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Thursday, January 2, 2014
Baltimore Ravens season wrap-up

By Jamison Hensley

 
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Final power ranking: 16
Preseason power ranking: 8

Biggest surprise: Late-season collapse. The defending Super Bowl champions failed to show their championship mettle at the end of the season. With their playoff hopes on the line, the Ravens didn't just lose their final two games -- they were crushed. Baltimore was outscored by a combined score of 75-24.  It was an unceremonious way to end what had been the NFL's longest consecutive playoff streak (five years). The Ravens didn't measure up to the best teams in the league this year. Baltimore was 1-4 against playoff teams (losing to the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots and splitting with the Cincinnati Bengals).

 Biggest disappointment: Running game. The Ravens ranked in the top half of the NFL in rushing in each of coach John Harbaugh's first five seasons. This year, Baltimore ranked 30th. The Ravens gained 1,328 yards, which was 261 yards fewer than they've ever had in the team's 18 years of existence. Ray Rice lacked his usual burst and dealt with a hip injury for most of the season. Backup Bernard Pierce was nicked up as well and wasn't always patient. And the offensive line consistently failed to get any push. The Ravens didn't find any humor in the fact that they had their worst rushing season in the first year they had a run game coordinator (Juan Castillo).

Biggest need: Offensive line. The Ravens averaged a league-worst 3.1 yards per carry, and quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked the second-most times (48) in the NFL. Both problems can be traced by to the abysmal play of the offensive line. The Ravens couldn't open running lanes, and they never gave Flacco enough time in the pocket. You know the line isn't doing its job when the quarterback is wearing a knee brace and the top running back is listed on the injury report for most of the season. Harbaugh said only right guard Marshal Yanda is guaranteed a job next season on the offensive line. The Ravens will likely re-sign left tackle Eugene Monroe and let Michael Oher go elsewhere in free agency. The big questions are whether left guard Kelechi Osemele can bounce back from back surgery and whether the Ravens are going to replace center Gino Gradkowski in free agency or the draft.

Team MVP: Kicker Justin Tucker. This was a no-brainer. Tucker set team season records with 38 field goals (which tied for first in the league) and 140 points. A first-time Pro Bowl player, Tucker had the league's longest field goal streak, at 33, which was also the fourth-longest in NFL history. He also made three game-winning kicks, including a 61-yarder in Detroit. The only other candidate for most valuable player is inside linebacker Daryl Smith. Besides leading the team in tackles (123), he finished with five sacks, 19 passes defensed, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.