Keys to beating the Ravens

Despite deep threat, Niners must take away short passing game

Originally Published: January 29, 2013
By Vince Verhei | Football Outsiders
Joe FlaccoAP Photo/Patrick SemanskyJoe Flacco has struggled in the Ravens' losses. The answer as to why could decide the Super Bowl.

Football fans and analysts alike tend to think about players and teams when they're at their best. Sometimes, though, it's more informative to look at teams when they're at their worst, to learn what flaws can be exposed and exploited at their lowest moments. With the Super Bowl less than a week away, it's time to examine the AFC and NFC champions in their worst games of this past season. We'll look at the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday, but today we'll check out the Baltimore Ravens.

Keep in mind that this is a look at Baltimore's worst games, not just their worst losses. Sometimes a team can play badly and still escape with a victory due to some lucky bounces of the ball or the good timing of playing one of the league's weaker teams. We'll pick Baltimore's worst games not by wins and losses or even by scoring margin. Instead, we'll look at DVOA, Football Outsiders' exclusive statistic that measures every play of the NFL season one at a time (explained further here.)

According to DVOA, four games on the Baltimore schedule stick out as particularly bad performances:

• A 24-23 loss to Philadelphia in Week 2.
• A 23-16 win over Cleveland in Week 4.
• A 9-6 win over Kansas City in Week 5.
• And a 43-13 loss to Houston in Week 7.

The first common thread between all those games jumps off the page: All four were in the first half of the season. Does that mean the Ravens solved all their problems after Halloween? Not necessarily. If this list was two games longer, it would include a pair of December losses, one to Washington in Week 14, one to Denver a week later.