The San Francisco 49ers host the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6. We chatted with Baltimore Beatdown to get some thoughts on their team. Both teams are 1-4, but they seem to have different reasons for their struggles. Considering the Ravens have lost their four games by a combined 17 points, they are an intriguing team, to say the least. Here is what they had to say about their team.
Niners Nation: The running game seemed to struggle early on, but then picked up when Steve Smith got hurt. What is up with the ground game, and how will it look if Smith plays this weekend?
Baltimore Beatdown: The running game was behind at the start of the season partly due to left tackle Eugene Monroe's injury along with new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman moving away from the types of runs that were successful in 2014 for the Ravens. With most of the runs coming right behind center, they were destined to fail more often than not. Now with Monroe back in the lineup and run plays utilizing a lot of the zone techniques that the Ravens ran last season, we are seeing more runs break into the second level where linemen can keep going and Forsett can make something happen. It is just more of a coincidence that Steve Smith Sr. was out at the same time the running game picked up than it was because he was out.
NN: The Ravens four losses are by a combined 17 points. Is there a common theme in the losses?
BB: There is and there isn't ya know? It is a mix of penalties giving their opponents recharged drives and stopping their own while the defense gives up big plays and game ending drives more than anything. I guess if I had to summarize it into anything, it would be that the Ravens are playing undisciplined football across the board and it is allowing their opponents to stick in games longer than they should and ultimately come away with a last minute victory every week. Even with the injuries and poor play from the defense, if they tightened up things just a little bit more, the Ravens could easily be undefeated right now.
NN: Which injuries have been the most significant for the Ravens, and which replacements should we be keeping an eye on primarily?
BB: Oh man, right now the injury list looks like the Walking Dead, it's kinda depressing. I'd say the biggest injury so far has been to Terrell Suggs. While the secondary is the thing giving away games, not having Suggs in there has required defensive coordinator Dean Pees to pull so many other players around and out of position to help recover, that the secondary is playing on their heels and it is hurting them. The only difference between this defense this season and in 2014 is that last year the Ravens could get after the quarterback. With Suggs out, they don't have that and it's making everything look even worse.
Going into this game, there are so many injuries right now that pretty much the entire starting lineup is different from when the season started. The big key going against the Niners will be Shareece Wright. With cornerback Will Davis going down with an ACL tear, it is expected that Wright will be the second corner for the Ravens and will start opposite Jimmy Smith. If he can play even remotely wellon Sunday, the Ravens will be in a much better position to win the game. Outside of the defense, there is some talk that running back Justin Forsett will miss the game. With backup Lorenzo Taliaferro heading to injured reserve earlier this week, that means the Ravens will be starting one drafted rookie and two undrafted free agents they just picked up at the running back position.
NN: If Smith plays, what are the Ravens' offensive weaknesses?
BB: Regardless of if Smith plays or not, the running back group will end up being the biggest weakness on this offense. Justin Forsett is not a major homerun hitter of a back, but he does so many other things for the offense that his absence will seriously hurt not only the running game but the passing attack as well. Few people recognize that Forsett is a master pass blocker for Joe Flacco and has saved Flacco's butt more times than we can count. If the Ravens go into the game starting three rookies there, expect your defense to expect the Ravens to throw just about non-stop. That will allow them to pin their ears back and hit Flacco like he's a pinball game.
NN: Prediction time: Will the Ravens win, and why?
BB: I wish I could give you a prediction here. This is a Ravens team that could turn it on at any given moment and dominate any team in the NFL. It's also the same team that could allow 36-year old Josh McCown to throw for nearly 500 yards. If things continue to go as they have the past few weeks, I expect a close game that the Ravens give away in the final minutes. It'll be high scoring and it will be disappointing for the Ravens as their defense will give up a 79-yard drive in the final two minutes that allows the Niners to go up by two and win the game.