Ravens offense will rise or fall with RBs

Ravens offense will rise or fall with RBs
December 17, 2012, 12:15 pm
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Harbaugh: Ultimately it's all on me

The inability to move the ball for the Ravens offense is no secret.

The no-huddle has stalled, disappeared, re-emerged and instead of looking like a poised quarterback as he hits the stretch run of his fifth season, Joe Flacco isn’t getting any better.

He’s getting worse though his individual statistics aren't.  

The Ravens are getting worse, too.

In Sunday’s 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos, the Ravens (9-5) lost their third game in a row and went just 1-for-12 on third downs.

After converting at 42% in 2011 when they were among the league's best, Baltimore went 12-4 and advanced to the AFC title game. The Ravens are at 35% and among the worst.

Even more telling, the Ravens are last in time of possession at just 27 minutes per game, and the deficit during this losing streak shows why:

-- They only held the ball for 21 minutes against the Broncos, allowing Peyton Manning to orchestrate a balanced attack. That's a 17-minute deficit.

-- In last week's overtime loss to the Washington Redskins who used a pair of rookie quarterbacks, the Ravens were minus-5 minutes in time of possession.

-- The Pittsburgh Steelers, with a third-string quarterback in Charlie Batch, 38, had the ball 8 minutes longer.

Last season, the Ravens were plus-1 minute in time of possession. This season they're minus-6 minutes, and the lack of possession has caused the numbers of key players in the running game to fall off. 

Ray Rice ran for 1,364 yards in 2011. With two games left in the season, he'll have to average 167 vs. the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals to top that. He hasn't rushed for more than 121.

Where Rice's output takes the biggest dip, however, is as a receiver out of the backfield. He had 76 catches for 704 yards for 3 TDs last year. Combined with his rushing, Rice led all players with more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage. This season he has 55 catches for 427 yards and no scores. 

Bernard Pierce, his backup who left the loss to the Broncos with a concussion, has 320 yards and averaging 4.4 per carry. He'll likely fall short of the 444 by Ricky Williams in that same role from a year ago.

The irony is that Flacco's stat lines will look better as he already has 3,474 yards passing. He needs just 136 yards to reach last season's total and 149 to set a career-high.  

He already has equaled the 20 TDs he threw a season ago and his completion percentage is slightly better at 59.1. 

But are the Ravens a better team because of it?

When analyzing how Rice and Pierce are being used, the problems with possesion and converting third downs shouldn't come as a surprise. And neither should their struggles heading into the postseason.