It's time to hand out the report cards following the Ravens' 28-24 loss to Cincinnati. And nearing the one-quarter point of the season, the grades just don't seem to be improving. The report card:
Joe Flacco put up decent numbers -- 32-of-49 for 362 yards and two touchdowns -- but they don't want him throwing 49 times. And his one interception was a terrible back-foot floater that Pacman Jones easily stepped in front of, setting up a Bengals touchdown. Flacco admitted that he never saw Jones before the throw. "Just bad vision," he said. In fairness to Flacco, he continues to be hamstrung by the lack of playmakers. There's only so much he can do when receivers can't get open. Plus, tight end Crockett Gillmore was sidelined by an apparent injury for much of the second half.
RUNNING BACKS: D-
The ineffectiveness of the Ravens run game remains one of the major disappointments of the season. With Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro and all five starting linemen expected back this year, this was supposed to be a strength. But the Ravens again were abysmal running the ball. Forsett carried 10 times for 13 yards and never gained more than 5. Taliaferro totaled 0 yards on three carries. Short-yardage running has been terrible. Rookie Buck Allen had a 9-yard run, the longest of the day. The Ravens totaled 1 yard on five second-half carries.
Protection for Flacco was decent and he wasn't sacked at all. But the Ravens couldn't handle Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap up front against the run, which is why the Ravens averaged 2.0 yards a carry. A face mask by Kelechi Osemele wiped out a fourth-down conversion on the Ravens final drive, and center Jeremy Zuttah was called for three penalties. James Hurst, starting in place of injured Eugene Monroe again at left tackle, received a grade of -11.2 from Pro Football Focus, the lowest grade given to any tackle this season.
TIGHT ENDS: C-
Crockett Gillmore had some of the few offensive highlights in the first half, with three catches for 40 yards. But he hardly played in the second half, and coach John Harbaugh offered no insight after the game, saying only, "You'll get an injury report later." That left Maxx Williams (3 catches, 44 yards) as the No. 1 tight end. Williams couldn't haul in the Ravens final pass play, just coming up short on a diving try. Rookie Nick Boyle also had a pair of catches and hurdled a tackler en route to a 13-yard gain.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B-
Once again, Steve Smith receives an 'A,' and the rest of the receivers earn something between a low grade and an 'incomplete.' Smith remains the Ravens lone playmaker, and he was remarkable again on Sunday, tying the franchise record with 13 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns. His 50-yard, tackle-breaking touchdown on fourth-and-5 illustrated just how much effort he gives on every play. But once again, most of the receiver corps vanished for large stretches of the game, a recurring theme. No. 2 receiver Kamar Aiken had zero catches. Marlon Brown had a nice 21-yard catch to the sideline, but this group consistently fails to get separation. Flacco wants to take shots deep, as he did with Aiken at one point, but the receivers don't have the speed to outrun defenders.