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Baltimore Ravens 2017 season recap: What went right, what went wrong?

By
Todd Karpvich, The Sports Xchange
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talks with the Head Linesman Derick Bowers during the first half of the Pittsburgh Steelers 39-38 win over the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on December 10, 2017. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talks with the Head Linesman Derick Bowers during the first half of the Pittsburgh Steelers 39-38 win over the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on December 10, 2017. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A 31-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the regular-season finale knocked Baltimore out of the playoffs for the third consecutive year.

Now, the Ravens front office is left to pick up the pieces and will have to make some tough decisions on the coaches and players.

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Baltimore (9-7) could have advanced to the postseason with a win or losses by both Buffalo and Tennessee. However, the Bills and Titans won their games and took over the final two spots of the postseason.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees confirmed Monday that he is retiring. As a result, Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh must decide whether to promote an existing coach or look outside the organization to fill that role.

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If Harbaugh decides to stay in-house, linebackers coach Don "Wink" Martindale would likely be the top candidate to be promoted because of his familiarity with the players and the organization.

Martindale formerly served as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos.

Harbaugh could also try to hire Chuck Pagano, the Ravens former defensive coordinator who was fired as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

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Other potential candidates include Jack Del Rio, Ted Monachino and potentially Vic Fangio.

The Ravens need playmakers on both sides of the ball, but they will need to free up salary-cap space to make those improvements. That means the team will have to make tough decisions about keeping veterans such as linebacker Terrell Suggs and receiver Jeremy Maclin.

Tight end Benjamin Watson and receivers Mike Wallace are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in March.

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WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Ravens (9-7) finished with a winning record for the first time in three seasons. They also led the league in interceptions (22), takeaways (34) and turnover differential (plus-17). Baltimore was in the playoff hunt throughout the second half of the season. Linebacker Terrell Suggs, 35, showed he can still make plays and led the team with 11 sacks. Suggs, fellow linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety Eric Weddle made the Pro Bowl.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The Ravens missed the postseason for the third consecutive season. The offense sputtered for much of the season before making some late-season improvements. A home loss to the 5-11 Chicago Bears proved to be devastating. A revamped secondary once again struggled to make plays at the most critical moments.

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MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Receiver Jeremy Maclin was expected to be a playmaker for quarterback Joe Flacco. Instead, Maclin struggled to make a meaningful impact, and at times, appeared disinterested. He missed four games because of injuries and was fifth on the team, behind running back Javorius "Buck" Allen with 40 receptions for 440 yards with three touchdowns. Maclin's future with the team is uncertain.

MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: Running back Alex Collins earned a starting role after being signed off the practice squad in September. He finished the season ranked ninth in the league with 4.6 yards per carry. Collins had 973 yards on 212 carries with six touchdowns.

ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: Greg Roman, senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach, was hired to bolster the running game and the Ravens finished the season ranked 11th in the league despite dealing with several key injuries. Roman also helped settle an offensive line that was also decimated with injuries. He could be promoted to offensive coordinator if Baltimore decides to part ways with Marty Mornhinweg. Roman could also be an attractive candidate for other teams.

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The Ravens spent the offseason pouring resources into improving the secondary. The move paid some dividends as they led the league with 22 interceptions and takeaways (34).

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However, they faltered at the most critical time, which cost them a spot in the playoffs.

The secondary surrendered a 49-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd on a fourth-and-12 in the final minute of the regular-season finale that gave the Bengals a 31-27 victory. It was a devastating end to a promising season.

Baltimore signed safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Brandon Carr to add more experience to that unit. The Ravens also selected Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey in the first round of the 2017 draft.

In the end, though, the secondary could not make a play at the most critical time.

"They brought me in here, and I really appreciate it," Jefferson said. "Words can't describe what they have done for me. I love coming to work because of these guys. The way it ended, it just kind of hurts."

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There are also questions surrounding the future of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg after Baltimore's offense sputtered for much of the season. In the first half against Cincinnati, the Ravens averaged 2.3 yards per play, managed two first downs and had the ball for just 9:05.

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Baltimore finished the season ranked 27th in total offense. The Ravens also had the league's 29th-ranked passing offense.

However, quarterback Joe Flacco expects Mornhinweg to retain his role and said his relationship with the embattled coordinator "is growing."

Flacco's teammates took responsibility for the struggles. In the end, they said the team just needed to make more plays.

"We always say that we want to start fast," tight end Benjamin Watson said. "I think that offensively we can't put that kind of pressure on our defense. Our defense has played tremendously all year long. They kept us in games."

NOTES: S Eric Weddle missed out on a $1-million bonus. He had an incentive in his contract for making the Pro Bowl and reaching the playoffs in the same season. Weddle led the team with six interceptions and earned his fifth trip to the Pro Bowl. ... DB Anthony Levine Sr. had to leave the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals with a left foot injury in the second quarter. Levine is a playmaker on special teams and provides depth in the secondary. ... WR Chris Moore suffered a concussion in the third quarter in the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals and did not play again. Moore had an 87-yard kickoff return to the Bengals 8-yard-line and then caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco. Moore finished the season with 18 receptions for 248 yards and three touchdowns. ... WR Michael Campanaro sprained his right ankle after tripping on the team's medical tent behind the bench in the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals. Campanaro could not return and was on crutches after the game. He finished the season ranked fourth in the NFL with 291 yards on 27 punt returns. Campanaro also caught 19 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. ... WR Jeremy Maclin (knee) was inactive for the second consecutive game. Maclin, who missed four games this season, is fourth on the team with 40 receptions for 440 yards with three touchdowns. ... WR Breshad Perriman was a healthy scratch four times in the final six weeks of the season, including the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals. The former first-round pick finished the year ranked 11th on the team with just 10 receptions for 77 yards and no touchdowns. Perriman was expected to provide a downfield threat for quarterback Joe Flacco, but has not lived up to those expectations. ... RB Terrance West, who entered the season as the starter, was a healthy scratch six times, including the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals. West started four of the first five games, but then missed four games because of a left calf injury suffered in a 30-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Oct. 8. He finished the season third on the team with 138 yards on 39 carries with two touchdowns.

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