Late for Work 12/15: 4 Reasons for ‘Maddening’ 4th-Qtr Woes

Reed felt he played like a rookie in Houston, power rankings and are Ravens SB-caliber?

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 at 9:12 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

4 Reasons for ‘Maddening’ 4th-Qtr Woes

Relinquishing six fourth-quarter leads with less than five minutes left in regulation, including three times in the final 30 seconds, the Baltimore Sun’s Jamison Hensley called the Ravens late-game play "maddening."

"When it comes to the fourth quarter, there are so many strange and unbelievable twists that it seems like the Ravens are stuck in an M. Night Shyamalan movie," wrote Hensley. "The only certainty with the Ravens in the fourth quarter is the uncertainty."

Hensley named four factors that are contributing to the Ravens’ failure to hold fourth-quarter leads
. And to offer a Ravens’ point of view (and a different way to review some of the points he made in this weekly WBAL radio show last night), I will add Head Coach John Harbaugh’s most recent comments on each factor Hensley provides.

1) Coaching decisions on offense: Hensley believes the Ravens are taking too many risks late in the game by passing instead of trying to run the ball and milk the clock to protect a lead. The Ravens unsuccessfully converted on third-and-2 with less than three minutes left on a pass play against the Texans and they committed a turnover on a pass play with 3:22 remaining the week before against Pittsburgh.
Harbaugh said after the game there was a discussion about the decision to pass or run.

"Whenever it doesn’t work, we say, ‘Why didn’t we do the other thing?’" the head coach said.

"Hey, you can run it up there and get smashed or you can run it up in there and get it. Calling a run there would have been a great call and calling a pass there and completing it would have been a great call. I’m certainly not opposed to running it in those situations. We just have to execute better. We have to convert in four-minute. We have to get first downs to stay on the field. We don’t need to put our defense back on the field against an offense like that in those situations. If running the ball in those situations is the answer then that’s what we’ve got to do."

2)
Coaching decisions on defense: Noting that quarterback Matt Schaub completed 24 of 41 passes for 242 yards in the second half Monday night, Hensley believes the Ravens’ decision to decrease pressure¬† (three-man pass rush with eight defenders dropped into coverage) in the second half was hurtful.

Last night, Harbaugh said the Ravens were getting more pressure out of their three-man rush than their blitzes.

"I don’t think it was the calling of the defense that hurt us," he said. From his point of view, it was the Texans’ fourth-down conversions that allowed them to succeed.

3)
Exhausted defense. ¬†In the last two games, the Ravens defense was on the field twice as long as the opponents’ defense in the second half. As a result, Hensley noted Baltimore has given up 105 points in the fourth quarter.

Harbaugh said he was thinking he would need timeouts on offense, but with hindsight he would have used one for the defense.

"Looking back at that one, that would have been a good thing to do," Harbaugh said. "I would have rather used a timeout to give our guys a blow."

4) Lack of a running game. While the Ravens traditionally have prided themselves on closing out games by running the ball down the throat of opposing defenses and taking precious seconds off the clock, Hensley wrote "that isn’t a reliable option anymore."

He said the offensive line used to push defenders back, even if opponents stacked eight or nine players in the box.

The Ravens are trying to be more physical in the offensive line, which is one reason they brought in Oniel Cousins at right tackle and moved Marshal Yanda to right guard and former guard Chris Chester to tight end.

"It puts a little more size on the field for us," Harbaugh said "If you put Oniel Cousins out there at tackle, Marshal out there at guard and Chris Chester out there at tight end, which he played in college, it just gives us a bigger, more physical front to move people around a little bit more. We want to be able to do that and have that as an option.

"We didn’t quite get the production that we wanted, but it was the first week, and I’m really hopeful that that will help us start knocking around a little bit more."

One factor that Hensley did not name, but seems to be a concern to Harbaugh, is the pre-snap penalties on offense. The head coach noted that penalties and sacks are putting the offense "behind schedule."

"That’s been our Achilles heel all year," he said.

Do Ravens Need To Be Championship Caliber Now?

Fourteen weeks into the season, neither Pro Football Talk’s Gregg Rosenthal nor MASN’s Dan Kolko think the Ravens are playing well enough to win the Super Bowl.

"Baltimore closed 2009 strongly and that carried over into the playoffs.  Perhaps their best football is still ahead of them," wrote Rosenthal. "Based on everything we’ve seen this year, expect the Ravens to look good, but not great.  Not like the Super Bowl favorites many expected before the year."

Added Kolko, "Anyone who has hopes of Lewis hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season has to be incredibly frustrated and concerned by the Ravens’ performance [against the Texans]."

But, is it necessary to play like a championship-caliber team right now?

Not according to Harbaugh.

"We don’t have to be a Super Bowl champion football team right now," he said on his radio show. "We have to find a way to beat the Saints."

Reed Felt He Played Like a Rookie in Houston

While getting treatment in the training room, Ed Reed was a call-in guest on NFL Network’s the Rich Eisen Podcast.

After getting carved up by the Texans passing offense, Reed said felt he hit a "stalemate" and felt like he was playing in his rookie year.

He acknowledged committing lots of "little mistakes," but added that those mistakes can be corrected if he stays disciplined.

On a separate note, when watching games with Deion Sanders, Eisen said that Sanders stands up every time Reed creates a turnover and screams, "Pitch it!"

After laughing with Eisen, Reed got serious and admitted he’s "got to get out of the mentality" of pitching. He wants to make smarter pitches, especially because he believes the Ravens have an offense that can score after the turnover.

The problem, according to Reed, is that his instincts take over. He recalled memories of playing basketball as a young man and watching basketball players like Magic Johnson and Michael Jordon dish the ball. Summing it up, Eisen said Reed is looking to notch an "assist."

Week 14 Power Rankings


ESPN
: Ravens are No. 5, down from No. 4 last week. This week’s opponent, the Saints, knocked the Ravens from their last week’s spot. ESPN says the Ravens lack the "killer instinct."
USA Today: Ravens are No. 5, same as last week. USA Today has the Pats, Falcons, Saints and Steelers ranked ahead of Baltimore.
FoxSports.com: Ravens are No. 5, up from No. 6 last week. Foxsports.com has the same Top 5 as USA Today.
CBSSports.com: Ravens are No. 7, up from No. 9 last week. The website urges the Ravens to shore up their coverage problems before the Saints’ pass offense (perhaps better than the Texans’) come to town.
NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora: Ravens are No. 5, up from No. 6 last week. La Canfora notes that the Ravens don’t lose to inferior teams under Harbaugh.
ProFootballTalk.com: Mike Florio ranked the Ravens No. 5, same as last week. Florio notes that the Patriots’ favorite team will be whichever faces Baltimore in the wild-card round.
SI.com’s Peter King: Ravens are No. 6, same as last week.  King ranks the Saints at No. 2 and notes they have scored 34, 34, 30, 34 and 31 points in their last five games.

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