By Matt Vensel
11:29 AM PDT, October 23, 2012
This feature appears every week on the Baltimore Sports Blitz. It’s just like “What They’re Saying About the Ravens,” but it includes blogger Matt Vensel saying something about what those people are saying. Got it?
--- Ian Rapoport of NFL Network says it’s too early to dismiss the Ravens as Super Bowl pretenders.
“The knee-jerk conclusion drawn by those who watched what was a matchup of the AFC's only two winning teams? The Texans have arrived, while the Ravens are in trouble. Is this fair? Partially,” Rapoport wrote. “Yes, behind shot-blocking J.J. Watt and hard-running thinker Arian Foster, Houston appears to be the conference's most complete team. Today. But that doesn't necessarily mean the Ravens will head to the scrap heap. That's just not the way the NFL works. While the race might be on to write off an old defense that is banged-up and without key stars in [linebacker Ray] Lewis and cornerback Lardarius Webb, do so at your own peril.”
Matt’s take: I agree with Ian. Yes, the Ravens have major flaws, but so does the rest of the AFC (well, maybe not the Texans). The Ravens are still in great shape, and I don’t think their defense can get any worse at this point. I expect them to make the playoffs, and if they do, all bets are off. They have the experience. They have a quarterback. And if they only have to play one playoff game away from M&T Bank Stadium, a trip to the Super Bowl is still possible.
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports says the mystique of the defense is gone after Sunday’s 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans.
“It's too bad the Baltimore Ravens weren't in their black uniforms Sunday. After all, black is appropriate for a funeral, and that's what we had in Reliant Stadium. It was the burial of the Ravens as we know them,” Prisco wrote. “The Ravens of the past decade would walk into a stadium as the biggest and toughest group of players in the league, and playing them meant it would be an all-out physical battle that left players in the hot tub a little longer the next week. Now the once-bad bully can't even get off a punch.”
Matt’s take: There is no question the mystique has been shredded. Teams no longer fear the Ravens, and it all starts up front, where they used to dominate and are now dominated. The defense has struggled mightily the past few weeks, but the Texans were strong enough and sound enough to exploit all of their flaws.
--- Ashley Fox of ESPN wrote that the flaws exposed by the Texans on Sunday could keep the Ravens out of the postseason.
“That's where it feels like the Ravens might end up: on the outside looking in," she wrote. "Granted, Sunday's defeat is only one loss. The team is 5-2, with the second-best record in a mediocre AFC, with nine games to play. But this team isn't playing to make the playoffs. It's playing to get to the Super Bowl, and some alarming truths have been uncovered in the first seven weeks of the season that were magnified against a Houston team that was playing to retrieve its reputation. Baltimore is not a very good football team right now.”
Matt’s take: I’m sorry, but do you really think the Ravens won't find a way to finish the season with 10 or 11 wins?
--- Don Banks of Sports Illustrated says the defense failed its first test without Lewis and Webb.
“The blowout loss by Baltimore will renew all of the questions about this Ravens team as it approaches its mandated week off. The reality is, in this first big test of life after the injured Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb, Baltimore fared horribly,” he wrote. “Even if the Ravens did enjoy the return of reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, who made a remarkable comeback from an Achilles tendon injury this spring.”
Matt’s take: Honestly, I don’t think the absence of Lewis and Webb made much of a difference in this one. Webb being out is a big blow over the long haul, but Sunday’s game was won up front by the Texans.
--- John Eisenberg of Ravens.com says the Ravens could use the no-huddle offense less after the bye week.
“The fans will like that Harbaugh said Monday his staff would use the bye to consider whether their offense really was up to running the hurry-up against top defenses in tough road environments. He saw what you saw, in other words, and now everything is back on the table -- how much to run the ball, how much to communicate at the line, what the right pace is,” he wrote. “A more traditional attack could reappear when the Ravens take on the Browns in Cleveland in their next game. Maybe that’s the entire solution. Maybe not.”
Matt’s take: As I wrote after the game, it might be time to make the no-huddle offense a part-time thing. It limits the impact of Ray Rice, puts extra pressure on their defense, and they can’t execute it in road games, and last I checked, there are five left on the schedule. The Ravens shouldn’t ditch it all together because they will need it in some games, but a slower, balanced attack might be best for the team as a whole until the defense gets fixed.
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