Last week, the Ravens suffered another loss to a below .500 team, falling 22-17 to the Seattle Seahawks. What seems to be a curse hanging over a winning Ravens team has turned into an unacceptable string of losses. The Seahawks began the scoring with a Marshawn Lynch touchdown. The following kickoff was one of David Reed's two fumbles, and the Seahawks would jump out to a quick 10-0 lead. The Ravens made it 10-7 in the second quarter when a reverse went to Ray Rice, who threw, yes threw, a 1-yard pass to Ed Dickson. At halftime, the Seahawks had a 19-7 lead after former Ravens K Steven Hauschka hit three field goals. The teams then exchanged third quarter field goals, and the Ravens had a two-possession deficit with 15 minutes remaining. After being repeatedly stopped by the Seahawks' defense, Joe Flacco finally penetrated the end zone himself with a touchdown pass to Dickson, and made the score 22-17 with six minutes left in regulation. But the usually clutch Ravens defense was beaten when it mattered, and the Seahawks were able to kill the clock and escape with the win. Ray Rice, easily the biggest playmaker on the Ravens offense, had just 13 touches, putting the pressure on the inconsistent Ravens passing game. While the Ravens were trailing for most of the game, not giving Rice at least 20 touches a game puts the Ravens in an unfavorable position offensively. In fact, in all three of the Ravens losses this year, Rice has had less than 20 touches. See a trend? This loss puts the Ravens in a must-win spot for the next few weeks if they want to take advantage of the tiebreaker hold they have with the Steelers.
Player of the Game: Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch-102 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD
Last Week's Key to the Game: The Ravens did exactly what they could not afford to do, getting sloppy with the ball and not taking advantage of a winnable game, which both contributed to the loss.
Next Sunday, the Ravens return home to face the division rival Cincinnati Bengals. The winner of this game joins the Steelers in first place in the AFC North, while the loser falls behind. While this isn't Ravens-Steelers, these two teams have a hard-hitting history with each other, so expect a physical battle on Sunday. The young cardiac cats have gotten off to a surprising 6-3 start with rookie QB Andy Dalton at the helm. Dalton's most explosive target, fellow rookie WR A.J. Green, hyper-extended his leg last week and will be a game-time decision on Sunday. Green's absence would change the dynamic of the Bengals offense, as Green leads all rookie receivers in catches and yards. Also on offense is RB Cedric Benson, who has a history of torching the Ravens defense with his power running. Benson has not had a strong year so far, but all it takes is one breakout run to change the course of this game. With Ray Lewis expected to miss the game, this task becomes even harder for the Ravens defense. While the Bengals rush defense has been outstanding this year, Cam Cameron needs to set aside his imaginary offense and run the ball down the Bengals' throats with Ray Rice. Luckily, the Bengals injury bug stretches to the defense as well with DE Carlos Dunlap expected to miss the game, and Leon Hall, who will miss the rest of the season. These injuries will help Joe Flacco, who has struggled historically against the Bengals, throwing five interceptions against them in two games last year. The Ravens need to come out rolling early on Sunday, and prove once again that their miscues are simply a fluke. I have the Ravens doing just that, and escaping with a close 23-17 win.
Key to the Game: The key to the game for the Ravens will once again be holding on to the ball, and not getting sloppy. Even with a lead, using the clock wisely and being merciless on all sides of the ball will be a key to victory in the second half.
Key Matchups for Bengals at Ravens
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. Bengals QB Andy Dalton Edge: Reed
Ravens LB Jameel McClain vs. Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham Edge: Gresham
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Bengals DT Domata Peko Edge: Rice
Ravens T Michael Oher vs. Bengals DE Robert Geathers Edge: Geathers
LB Dannell Ellerbe-Thigh-QST
WR Lee Evans-Ankle-QST
LB Ray Lewis-Foot-QST
WR A.J. Green-Knee-DBT
TE Donald Lee-Foot-DBT
DE Carlos Dunlap-Hamstring-QST
AFC North Standings
Team W L
Steelers 7 3
Ravens 6 3
Bengals 6 3
Browns 3 6
AFC North Outlook: The winner of the Ravens-Bengals game joins the Steelers at the top of the division with the Steelers on their bye week. The Browns host the Jaguars.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!