Ravens' offense has been disappointing all season

Ravens' offense has been disappointing all season
November 4, 2013, 10:30 am
Share This Post

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh squats on the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 19-16.

(Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports)

UPON FURTHER REVIEW

The Ravens’ offense has been consistently disappointing all season.

Offense, defense, special teams and coaching are all open for criticism. But the major problem with this 3-5 team remains its inability to score.

Name one game when the Ravens broke out offensively. There isn’t one. The Ravens have reached 30 points just once, a 30-9 victory over the Texans. That game is misleading, because the Ravens had a pick-six for a touchdown, and a punt return for a touchdown.

Offensively, the Ravens’ most productive game was their Week 1, 49-27 blowout loss to the Broncos. The Ravens scored three offensive touchdowns in that defeat. They haven’t done that since.

That’s seven straight games, with two touchdowns or fewer offensively. That’s anemic in today’s high-scoring NFL. This is a league where 13 teams are averaging at least 25 points per game. This is a league where Nick Foles of the Eagles threw for seven TD passes Sunday.

The Ravens are playing a different brand of offensive football. A brand that features a running game this is almost invisible, few big plays, and inadequate pass protection. That is a formula for failure.

Is their any reason to believe the Ravens will become a better offensive team during their final eight games? Not unless:

@ Joe Flacco starts to play better.

@ The offensive line elevates its play.

@ The coaching staff is willing to try new wrinkles, like giving backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor a few snaps out of the wildcat.

@ Ray Rice starts looking a half-step faster.

@ The Ravens find more ways to get the ball to speed receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.

Flacco is getting hit too much, and he has no support from his running game. That’s tough duty, but the Ravens are paying Flacco a pretty penny to carry this offense. He has been unable to do that. He made several terrible passes early in Sunday’s game that could have jump-started the offense, before the Browns really turned their blitz packages loose and came after him.

Flacco has never been a consistent regular season quarterback, but the Ravens need him to be this season, more than ever. If Flacco starts throwing the football more accurately, the Ravens offense can improve. If not, forget it.

The changes in run blocking schemes implemented by run game coordinator Juan Castillo have not worked out, to say the least. But can the offensive line play just a little better? Even a slight improvement in the run blocking, and a few more yards for Rice and Pierce, would make it harder for defenses to ignore the Ravens’ run game and come after Flacco. Left tackle Eugene Monroe would love to see what the Ravens could do offensively if they could manufacture more yards on the ground.

“It’s gotten maybe a hair better each week, but it needs to be more consistent,” Monroe said. “We need to get four yards, we need to get five yards, we need to get big runs. That’s something that needs to happen fast.”

Rookie receiver Marlon Brown, who has already caught five TD passes, has established himself as a go-to target in the red zone. But Smith, who had five catches for 78 yards on Sunday, has not caught a touchdown pass since Week 4. Jones only has one touchdown catch, and that came two games ago against the Packers.

Flacco has the arm to throw deep, and both Smith and Jones have the speed to get open. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell found a way to get Smith and Jones touches for big plays during the Ravens’ Super Bowl run, but that aspect of the Ravens’ offense has been missing.

If the Ravens don’t become a better offensive team, they are not making the playoffs, and they may not get back to .500. Unless the Ravens produce more scoring, it’s unrealistic to expect more winning.