Ravens take big step back in loss to Titans
Go ahead and try to figure the NFL out.
In Week 1, the Ravens sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times, forced seven turnovers and destroyed the defending AFC champion Steelers. In Week 2, Baltimore had no answers for Tennessee on either side of the ball and lost a shocker, 26-13.
With the Steelers shutting out the Seahawks, we're quickly right back to square one in the AFC North.
But we're also right back to where we were coming out of the preseason regarding the Ravens. Is their offensive line good enough to compete for a championship? Can anyone but Ed Reed defend the pass? It's impossible to answer either question definitively because, for as impressive as the Ravens looked last Sunday, they were equally miserable this time around.
The Titans essentially took away Ray Rice's running room, one week after Rice put up 149 total yards and two touchdowns against Pittsburgh's defense. Rice hauled in five passes for 53 yards and a score but mustered just 43 rush yards on 13 carries -- a paltry 3.3 yards-per-carry average.
And with Rice neutralized, everything else became that much more difficult for Baltimore offensively. Joe Flacco threw two picks, took three sacks and registered a QB rating of 51.2, as the Ravens managed three second-half points.
Shockingly, though, things were worse on the other side of the ball for Baltimore.
The Ravens managed to stuff Chris Johnson, holding him to 53 yards rushing on 24 attempts, but still allowed more than 400 total yards to an average Tennessee offense. Matt Hasselbeck had a field day, connecting on 30 of 42 passes for 358 yards and a touchdown. Baltimore's pass rush was ineffective and its secondary was picked apart.
Now, it's fair to ask which Ravens team is the real one: Week 1's Super Bowl contender or Week 2's pitiful performers?
The answer may not be as simple as seeing how Baltimore performs at St. Louis next Sunday or against the Jets in Week 4. In reality, Baltimore might fall somewhere in the middle of it all.
That's what was most surprising about the blowout over the Steelers -- at least, aside from seeing an incredibly rare Pittsburgh implosion. The Ravens headed into the regular season with, on paper, a host of question marks. Remember, Week 1 was the first time its offensive line played together and the defense had some letdowns in 2010, namely in allowing 31 points to that same Pittsburgh team in a playoff loss.
Plenty of people picked the Ravens to win the AFC North, even to make a Super Bowl run, but no one expected it to be easy.
The parity-filled NFL simply exposed some of Baltimore's flaws a little sooner than we expected after seeing last Sunday's effort. Had Pittsburgh's defense negated Rice or Ben Roethlisberger gone off for a big day, no one would have batted an eye. Instead, because the competition was the seemingly-overmatched Titans, it's cause for concern.
Still, this was going to happen to Baltimore at some point. This isn't a team set up to go 16-0 and it certainly isn't a team that wants to do its best work in September. With the offseason moves they made -- not to mention the timing of some of them -- the Ravens figure to be better in November and December than they are now. The Week 1 blowout of Pittsburgh skewed that idea a lot. The Week 2 disappointment in Tennessee should get the expectations back a little closer to where they ought to be. But neither tell the whole tale of the 2011 Ravens.