Ravens Offense Continues To Struggle

Baltimore Ravens Observations
Ray Rice

It is official now: the Baltimore Ravens have no run game.

A great performance from the defense — where they allowed 19 points  (and three of them aren’t the fault of the defense) to a Green Bay Packers offense that was averaging 29.5 points coming into the contest — was squandered by a lack of offense.

Despite the great defensive performance, the Ravens’ offense wasn’t able to figure it out and find a way to win. Yet again, the offense produced nothing in the first half scoring zero points. In the second half, the offense put together some good drives, but by then, it was too late and the damage was already done.

For the first time since 1974, the Packers won a game in Baltimore — though they haven’t exactly played many games in Baltimore since then. This was also the first time under head coach John Harbaugh that the Ravens lost to a NFC team at home. He is now 10-1 in these games.

There is no other part of the Ravens’ that needs to be discussed than the offense.

Ray Rice

Courtesy of ICON SMI

For the fourth time this season, the Ravens’ leading rusher was held to under 60 yards. The two times this didn’t happen, the leading rusher ran for 65 and 74 yards, nothing that really inspires confidence.

For the day, the team was held to 47 rushing yards on 22 attempts, an average of 2.1 yards per carry. For the ninth straight time, the Ravens lost after rushing for less than 60 yards.

The root of this problem is the offensive line and the blocking that they provide or lack thereof blocking. On nine of the Ravens 21 designed run plays (the other run comes from a scramble from quarterback Joe Flacco), the running back was hit in the backfield. That is 43% of the time that the ball is run. Not even Adrian Peterson can do much when he is being hit in the backfield on almost half of his rushing attempts.

It comes as no surprise when you hear this that five runs went for negative yards and another five went for no gain. Forty-eight percent of the Ravens’ rushing attempts went for a loss or no gain.

Let all of that sink in.

All of these runs for little or no gains set up third and longs which are always hard for an offense to convert.

The main problem with the run blocking right now seems to be that the linemen can’t execute the zone-blocking scheme that the Ravens run, despite having run this same system last season.

Early in the game, the Ravens had a first and goal from the Packers’ four-yardline and ran every play and weren’t able to score. On fourth down, the Ravens went for it with another run and were stuffed, again.

Not only can the offense line not provide holes in the run game, they can’t give Flacco any time to pass the ball.

Against the Packers’ pass rush, the Ravens’ offensive line gave up five sacks and three of these were unblocked. Giving up three sacks in one game is bad enough, but how can you give up three unblocked sacks?

Yesterday, there were three sacks that came from unblocked blitzers. Three. The first came on a third and 10 on the first drive of the game which resulted in a loss of 10 yards. This blitzer came between center Gino Gradkowski and right guard Marshal Yanda. The second came on a third and seven for a loss of ten and forced a fumble in the process which the Ravens were able to recover. This play occurred during the first drive of the second half. The blitzer came from the right side and everyone there was already blocking someone. This extra blitzer needs to be identified so the blocking can shift over or so Flacco knows and can get rid of the ball in time. The last of the unblocked sacks came on a second and 10 for a loss of seven from the right side again. On this play, Yanda and right tackle Michael Oher both were blocking guys and running back Ray Rice had two linebackers coming right at him. He was able to pickup one of them but the other came through and sacked Flacco. Rice can’t be blamed here as he did his job of picking up a blitzer. Again, this needs to be identified pre-snap so the blocking can shift over or so Flacco can throw a hot route to a receiver.

Moving on to specific offensive linemen, Oher gave up five hurries which is a very, very high number for one game.

Yanda has uncharacteristically struggled for the better part of this season and yesterday was no different as he was whistled for two penalties: illegal use of hands to the face and a false start. The illegal use of hands to the face penalty set up a second and 25 for the Ravens and wasn’t necessary from Yanda. The false start set up a second and 15.

Gradkowski was yet again pushed around in the run game and struggled in pass protection and clearly isn’t making the right reads at the line with all of the unblocked pressure that is coming through the line. He was also flagged for a holding penalty on a pass play which set up third and 27. He was bailed out on the ensuing fourth down play where Flacco hit Tandon Doss for a gain of 63 yards.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele was able to play after missing most of last week’s game with back spasms. On the play after Yanda’s false start, Osemele had his own false start to give the Ravens a second and 20.

In his first game as a Ravens, left tackle Eugene Monroe played well except for one play. On this play, Monroe completely whiffed on his block and gave up a sack. Making matters worse, this sack forced a fumble which the Packers recovered with two seconds left in the half and kicked a field goal to go up 6-0 at halftime. While the play calling was questionable here — there was 12 seconds left in the half and from their own 34-yardline and the Ravens were passing the ball — this entire discussion would be avoided if Monroe didn’t miss his block entirely.

Moving on to pass catchers, the Packers did a great job of shutting down Torrey Smith who entered the game as the third leading receiver in the NFL. Cornerback Sam Shields held Smith to just one catch for 12 yards. Despite only getting twelve yards receiving, Smith is still the fourth leading receiver in the league, which shows how good his first five games of the season were.

With Smith being held in check, other receivers needed to step up for the Ravens, and that happened as 293 of Flacco’s 341 passing yards came from his other targets at receiver and tight end.

At tight end, Dallas Clark played a majority of the snaps after receiving little playing time last week behind Ed Dickson (who was 100 percent invisible this week). Clark caught four passes for 81 yards and one touchdown with two of the catches going for first downs. His touchdown catch was a beautiful one-handed grab on a seam route from 18 yards out which put the score at 19-17. Despite being 34 years old, Clark showed great acceleration on a 45-yard catch and run on a short crossing route.

Leading the Ravens with 99 receiving yards was Doss, who achieved this on four catches. The biggest offensive play of the game came from Doss on fourth and 21. Doss ran deep and was able to split the Packers two safeties and caught Flacco’s pass for a gain of 63 yards. On the following play, Clark caught his touchdown pass with just over two minutes left in the game. While Doss was open by a sizable margin, he did a good job to get himself in this position. For the rest of the game, Doss looked like he had Flacco’s trust and he mainly worked the shorter routes.

Returning after missing four games from a sprained MCL, Jacoby Jones caught two passes for 42 yards and one touchdown. On his touchdown, Jones ran right to the corner of the end zone, making his route a mix between a corner and a fly route. Flacco lofted the ball over the head of Jones’ defender and Jones made a relatively easy catch for six points. His other catch went for 31 yards on a third and 10 on a deep in route.

Last of these four receivers who stepped up against the Packers was Marlon Brown who had three catches for 71 yards, including one that went for 59 yards. On this 59-yard catch, Brown caught a nine-yard curl route, stiff-armed one defender and ran up the sidelines for 50 more yards. Another of Brown’s catches went for a first down when he caught a short crossing route, broke two tackles and gained 11 yards. His other catch came on a quick slant inside the red-zone that only went for one yard.

At the end of the day, Flacco completed 20-of-34 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 112.6. Under constant duress from the Packers’ pass rush, Flacco did a great job of moving around in the pocket to buy time. The best thing he did in these situations was stepping up in the pocket to avoid edge pressure. The only real bad pass that Flacco had all day came early on where he under-threw Brown on a deep pass and a Packer dropped the pass. Other than this, Flacco played a great game, especially when you consider how the run game and the offensive line performed around him.

Overall, the lack of a run game is the main thing that is hurting not just the Ravens’ offense but the entire team. The defense gave up one touchdown to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ high-powered offense and still lost the game.

With the Ravens’ main rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, up next on the schedule, the Ravens will need to try and find where their run game has gone off to. Making matters worse, the Steelers have always had a stout run defense.

Running the football used to be the Ravens’ mantra on offense, but now, it is the offense’s shortcoming.

Related Articles

Look for Baltimore Ravens to add secondary help in upcoming draft

That saying you grew up with, “lightning never strikes twice in the same place,” is bogus. Totally false.…

Read More about Look for Baltimore Ravens to add secondary help in upcoming draft

A writer for the Baltimore Ravens' website paints a sobering picture when it comes to the team's needs…

Read More about