t beat themselves. They never put the burden of the game in the hands of their rookie QB, instead relying on their ability to play sound defense and extending the game into the fourth quarter, when their physical toughness could take over. But this year, they no longer have their defensive swagger, no matter how many times you hear Ray Lewis scream. Their defense is very average, and unless they play perfectly on every snap, they can’t shut down their opponent’s offense. Without their defense as their pillar of strength, they have to take chances with their offense – and the burden of success falls into their laps. But it’s clear Flacco cannot carry this team right now, and that’s where their problems lie. You might think they should go back to their ‘08 style of offense, but since they can’t convert third downs, once they punt, their defense is vulnerable, which results in having to play from behind. When they’re forced to play from behind, Flacco takes too many chances with the ball and things fall apart.

Playing a certain style is vital to a team’s success, but defining that style is the hard part when there’s not an area of strength. As Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Brian Kelly said the other day walking off the field at halftime of the Pittsburgh game, “We are who we are,” which means he knows the style he has to play in order to win. The Ravens do not know who they are because they’re not strong in any area or phase of their team — or strong enough for any area to carry them. They’ll continue to be inconsistent and have to change each week to find the certain framework that gives them the best chance to win. They can’t count on any phase being consistently effectively, and each week their success depends on the strength of their opponent. With Detroit and Chicago as their upcoming opponents, their offense will look improved, making us think they can use that as a pillar of strength. But strength will have more to do with the weakness of the opponent than the strength of the Ravens.

Can they make the playoffs? I think they have the best chance, not because they have the best team, but because they have the more favorable schedule. At least last night proved to the Ravens that they can’t count on their offense to be the strength. Without Flacco as a dependable player, they must change how they approach the game with their offense — this will determine if they can make the playoffs.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

Can the Broncos upset the undefeated Colts on Sunday? Check out this article from Bleacher Report and see why Denver may have the goods to dethrone Indy.

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