John Harbaugh vows to fix the Ravens in 2014…

Excuse me if I don't cry a river for a winning organization that has to "apologize" for an 8-8 dud of a season which followed 5 straight years of making the playoffs, capped by a Lombardi Trophy last February.

But on Tuesday head coach John Harbaugh stood in front of the cameras at a press conference and apologized to his owner and to Ravens fans, and took "full responsibility" for the team's failing to make the playoffs.

Personally I believe Harbaugh was the least of the Ravens' problems.  But John is a class act, and will not throw guys under the bus who probably should be taking a lot of the responsibility for a disappointing result in 2013.

“I apologize for the fact that we’re even having this press conference, for the fact that we have to sit here and talk about the fact that we’re wrapping up the season and the playoffs haven’t even started yet,” Harbs said.

Harbaugh went through the main points that the team will address this offseason.

“[These] are things that would have made a difference in games that probably would have gotten us in the playoffs,” he said. “Coaches are working on this.”

Run The Ball Better

Harbaugh said not running the ball effectively was “probably our biggest disappointment.”

The Ravens finished with a franchise-low 3.1 yards per carry, which ranked last in the NFL. Baltimore’s 83 rushing yards per game were third worst in the league. Pro Bowler Ray Rice put up just 660 rushing yards after topping 1,100 each of the past four years.

There are a number of factors that go into why the run game flopped, and eventually had to be largely abandoned due to lack of effectiveness.

“You’ve got to be able to throw the ball well to protect the running game,” Harbaugh said. “You’ve got to be able to block people, and move people and knock people around in order to run the ball. You’ve got to create some angles to create situations where there are mismatches. And you’ve got to be able to make some plays out there when plays aren’t there and create some yards.”

Rice’s leg injuries (hip then thigh) made it more difficult. The offensive line struggled to pick up the necessary blocks, especially early in the year, and then simply didn’t execute well enough when they did. Fullback Vonta Leach was rarely used as the team shifted away from the run.

Protect Flacco Better

Joe Flacco is the franchise quarterback, and thus there’s a high priority on keeping him healthy, something that didn’t happen this season. Flacco was sacked a career-high 48 times. He took the second most sacks of any quarterback in the league this year, trailing only Miami’s Ryan Tannehill (58 sacks).

Flacco played the final two games of the regular season, both losses that knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs, with a hobbled left knee as a result of a helmet hit by Lions outside linebacker DeAndre Levy. Flacco was sacked six times in those two games.

Hit Big Plays

The Ravens were among the best in big plays in 2012, logging 72 over the course of the year to finish third in the NFL.

They thought they would have even more potential for big plays this offseason when they welcomed in more speed to the offense with Deonte Thompson, Tandon Doss, gave Jacoby Jones the No. 2 spot and made Torrey Smith the lead receiver.

But that didn’t happen. The Ravens had just 50 big plays, tied for 29th in the league.

Without chain-moving wide receiver Anquan Boldin, and tight end Dennis Pitta for most of the year, the Ravens needed to at least get big chunks to move the ball on offense. They usually did not.

Defense Needs To Finish

In many categories, the Ravens defense improved this season when compared to the Super Bowl-winning unit.

They were 12th in the league in points scored per game (22), compared to 17th a year ago (21.5). The Ravens ranked 12th in yards allowed per game (335.5), an improvement from 17th and an average of 350.9 last season. The Ravens were 12th against the pass and 11th against the run.

“You look at it statistically, you look at the numbers – that’s what you do at the end of the year – you’ve got to say we were a good defense. We were a really good defense,” Harbaugh said.

“But, our defensive coaches and our defensive players are going to tell you that that’s not good enough. They want to be a top defense – one, maybe two, maybe three when it’s all said and done. That is the standard for the Ravens defense, and that’s what we’re going to chase.”

But one area where Baltimore’s defense struggled was in the final quarter and minutes of games. It too frequently allowed long scoring drives at the most inopportune times.

The Ravens couldn’t get off the field against Green Bay, versus the Steelers at home, Cleveland on the road, in Chicago in overtime, against the Vikings in a back-and-forth game at home, then late against the Bengals after rallying to tie the game at 17.

“We need to be better in the fourth quarter, and we need to be better at protecting leads at the end of the game,” Harbaugh said.

Although the Ravens’ postseason is starting earlier than usual, Harbaugh is approaching it with “an enthusiasm unknown to mankind,” citing his family motto.

“We will work like crazy to improve and become better. But, this is going to be sticking in our craw for quite a long time – I can tell you that,” Harbaugh said.

The Ravens will have several months to think about their issues before getting back on the field.

“I’m sorry that we didn’t live up to that standard this year, but we will be back,” Harbaugh said to end his press conference.

One of my favorite fan posters at is a guy name Mystigo Dragon. Here's his take on what Harbaugh DIDN'T SAY between the lines—

"Harbs protects his coaching staff. Everything mentioned in this article focuses on what players were not able to do. But the Ravens' scheme is predictable. They have speed at receiver, the best blocking FB in the league, and a strong-armed QB. Any coordinator worth their salt would have the Ravens offense performing better. Yes, the O-line is terrible, but short passes, screens, max protection are things other teams with weak offensive lines use. The Ravens very seldom in 16 weeks made protection adjustments or strategy. In an era of Cap you need to maximize team performance through coaching since you can't stack every position. That's the biggest issue."

"He forgot to mention Flacco needs to start making better decisions with the ball. It's always everybody else's fault— Tannehill was sacked 58 times and has far less talent at RB and WR than Flacco and he had a better year than Flacco. I could care less about sacks, Aaron Rodgers was the most-sacked QB a couple of years ago and won the SB. You can't turn the ball over and expect to win, it's that simple. The Bengals game was tied up in the 3rd quarters and those INT's turned that whole game upside down in a matter of minutes. Flacco's turning the ball over should've been the first thing out his mouth…"

"Joe lived by and loved the deep pass at 1 AA Delaware, and Vertical Cam was happy to oblige that tendency… Harbs and OC Caldwell seem to be enamored with the vertical game too, because nobody was telling Joe to use the area between the hash marks, too! "

"Now, when we needed Joe to be a more mature and savvy ball handler, using the whole field rather than the sidelines, he's reverted back to old habits…"

"There's evidently nobody with juice willing to tell him to grow up!"

Mystigo Dragon makes a point, albeit a bit on the over-reactive side of things. After all, if by sheer luck the Ravens had just won one of those close or overtime losses in 2013, we'd be having a different conversation right now. We would still have an offensive unit that is hobbled….but at 9-7 and in the playoffs.


Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.