By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens and the 49ers both shared the same record at 1-4 prior to the start of the game on Sunday. Only one team could cling on to their playoff hopes. The losing team would face a difficult reality. That reality belongs to the Baltimore Ravens as they fell to San Francisco 25-20. As is usually the case with games like this, there is plenty of blame to go around.
The defense hasn’t played well this season, so the team leaned on Joe Flacco for the support it needs to win on Sunday. For the majority of this game, Flacco did not play well at all. It wasn’t simply because the Ravens offensive line did a poor job of keeping him comfortable in the pocket. Flacco’s decision making was poor. Two ill-advised interceptions severely hampered any momentum the Ravens were accumulating as the drives progessed. The last interception was thrown with virtually no receiver within 5 yards of the football. Throwing off your back foot is a no-no in the NFL and Flacco seems to do it on a regular basis. The offensive line hasn’t helped him, but decisions like that can be lethal.
It took Steve Smith one week to recover from 4 broken bones in his back. He returned this week and reeled in 7 receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown. Those are strong stats for a 37 year old who was clearly in obvious pain throughout the contest. Kamar Aiken has also begun to establish himself as Baltimore’s number 2 target. Justin Forsett, who is also dealing with an injury, finished with 62 yards rushing and 39 yards receiving. The offense played solid football, but it was the decision making by Flacco that crippled this unit against San Francisco.
When you have a defense that has been hampered by injury the way this unit has, you don’t expect much. That being said, the Ravens defense has played uninspired football for the past few weeks. This week was no exception. The secondary was torched by former Ravens WR Torrey Smith due to the play of Shareece Wright. The recent acquisition had a tough day against a 49ers offense that struggled mightily prior to this contest. Being thrust into the starting role merely a few days after being signed is a bit much for anyone to handle. But teams bring you in to produce, and the young corner didn’t.
The Ravens did to a very good job of containing Carlos Hyde and forced Colin Kaepernick to beat them with his arm – which he did. But plays were made by the defenses front seven throughout the game. Considering the way the season has gone so far, this is definitely something the Ravens coaching staff can build on.
Special Teams: A-
Sam Koch played a brilliant game for Baltimore on Sunday. Pinning the 49ers back with his leg alone on a few occasions, he was one of the few bright spots in the game. Justin Tucker would miss a field goal in this game, but the miss was due to poor field conditions. That incident could have led to a serious injury and will likely be addressed to the league by the Ravens front office.
The Ravens didn’t look prepared for this game as little mistakes popped up for them throughout the contest. But penalties were kept at a minimum. After the game, John Harbaugh blamed himself and the coaching staff for the loss. That’s a fair assessment. Injuries are part of the game, but Baltimore had enough talent to win. They just didn’t get the job done.
The Ravens will look onward to Monday Night Football as they prepare to battle the Arizona Cardinals. Baltimore will have to do a lot better than they did against the 49ers if they wish to avoid being 1-6
Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.