Ravens should throw early, run later

Ravens should throw early, run later
September 30, 2013, 10:15 am
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Flacco: Result 'really explains it all'

UPON FURTHER REVIEW

Averaging just 64 yards per game rushing, the Ravens may have to change their offensive approach.

For three consecutive games, the Ravens have been shutout in the first quarter.

Instead of trying to establish the running game early, Joe Flacco should come out throwing against the Dolphins in Week 5. Try to get Torrey Smith, the Ravens’ best receiver, some early touches. Give Flacco and all of his receivers a chance to find an early rhythm.

Trying to establish the running game early has not worked for the Ravens. Regardless of the opponent, the Ravens have been unable to run the football effectively this season. They expected to have success against the Bills, who entered the game ranked 30th in the NFL against the run. But the Ravens’ running game was throttled. They called six running plays in the first quarter, and never gained more than three yards on any of them.

In the second half, the Ravens abandoned the running game. They did not call a single running play in the third quarter, not even a draw. They only called two running plays in the entire second half, in a game they only lost by three points.

If you are going to abandon the run late, why not do it earlier? Start the game trying to move the football through the air. Spread the field, force the defense to honor the pass, and perhaps that will make it easier for the Ravens to run the football as the game progresses.

There has been much consternation about the Ravens only calling nine running plays against the Bills, while Flacco threw the ball 50 times. It’s a valid concern. It will be hard for the Ravens to win consistently with that kind of lopsided run-pass ratio.

However, there may not be a quick solution to fixing the running game. So far, the Ravens have been perplexed by the problem. They have two quality running backs in Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. They thought the offensive line would be a strong point, with four starters returning from the unit that played so well during the Super Bowl run.

Yet, the Ravens’ run struggles have continued. It’s a problem that could linger all season. At this point, trying to establish the running game early seems like an exercise in futility. The result has been slow starts offensively, and getting into numerous second-and-long, and third-and-long situations.

The Ravens should throw more early.  If the Ravens can start faster, maybe even score points in the first quarter, playing catch-up in the second half may not be necessary. Maybe they can run the ball more effectively in the second half, against a defense that is slightly more fatigued.

You can win in today’s NFL without a stellar running attack. But it’s hard to play catch-up on the road and expect to win consistently.

Next Sunday in South Florida against the Dolphins, the Ravens need to figure out how to start the game faster. Flacco is not going to throw five interceptions every week. Instead of relying on Flacco after the Ravens fall behind, put the ball in his hands early, and hope he has a hot start. Maybe the passing game can be the spark that helps ignite the running game.