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A day after the Ravens’ offensive meltdown in Jacksonville, Head Coach John Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron huddled in the early morning hours to break down what happened.
It wasn’t “Oprah” session, Harbaugh quipped, but rather an intense football discussion looking at every single offensive snap in the 12-7 loss.
Harbaugh said the offense has to be a lot better, that it’s “not even close” to where it’s capable of performing.
Harbaugh knows there’s going to be criticism, but says that fingers should be pointed at everyone involved, including himself, and not just Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron.
“It’s warranted for all of us,” Harbaugh said. “I think 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 everybody knows it. Cam’s got broad shoulders; he’s a tough guy. And he’s been doing this for a long time, and everybody in this building respects him, and nobody’s going to fight harder to make this offense achieve what it’s capable of achieving.”
Cameron, who has always been forthright in accepting criticism after poor offensive performances, did the same after Monday night’s game. He spoke to the media in the locker room afterwards before heading to the team bus.
Cameron was asked if it was unfair that quarterback Joe Flacco would take a lot of criticism.
“That’s part of our deal,” Cameron said. “Heat on me, heat on Joe. The coordinators, quarterbacks, we can all do better. It goes with the territory.”
The Ravens’ offense is now ranked 20th in the NFL in total offense (yards per game). It’s 19th in rush offense and 17th in pass offense. In perhaps the most important statistic, however, the Ravens rank a respectable 8th in points per game.
Here’s the offensive issues Harbaugh talked about in regards to Jacksonville:
In one half or on one drive, the Ravens will drive down the field seemingly with ease. On another, they’ll get into a funk.
Against the New York Jets, quarterback Joe Flacco had 12 straight incompletions and didn’t complete a pass for two quarters. Against the Houston Texans, Baltimore hit a lull in a second quarter that included two turnovers. The Ravens didn’t notch a first down and logged just 16 total yards in the first half against the Jaguars.
Part of that can be attributed to Baltimore’s younger offense and to dealing with injuries to veterans Lee Evans at wide receiver and Ben Grubbs at guard. Harbaugh said he has seen “mood swings” around the NFL, which he believes may later on be widely attributed to the lockout.
“You know you look at yourself first, and we’ve been pretty wildly inconsistent, especially on offense,” Harbaugh said. “You strive for consistency. We’ve just got to keep fighting for that until we get it, until we find it.”
The injury to Grubbs has been tough on an offensive line that was already going through a great deal of transition with adding Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and moving Michael Oher to right tackle. That has left Andre Gurode – a Pro Bowl center – trying to convert to guard on the fly.
Flacco was hit seven times by the Houston Texans last week and was under constant duress Monday night. The Jaguars wrestled him down for three sacks.
Harbaugh said the Ravens did a good job of picking up twists and stunts by Jacksonville’s talented front defensive line, but linebackers were still timing up blitzes to get to Flacco.
“It really wasn’t that much pressure,” Harbaugh said. “It wasn’t exotic pressure at all.”
Baltimore wasn’t able to get the ground attack going either. The rush offense, which was a major offseason priority, is currently averaging 107 yards per game and had 34 in Jacksonville.
Shotgun, No Huddle
On the Ravens’ lone touchdown drive, quarterback Joe Flacco went in the shotgun formation on every down and no huddle on five of the 13 plays.
Harbaugh was asked if the Ravens will consider going to the two-minute drill or no-huddle earlier if they’re slow out of the gates. He said they used some no-huddle formations in the first half but it didn’t work.
“It wasn’t a slow tempo that equates to not executing,” Harbaugh said. “Not executing is not executing, and it’s pretty hard to get your tempo going when you’re three-and-out.”
Eight of the Ravens’ first nine drives were three-and-outs. The only one that wasn’t ended with a Ray Rice fumble on the first play. The Ravens were 2-of-12 on third down in the game and now rank 24th in the NFL in third-down offensive percentage (32.9)
“When you don’t get first downs, it’s hard to get any kind of tempo going,” Harbaugh said. “You’ve got to convert and get some first downs.”
Receivers Not Getting Open
Jacksonville’s cornerbacks were playing aggressive, press-man coverage. There was a good deal of contact – and even some down the field – but the Jaguars weren’t getting called for it and, thus, Baltimore’s receivers were often closely covered.
Quarterback Joe Flacco completed 21 of 38 passing attempts. He targeted wideout Anquan Boldin a game-high 12 times but only connected four times.
“We’re going to get a lot of that,” Harbaugh said. “You have to get off press, and you have to get vertical and you have to make them pay – that’s the bottom line.”
There are other factors that went into the Ravens’ offensive problems this season, not just against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But no matter what it is, Baltimore knows it must get it corrected, and fast, with the Arizona Cardinals right around the corner on a short week.
“It’s not going to be one fix,” Harbaugh said. “It’s got to be everybody doing a great job of determining what we can do well, what we can be with the guys we have right now, and getting those things done in practice and taking it to the game on Sunday.”