The primary culprit for a 13-10 loss Sunday night that knocked the Ravens out of first place in the AFC North was an offense that dotted with Pro Bowl skill players that managed to score only three points in the final three quarters. "It's probably the toughest loss that I've experienced since we've been here," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Our guys really took it hard. I don't think anybody slept too well last night or for very long. It's disappointing for us because it was such an opportunity that we've probably lost in terms of putting ourselves in position to control our destiny for that seed, but we still have an opportunity to achieve everything from a division championship to the wild card."
That's undoubtedly true for the Ravens (8-4) with four games remaining in the regular season.
However, the Ravens' offense failed badly against the Steelers, fading after a promising start as offensive coordinator Cam Cameron turned conservative with a lead.
The Ravens also managed only 43 rushing yards on 20 carries against the NFL's top-ranked run defense.
Quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked four times with the final one coming from safety Troy Polamalu exploiting a botched blocking scheme that caused a fumble that led to the game-winning touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger late in the fourth quarter.
"We just busted a protection, flat out," Harbaugh said. "It cost us the game. We've got to get better. That should never have happened."
Offensive tackle Michael Oher moved over to block outside linebacker James Harrison, and Polamalu wasn't accounted for despite his prowess as a blitzer and Pro Bowl status
Did that affect the protection?
"I asked that same question of the players involved and the coach involved, and no," Harbaugh said. "They saw him slide inside. They saw Troy walk down in there. They knew it. They kind of got our wires crossed on how we were adjusting to that. We crossed wires on two different protection calls that we have."
The Ravens feature a Pro Bowl player at virtually every skill position, including wide receiver Derrick Mason and fellow wide receivers Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, tight end Todd Heap, running back Ray Rice and fullback Le'Ron McClain.
After the game, Mason went on a rant at his locker stall about the offense's many shortcomings.
"All these people that we've got on offense, I'll get crucified for this one, but all the people that we've got on offense, we're not a good offense at times, we're really not," Mason said. " Call a spade a spade. If we were a good offense, we'd be moving the ball up and down the field, especially with the people that we have and the quarterback that we have. I have a lot of confidence in our personnel, but we're just not a good offense at times."
Players are privately questioning the direction of the offense and the play-calling of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
Harbaugh defended Cameron after the game, but he wasn't forgiving of the offense in general.
Plus, the Ravens blew a pivotal red-zone opportunity.
And they converted only 4 of 13 third downs, a 31-percent success rate.
Harbaugh didn't find much fault with Mason's assertions.
"I don't think we are consistent," Harbaugh said. "Right now we're not good at all on third down. A lot of that is we're in third-and-long a lot. We're not good in the red zone, in terms of putting the ball in the end zone like we should.
"And therefore, we don't score a lot of points. We should be an offense that's scoring a heck of a lot more than 10 points. We're not good enough on offense, there's no question about it."
The Ravens are averaging 97.8 rushing yards per game, sixth in the NFL. However, they're only averaging but just four yards per carry to rank 23rd in that category.
"We've got to find a way to run the ball better, for one thing," Harbaugh said.
And the Ravens have lost six leads this season in the fourth quarter, another troubling pattern.
Until they learn how to finish, a deep playoff run seems improbable.
"We don't ever get blown out by anybody, do we?" Harbaugh said. "We've got a bunch of guys that know how to fight. When we do lose, we lose close ones. That's not closing out. We've got to find a way to get that done in the next four weeks.
Ravens concede offense isn't very good right
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