Weather will play no factor for Ravens in Denver
In Jim Caldwell’s first game as a play-caller in the NFL, the Ravens didn’t just under-perform.
It was a disaster. They were carved up by the Denver Broncos 34-17 in Week 15 in a game that wasn’t even as close as the score indicated.
Caldwell had taken over for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who was fired after an overtime loss to the Washington Redskins the previous week.
He didn’t have much time to get ease into the role. Quarterback Joe Flacco committed two turnovers in the first half that helped put the Ravens in a 17-0 hole and they couldn't recover en route to a season-long three-game losing streak.
Caldwell gets a second shot at the Broncos on Saturday in a divisional playoff game (CBS, 4:30 p.m. ET).
“I don’t think we ever really feel comfortable or settled in, but I’m a bit more familiar with some things. I can put it that way,” Caldwell said. “It’s a real challenge. … But I have a lot of help. The assistant coaches that are staff. ... There are some things that I’m a bit more familiar with.”
The offense showed improvement in a must-win vs. the New York Giants the following week. Flacco used the middle of the field more and threw for 309 yards in that 33-14 victory. Rookie running back Bernard Pierce exploded for 123 yards, a team-high for the season.
In last week’s 24-9 wild-card playoff victory vs. the Indianapolis Colts, Flacco showcased his running ability as Caldwell had him move the pocket to neutralize the pass rush.
“He can roll left and right. Oftentimes, you’ll find guys that have a tendency to want to always roll to their throwing hand. He is very comfortable going opposite,” Caldwell said. “It’s helped us because of the fact we should be able to move the pocket some, particularly with some of the elite pass rushers that we have been facing.
“If they know your launch point, it’s going to be in the same spot all the time that can make things a little rough for you. He’s also good outside of the pocket. He can run. So, we get him out, and he opposes a threat not only as a passer, but also as a runner.”
Flacco will need that mobility. He was held to 78 yards of passing and failed to convert on all six third-down attempts in the first half. The Ravens finished 1-for-12.
The Broncos led the NFL in sacks with 52. Linebacker Von Miller had 18.5, defensive ends Elvis Dumervil 11 and Derek Wolfe 6. They took down Flacco three times in the first meeting.
“It’s a heck of a defense. Not only did they thwart us in that particular game, but they’ve done so the entire season to every team they’ve faced for the most part. They are a real challenge,” Caldwell said. “We have to work on some things to really get us in position to execute, and we have to be able to spread the ball around a little bit. We can’t become one-dimensional.
"This is a team that has great pass rushers. They lead the league in sacks. They do a good job of limiting you in terms of what you do on the ground. We really have to be good in every single in area. We have to be good in terms of our passing, and we have to be very good in terms of our running game.”