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Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Observations on the Ravens

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Here are six observations of the Baltimore Ravens following their 27-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers:

Joe Flacco, Clay Matthews
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw for just 137 yards and 3 INTs.
Little urgency: With the Ravens (6-6) in desperate need of a win, they were expected to play with more urgency on Monday night. But that wasn't the case as Baltimore came out extremely flat in the first half. The Ravens have been a slow-starting team all season. Penalties and a pair of turnovers (one fumble, one interception) quickly put the Ravens behind 17-0 at intermission, and that was too much to overcome at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers too comfortable: We mentioned earlier in the AFC North blog that pass pressure would be key for Baltimore. The Ravens didn’t get nearly enough pressure on Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. Baltimore registered just one sack on Rodgers, who entered the game having been sacked 44 times. The Ravens were unable to exploit Green Bay's biggest weakness and it's a major reason the Packers won.

Flacco struggled: Baltimore's coaching staff loved the strides quarterback Joe Flacco made this offseason. But it may be time to tighten the reins on the second-year quarterback. The Ravens put a lot of pressure on Flacco to air it out and make big plays against the NFL's top-rated defense. But Flacco threw for only 137 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. His passer rating was just 27.2. Falling behind caused Flacco to force a lot of throws, including one interception in the end zone that he threw across his body.

Too sloppy: The Ravens are one of the most penalized teams in the NFL, and that trend stayed true to form against the Packers, who were also heavily penalized. It made for a very ugly game. But the difference is the Ravens are not a good enough team to overcome 12 penalties for 135 yards on the road. The biggest infractions were Baltimore's five pass interference calls -- one on offense and four on defense. The secondary has struggled to cover all season and too often Baltimore's defensive backs resort to holding receivers.

Pass protection: It was surprising to see how dominant Green Bay's front seven was against Baltimore's versatile offensive line. Flacco was sacked three times and hit by the Packers eight additional times. The Packers kept Flacco scrambling when passing and stuffed Baltimore's running game. One of the Ravens' strengths is their offensive line, and this unit needs to play better down the stretch.

Playoff hopes dim: Baltimore is in the same position as the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6). Both AFC North rivals must run the table to get into the postseason. That can't happen for the Ravens and Steelers as both teams will meet in a possible elimination game in Week 16. As I mentioned last week, neither team looks playoff-worthy and it's hard to imagine either team suddenly winning four in a row. So don't be surprised if the Cincinnati Bengals (9-3) are the only playoff representative from the AFC North.