MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

It used to be said, “The only person who can hold Michael Jordan under 20 points is Dean Smith.”

In Baltimore, it is said, the only people who can hold the Baltimore Ravens under 200 yards rushing per game are John Harbaugh and Greg Roman.

The Ravens, of course, are coached by head coach John Harbaugh and coordinated offensively (first time I ever said it that way) by Greg Roman. And just to be clear for those who might be a tad too young to remember, Michael Jordan was a really, really good basketball player, and Dean Smith not only might have been the greatest basketball coach who ever lived, he was Michael Jordan’s college basketball coach as well.

Anyway, the Ravens dropped the largest egg yet in a prolific season of laying eggs by losing to the Cleveland Browns, 13-3, on Sunday night.

The Browns are absolutely horrible; the Ravens, apparently, are even worse.

For the past four years or so, the Ravens offense has been constructed by Roman (and I’m guessing Harbaugh since he is the head coach) to emphasize the running game since the centerpiece of the offense is quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has missed most of the past three games to a knee, the talented and deep backfield in Baltimore and the offensive line, which is far more suited to run-block (go forward) than to pass-block (go backwards).

So, of course, through the first three quarters Saturday in Cleveland, the Ravens go run-game and move the ball up and down the field at will; until they reach the red zone. Through the first three quarters, halfback J.K. Dobbins and fullback Gus Edwards combine for 176 yards on 19 carries; until they reach the red zone.

In the fourth quarter, Dobbins did not touch the ball. Edwards touched it once for a four-yard gain. Through it all, the Ravens scored and finished with three points because whenever they reached the red zone they (they being Harbaugh and, I suppose, Roman) felt compelled to open up their passing game, which is non-existent and has been so for close to 20 years (look it up).

Yes, of course, it didn’t help that Justin Tucker missed a 48-yard field goal attempt and saw a 50-yard attempt blocked (who knew?), yet had those kicks been successful, the Ravens would have lost 13-9 rather than 13-3.

The Ravens do not score touchdowns, because the guys who make the decisions on the sideline and in the booth will not allow them to. They prefer to pass the ball into the end zone, even though they have been incapable of doing so since almost the moment they gave up on former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco.

“You can’t turn the ball over,” Harbaugh said after the game. “You have to run routes the right way to get between defenders and free the ball. You can’t fumble the ball. You have to put the ball away when you’re getting upfield. That’s winning football; our guys know that. It starts with that. We have to just have a better passing game, basically. It’s not a good enough passing game right now across the board to do the things that we’re hoping to do. So that will be priority one.”

Well, who created this horrible passing game? Or, at least, who signed off on not having capable players to have a passing game to begin with, beginning with all of the third-rate non-tight ends the Ravens have put on the field for most of their existence in Baltimore?

Insisting on this “passing game” to improve immediately if not sooner and Harbaugh’s and Roman’s insistence on continuing to utilize it in the most crucial moments of important games represents Albert Einstein’s “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

The passing game results cannot be anything other than disastrous, as we continued to see on Saturday night. They’re not any good.

Since I began in this business over 40 years ago, I have made a rule not to criticize anybody who does anything I have never done or am incapable of doing, and one of the many things on that list is coaching.

Yet even in the midst of a reality TV show, Harbaugh’s decisions and macho go-for-it act has long defied logic. Clearly, the guy does far more good than he does bad, but when things do not go his team’s way in the most important junctures of games, they normally go wrong based on decisions he has made on the fly.

The Ravens have now lost their AFC North division lead and are unlikely to get it back, despite remaining games with the Atlanta Falcons, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals, because, with the Ravens, no game is winnable, despite what Harbaugh’s analytics say, because when you refuse to score touchdowns you do not win games; and mainly because the Bengals just have the look, are red-hot and likely will not be stopped.

Three losses after holding double-figure leads into the fourth quarter and now two more losses in four weeks to teams with losing records …

Harbaugh can complain all he wants to. Nobody is listening.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT