Ravens short-yardage offense goes nowhere

Ravens short-yardage offense goes nowhere
December 27, 2013, 8:00 am
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Harbaugh and the Ravens only focused on Bengals, not other games

(Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports)

One of the sequences that defined the Ravens' loss to New England last week -- and indeed their season -- was the Ravens failure to gain 1 yard on two plays inside the Patriots 5-yard line in the third quarter.

On third-and-1, Joe Flacco took a shotgun snap out of an empty backfield and threw incomplete. Then on fourth-and-1, Ray Rice was stuffed for no gain. It's been that way all season for the Ravens.

The Ravens are 13-for-22 converting either third- or fourth-and-1, a percentage (.591) that ranks among the lowest in the league.

The failure to gain that yard against New England didn't cost them a game they ultimately lost, 41-7, but it's possibly cost them other games. Most notably against Green Bay, the Ravens failed on third-and-goal and fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the first half, coming away with no points in a game they lost by two, 19-17.

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But those failed short-yardage situations also have contributed to the team's red-zone troubles (the Ravens rank 30th) and have repeatedly derailed the offense.

So what's the problem?

Is it the play-calling? Is it the personnel? Is it lack of execution? Or maybe All of the above?

Probably all of the above, but perhaps the biggest problem is the Ravens offensive line is simply being beaten at the point of attack. Linemen are not driving anyone forward in short-yardage situations.

Run, pass, it hasn't made much difference.

Against Minnesota, fullback Vonta Leach was stuffed for no gain on fourth-and-1.

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Then against New England, the Ravens emptied the backfield before the third-and-1 near the goal line, and Flacco overthrew Pitta in the back of the end zone. On fourth down, Rice lined up in the backfield and ran behind Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, but tackle Michael Oher whiffed on a block and Rice was stuffed for no gain.

"I'm not the play-caller. That's not my job to say 'should've, would've, could've,' " Rice said. "One thing I know is we could have executed better."

That's been the story all season for the Ravens offense, especially on third-and-short.

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