Will offense ever wake up on the road?

Will offense ever wake up on the road?
November 19, 2012, 1:15 pm

Maybe this is the one game when the offense gets a free pass for being largely inept, where a win is a win – especially at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Ravens (8-2) escaped with a 13-10 win Sunday night to take a two-game lead in the AFC North. If the offense had just made a few more plays, the outcome probably wouldn’t have been close.

They slowed the hurry-up offense in hopes of better dealing with crowd noise. Quarterback Joe Flacco, however, was unproductive again away from M&T Bank Stadium.

Coach John Harbaugh gave the best praise he could of his offense, which is it didn’t commit a turnover. And maybe that’s all that they need to do going forward as long as the Ravens’ defense can continue to play like it did in Pittsburgh. That's asking a lot for a group that has ranked near the bottom of the NFL in many key defensive statistical categories.

"We didn’t put up a lot of numbers and all that. That’s a really good defense," Harbaugh said in critiquing his offense that was outgained 335-211 by a team that didn’t have starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger because of a shoulder and rib injury.

"I thought the fact that we controlled the ball in terms of holding onto the football, not giving them a big play that would’ve turned the game it was really big for our offensive guys."

The Jekyll and Hyde act with Flacco and company is troubling.

He threw for 341 yards in a 55-20 win vs. the Oakland Raiders last week. Torrey Smith had two catches, for touchdowns of 47 and 20 yards, in that game.

Sunday, Flacco went 20-for-32 for 164 yards and no touchdowns as he couldn’t distinguish himself from Steelers backup Byron Leftwich, who went18-for-39 for 201.

Smith had his worst game of the season with one catch for seven yards, and that didn’t come until the fourth quarter. Flacco misfired on his other six targets to Smith.

But now after five road games, the Ravens are 3-2 but the offense has yet to figure out how to function consistently.

Flacco is 91-for-168, just a 54% completion rate, for 883 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions in those games. Smith leads the Ravens with seven touchdowns, but only one of them have come on the road. Smith has only 14 catches for 183 yards.

The Ravens have road games remaining at the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, at the Washington Redskins and at the Cincinnati Bengals. None of the three has a winning record.

If the offense can't find a way to right the ship on the road against these teams, there's no reason to believe they can flip the switch if they have to visit the Houston Texans again -- or anyone else, for that matter -- in the postseason.