Ravens Three-and-Out: Week 7 vs. New York Jets
Thanks in large part to a scoreless second half, the Baltimore Ravens lost 24-16 to the New York Jets today. This is the second time in three weeks that the Ravens have been shut out in the second half and not coincidentally, the result was very similar to the Ravens' other game without any second half points scored, which was their 16-10 loss to the Washington Redskins two weeks ago.
The Ravens have amazingly now suffered back-to-back losses in games where they had a 10-point lead. Both of these games took place in the Meadowlands, against two New York teams that were able to take advantage of this dysfunctional team and stop their respective losing streaks. The Ravens' own losing streaks rolls on, as they are now 3-4 with four consecutive losses, all of which were suffered by eight points or fewer.
While all these losses have hurt equally, at least there was no shame in losing to an Oakland Raiders team that looks to be a serious contender in the AFC West. Nor was there all that much shame in losing to the Washington Redskins or New York Giants, both teams that have winning records in Week 7. Both those losses were nonconference as well, which wouldn't hurt the Ravens if for some strange reason they were to actually need tiebreakers for a playoff spot.
This loss is very different. Prior to today, the Jets were 1-5 and had the second worst record in football. They had their own active four-game losing streak going into this matchup. Their starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had played himself out of the starting lineup with a league-high 11 interceptions and now the very inconsistent Geno Smith was getting his first start of 2016.
It looked like things were going to lead to an easy Ravens' victory. A fumbled snap on a punt led to an early Ravens' touchdown and shortly afterward, Justin Tucker added on a field goal to give the Ravens a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Jets struck back with Smith tossing a 69-yard touchdown to Quincy Enuwa to make it 10-7. That would be the last big play that Smith would make though as he had to leave the game after a knee injury that was suffered on a second quarter sack by Matthew Judon. This led to Fitzpatrick coming in as quarterback, not exactly the guy that you would want to lead your team to victory with his 11 interceptions in six games.
But the Ravens' defense really didn't prove that much of a problem for Fitzpatrick. He went 9-of-14 for just 120 passing yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. After the Enuwa touchdown, it was a very conservative offensive day for the Jets who largely leaned on their running game and were rewarded with an 100-yard rushing performance by 30-year-old Matt Forte.
The Ravens also had a very conservative day on offense, as they saw their offense score zero touchdowns. Every point after Chris Moore's fumble return touchdown, came from a Tucker field goal. The Ravens had a historically horrific day running the ball, netting six yards on 12 attempts. The passing game was also mostly quiet outside of Mike Wallace's 10 catches for 120 yards.
It's now bye week time for the Ravens and they are in an unbelievably desperate position entering what is supposed to be a brief period of rest. The offense is 24th in points per game (19.5) and 19th in yards per game (347.0). It's putrid offensive football to say the least and with this loss to an AFC cellar-dweller, the Ravens are going to have to make some changes for their crucial divisional tilt with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9.
Here's some of the lessons learned from the Ravens' loss to the Jets.
1. Despite playing whole game, Joe Flacco is clearly impacted by his shoulder injury.
There was some surprise earlier this week when Joe Flacco missed practice due to a sore right shoulder. That surprise led to worry when Flacco was announced as questionable on Friday. Yet despite the injury, Flacco played every offensive snap in the game and Ravens fans were spared from seeing Ryan Mallet take the field.
It might have actually been better had Flacco not played. He struggled throughout the whole game making throws and then in the second half he hurt the team with two interceptions after having previously gone a franchise-record 176 passes without throwing an interception. It's not the interceptions though that tell the story of just how bad Flacco was in the second half. His passing number for the half do that themselves, as he was just 10-of-22 for 48 yards after halftime.
Yes, him and Wallace had some good connections in the first half where Flacco racked up 200 of his 248 total passing yards for the day. Kamar Aiken also made somewhat of an impact, with three catches for 55 yards for his start in Steve Smith Sr.'s absence. Like the other three games it was the same story, the Ravens' offense got out to a fast start and then folded and couldn't score points when it mattered most.
Flacco gets two weeks to rest and hopefully recover from the injury. He also will be looking to end an embarrassing drought in his next game: a drought of 11 quarters without him throwing a touchdown pass. It's going to be nearly impossible for the Ravens to beat the Steelers if that drought extends into their next four quarters of play.
2. Ravens continue to hurt themselves with dumb plays made on the field.
With so many NFL games being very closely contested, it obviously hurts any team that makes a stupid mistake during a critical situation. The Ravens would very likely not be in this situation of having lost four consecutive games, were it not for dumb mistakes along the way.
The self-inflicted mistake that hurt the Ravens the most today came on a third quarter fumble recovery by Timothy Jernigan. The fumble recovery looked to be a huge play for the Ravens as they recovered it in their own endzone and just needed to fall on it to prevent the Jets from scoring any points.
Instead, Jernigan ran the ball out of the endzone and he had the ball ripped out of his hands. The Jets recovered the ball on the Ravens' five-yard line and then three plays later, Forte scored a back-breaking rushing touchdown that gave the Jets their final lead of 24-16. You can't fault the big guy for trying to make a play as Jernigan had to be frustrated by the offense's ineptitude and felt like he needed to help them out with some return yardage. But just like CJ Mosely's fumbled interception return two weeks ago, Jernigan's fumble recovery and subsequent fumble hurt the Ravens badly and ended up leading to the other team scoring points.
There was another good play that ended up being negated thanks to the Ravens hurting themselves. The Ravens had an awful day running the ball, however Terrance West managed a nice 49-yard run in the second quarter. That play ended up being negated because of a holding penalty on Alex Lewis and so the Ravens ended up with a franchise-worst six rushing yards.
3. Injuries hurt the defense as Smith injury actually benefits Jets.
The Ravens again had a slew of starters miss the game with injuries. Smith Sr. (ankle), Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and Ronnie Stanley (foot) were the crucial offensive players who sat out. The defense had even more starters miss the game. Both Terrell Suggs (biceps) and Elvis Dumervil (foot) were unable to contribute to the pass rush, while Moseley (thigh) and Shareece Wright (thigh) were unable to make their usual starts.
But even with two veteran pass rushers out, the Ravens did a decent job putting pressure on the Jets' quarterback with the team totaling five sacks. Preseason star Judon continued to show that he is the real deal as he got two sacks, one of which led to the knee injury that sent Smith out of the game. Defensive linemen Jernigan, Brandon Williams and undrafted rookie Michael Pierce all had one sack, as the defensive line did well in bringing pressure, though as not well in stopping the run game.
Forte totaled 100 yards on 30 attempts, which is a lot for a player of his age. The Jets clearly wanted Smith in at quarterback and so when Fitzpatrick was forced to play, they went very conservative on offense and it actually seemed that strategy worked, as Fitzpatrick did better than what Smith did during his limited time playing early on. Fitzpatrick had just 14 passing attempts while the Jets did their best work gashing the Ravens in the run game. Other than Forte, wide receiver Robbie Anderson also made a big running play with an 18-yard gain on an end-around.
Wright's absence was again felt in the passing defense. Enuwa burned the Ravens for 69 yards with his score, which saw players like Anthony Levine Sr. and Lardarius Webb trying but failing, to tackle the young receiver. That play and a 31-yard reception by Forte were the only huge passing plays given up by the Ravens, but a lot of that was probably due to the Jets' offensive gameplan. Anderson and Brandon Marshall did also have some big gains, with each of those players getting a reception of more than 20 yards.
The Ravens really need Wright back as the starting corner and they really need defensive captain Mosely back under center. Thankfully, unlike last season it doesn't seem like many of the injuries are serious for the team. In two weeks. they should be healthier barring any further setbacks during practice.
This current four-game losing streak is the longest that the Ravens have had with John Harbaugh as head coach. Even in last year's 5-11 trainwreck, they never lost more than three consecutive at any point. So the team is in uncharted waters as they have now seen a promising 3-0 start sputter out to their current 3-4 mark.
Under Harbaugh, the Ravens are 6-2 coming off their bye. Every year they have won their post-bye game, they have made the postseason. In both 2013 and 2015, they lost the game after the bye and missed the postseason. So this game should have a ton of importance, especially since it's against the Steelers and could possibly have first place in the AFC North on the line.
By losing to the Jets, the Ravens continue to make the case that they are not a good team. On paper, the Jets were one of their easiest opponents left for 2016. The Ravens could be favored at home against the 3-4 Cincinnati Bengals, at home against the winless Browns and at home against the 3-4 Miami Dolphins. Every other game though looks like it will have the Ravens as underdogs, especially with five of their final nine games coming against teams with winning records.
If the Ravens can't even manage an offensive touchdown against the lowly Jets, how can they inspire much confidence in winning these close games? Just like last season, the Ravens are so used to losing close games that it's hard to feel good about the two-minute offense or the pass defense stopping the opposition in crucial situations. With three of their next four games coming against divisional opponents, the Ravens need to stop the losing and maybe even hope for some help from divisional rivals.
James Reagan is the lead writer for the Baltimore Ravens on Pro Football Spot and can be followed on Twitter @james__reagan.