Ravens perplexed by punchless offense
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — For years, the Baltimore Ravens have tried — without success — to put together an offense that could match the play of its esteemed defense.
They hoped that several offseason moves and the maturation of quarterback Joe Flacco would make a difference this season. Over the first four weeks, it appeared as if the changes had successfully taken hold.
Then came Monday night’s performance in Jacksonville, a stinker of historical proportions that showed just how far Baltimore’s offense has to go to be a factor on a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
The Ravens didn’t make a first down until the third quarter, converted only two of 12 third-down opportunities and managed only 146 yards, including a franchise-record low 16 yards before halftime. It all added up to a 12-7 defeat that dropped Baltimore (4-2) out of first place in the AFC North.
Rather than dance around the subject, coach John Harbaugh on Tuesday acknowledged the obvious.
“No excuses. It has to be a lot better. Not even close to the way we’re capable of performing on offense,” he said. “Everybody realizes that. We have to do a better job, starting with me. I got to do a better job of making some decisions. We all have to do a better job of coaching, playing, executing, all those different things.”
The offseason addition of linemen Bryant McKinnie and Andre Gurode, along with fullback Vonta Leach and wide receiver Lee Evans, was supposed to improve an attack that sputtered at times last season. After the Ravens scored 35 in the opener against the Steelers and dropped 37 points on the St. Louis Rams, there was optimism that Baltimore had finally become a complete team.
Ray Rice gained only 28 yards on the ground against the Jaguars and Flacco received very little protection during a night that ended, appropriately, with an interception.
“That was a tough loss,” Harbaugh said. “We played bad on one side of the ball especially, and we didn’t play well enough on the other two sides to overcome that.”
Perhaps, but it’s tough to fault a defense that didn’t allow a touchdown or blame the special teams, even if Billy Cundiff did miss horribly on a 51-yard field goal try.
No, this one was all about the offense — or lack of it. Sure the line is a work in progress, and Evans has been missing for weeks with a sprained ankle. But there is no excuse for a performance that awful.
“We’ve been pretty wildly inconsistent, especially on offense,” Harbaugh said. “With our offensive line situation, I don’t think that’s completely unexpected.”
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said, “First of all you have to be fundamentally sound. We have some new moving parts. That’s not an excuse. That’s something we’re working through.”
Rice rushed only eight times, lost a fumble and spent long stretches on the bench. He never got into a groove, and the same can be said for the offense as a whole.
“He’s got to get more than eight carries,” Harbaugh said. “We were just trying to find a way to beat the defense and get a first down and get going. Because when you do that, that’s when those carries start adding up. You go three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out, it’s going to be hard to get those carries stacked up too much.
“You go first-down run and you get a yard, now you’ve got to find a way to get nine yards on the next two. By the same token, eight carries is never going to be a winning formula for Ray Rice, there’s no doubt about it.”
Harbaugh was asked if Cameron deserved much of the blame.
“It’s warranted for all of us,” he replied. “We all deserve to have fingers pointed at us when the offense plays like that. That’s tough. It’s just a bad performance and everyone knows it. … It’s still early in the season, but we can’t afford more performances like that. We all know that.”