What is the Ravens' biggest offensive issue?
In the wake of the Ravens' 23-20 loss at Buffalo last Sunday, much has been made of the way the Ravens' running game was put on the shelf. The Ravens ran the ball just nine times -- the lowest number in franchise history -- and Ray Rice had just five carries for 17 yards.
But perhaps just as notable was this: Rice was also a complete nonfactor as a receiver. Rice finished with no catches, just the third time since his rookie season that has happened in the regular season.
Hey Diddle Diddle, there was no Ray Rice up the middle, or anywhere else for that matter, in the passing game at least.
In fact, the Ravens hardly even tried to throw to him. Joe Flacco threw 50 passes, and despite having few reliable targets, Flacco threw to Rice just once. That was a third-down incompletion in the end zone late in the game.
Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged on Wednesday that wasn't nearly enough.
"We need to get Ray involved," Harbaugh said. "We need to get Ray involved in every single way – pass game, run game, every single way. It’s definitely going to be important for us. We want to do that every week, and obviously, we did not do a good job of that last Sunday."
Rice had missed the previous game with a hip flexor injury, but neither Harbaugh nor Rice pointed to that as a factor.
Harbaugh noted that Rice's primarily role in the second half was in pass protection, picking up blitzing linebackers. And, Harbaugh said, the Bills kept pretty close tabs on Rice when he did flare out of the backfield.
"We had some five-man protections where he was releasing, and we just were unable to get him the ball," Harbaugh said. "They covered him – they had a guy on him pretty tight."
Rice said that he definitely drew plenty of attention, and at times pass rushers dropped off to bump him in coverage. He also pointed to the score as a factor.
"When you get down as bad as we did, we had to get the ball down the field," Rice said. "So, I don’t know if a check-down was going to be in Joe’s best interest."
That sounds as if Rice forgot that he has been known to turn a check-down route into a 29-yard gain.
"Certainly, you’ve got to give him the ball; I understand that," Harbaugh said. "And you’ve got to throw him the ball when the coverage allows you to do it.”