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Late For Work 10/25: Suggs Sounds Off

Plus refs are confused; Flacco’s missed opportunity; offense the roadblock to Super Bowl?

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 at 9:30 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Suggs Sounds Off

Monday night’s offensive performance was one of the worst in franchise history.

But if you ask outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, it didn’t have to be that way. The loquacious linebacker feels Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice should have been more involved to help the offense while it struggled.

Of the 146 total offensive yards Baltimore mustered, Rice was responsible for 65 on eight carries and five receptions.

“I don’t really know what the game plan was, but when I have a Pro Bowl running back and I see he is not getting his touches, I’m going to feel a certain type of way about it,” Suggs said in the NFL Network video below. “He’s a good guy. He wants the ball and I think we should feed him. Ray Rice is a phenomenal player and you have to use your phenomenal players.”

Suggs Sounds Off
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Rice started off on the wrong foot when he lost the ball on his third carry of the night. Prior to that, he hadn’t fumbled in 522 consecutive regular-season touches (NFL’s longest streak).

Jaguars counterpart Maurice Jones-Drew also had a hard time holding onto the ball, letting it hit the ground three times. The Ravens could only recover one, however, and ended up surrendering 105 yards on 30 carries to Jones-Drew. He’s the first back to break the century mark against the Ravens’ defense this season.

“On offense [Jacksonville] kept it simple – they ran the ball,” Suggs told CSNBaltimore.com. “I believe Jones-Drew had 30 carries and I believe his backup had 10, maybe 15 carries. But it baffles me that Ray Rice only had [eight] carries. This is a Pro Bowl running back we’re talking about. They fed their horse and he toted the ball. So we got to feed our horse.”

Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron explained that Rice’s carries were limited because there were an overall limited number of plays on offense. The Ravens struggled to stay on the field after not converting any first downs in the first half, tying a franchise record.

“Hey, I agree with him whole heartedly,” Cameron told media. “In every game, we have to make sure Ray Rice is involved.”

Suggs also identified receiver Anquan Boldin as a player who should have been more involved. Boldin caught four balls for 40 yards and a touchdown. While the number of catches wasn’t bulky, Boldin was targeted 12 times, the most of anyone on the team. The person with the second-most targets was Rice with eight.

“I have to question how many catches Anquan had,” Suggs said. “We got guys on this team that can do some great things. We have to use those guys. It’s that simple.”

One of the Ravens’ goals this season is to earn a home playoff game, but with Monday’s 12-9 loss, the team now finds itself a half-game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers. If the Ravens don’t find a way to snatch the top spot back, that possibility will wither away.

“The Ravens should have learned their lesson last year, when a Week 2 loss in Cincinnati helped tip a divisional tiebreaker in Pittsburgh’s favor, forcing the Ravens to open the playoffs on the road in the wild-card round,” wrote SI.com’s Chris Burke.

Baltimore has now left the door open for a similar fate this season.

“If we don’t get the first-round bye, it’s our own fault,” said Suggs.

Dilfer On Pollard’s Penalty: Refs Are As Confused As Anyone

Nothing was as bad as the Ravens’ offense Sunday, but the officiating might be second on the list (not that the refs can be blamed for the loss).

Three fumble calls were overturned after head coach challenges in the first half. But no call was more criticized by the ESPN crew than the personal foul penalty called on safety Bernard Pollard when he crushed Jaguars running back Deji Karim.

Pollard was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless player after he separated Karim from the ball on a key third down in the third quarter. The penalty led to a field goal that gave Jacksonville a two-score lead.

Television replays showed Pollard using his shoulder to deliver the blow.

“If I hit you with my shoulder and my head is across your chest, why is that a personal foul?” asked ESPN’s Stuart Scott on SportsCenter after the game.

“Well it’s not. And I think that’s the whole key,” responded Trent Dilfer, ESPN analyst and former Ravens quarterback. “This is a key drive, Jacksonville [is] driving, they’re going to be off the field, Bernard Pollard comes up and this is as clean as they come. His helmet is across the jersey, he wraps up, he doesn’t launch, he doesn’t drive the receiver into the ground.

“This is a travesty what is going on in the NFL. They are taking one of the most beautiful parts of football, and that is the contact, out of it.”

Dilfer said Pollard’s penalty was the culmination of bad unnecessary roughness calls being made this season. As a former quarterback who suffered 14 concussions, Dilfer said he is for player safety but it has become “a joke.”

The point was repeatedly made that the officials are not to blame.

“Refs have to be kind of gun shy based on the kind of pressure the league is putting on them,” said Scott.

Added Dilfer, “The league, not the refs – I want to make this very clear: we talk to them before the games. Every week we’re out there, and they just [say], ‘Trent, we can’t say anything. It’s as hard for us as anyone out there.’”

Hensley: Offense A Roadblock To Super Bowl

The last time the Ravens’ defense did not finish the season among the league’s Top 10 was in 2002. For nine long years Ray Lewis and Co. has set the example of what a dominant defense looks like.

During that same time, the offense has never finished in the Top 10. The closest it’s gotten is No. 13 in 2009.

That trend has continued so far this season with the defense ranked No. 1 and the offense ranked No. 22.

“The biggest roadblock to the Baltimore Ravens’ path to the Super Bowl isn’t the Pittsburgh Steelers or the New England Patriots,” wrote ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. “It’s the Ravens’ offense. In Baltimore, it’s always been the offense.

“The coordinators (from Matt Cavanaugh to Jim Fassel to Brian Billick himself) and quarterbacks (from Trent Dilfer to Kyle Boller) change, but the struggles on offense remain the same. … Ray Lewis and this defense have been good enough over the past decade to get back to the Super Bowl, and probably multiple ones.”

Flacco’s Missed Opportunity

With just under two minutes remaining in the game, quarterback Joe Flacco got the ball at the Ravens’ 20-yard line with an opportunity to drive his offense the length of the field for a game-winning touchdown drive.

“This was the type of game that keeps coming up when people debate Joe Flacco’s place among NFL quarterbacks,” wrote Burke. “Flacco had a chance Monday to pull the Ravens up and deliver an undeserved victory. Instead, down by five with 1:43 left, he threw an incomplete pass well out of bounds, then tossed an interception to Drew Coleman.”

The debate will ensue whether Flacco is to be solely blamed for the loss. CSNBaltimore.com’s John Eisenberg said Flacco looked as lost as anytime in his career.

“But in his defense, his protection was poor and his receivers couldn’t gain any separation,” Eisenberg added. “If you had to pinpoint one offensive problem that was the most crucial, it would be the line’s struggles. It couldn’t run block and couldn’t keep the Jaguars’ pass rush off Flacco.”

While Flacco and Rice could have played better, Burke argued “all the talent in the world can only do so much” if the offensive line can’t hold up.

“At 4-2, Baltimore remains in fine shape for a playoff run, and quite frankly, the Ravens should make the postseason again,” Burke said. “There’s just no way to forgive Monday’s offensive — in every meaning of the word — performance.”

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