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In the Ravens’ first game of the season without top receiving target Anquan Boldin, the offense had an up-and-down performance.
Quarterback Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes in the Ravens first three drives, but he finished with a season-low 132 passing yards and completed just 11 of his 24 passes in Saturday’s 20-14 win over Cleveland.
Boldin will also miss Sunday’s regular-season finale in Cincinnati, and with a roster spot opening because receiver David Reed was placed on injured reserve, some fans have asked if the Ravens might be interested in bringing in another receiver like Derrick Mason, who was recently cut by the Texans.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday the Ravens don’t have any plans at this time to bring in a free agent.
“There’s really not a lot of guys out there,” Harbaugh said. “If anything, people have been signing guys off their practice squads for about the last six weeks very aggressively. So unless a name comes before us, which we have not seen yet, I’d say that’s probably not going to happen.”
Deciding not to bring in a free agent shows that the Ravens have confidence in the passing game.
While Baltimore didn’t put up big passing numbers against Cleveland, dropped passes and a heavy dose of the running game played a part in the passing attack cooling off in the second half. Baltimore ran the ball 22 times compared to 12 passes in the second half, and Flacco completed just three passes for 27 yards. His one interception came in the fourth quarter.
“The biggest issue in the second half was obviously the drops,” Harbaugh said. “If we catch the ball the way we’re capable of catching the ball, the way we caught it the first half, those drives are going to be extended.”
Tight end Ed Dickson and wide receiver Torrey Smith both had dropped passes, and Lee Evans didn’t break up a pass in the end zone that ended up getting intercepted.
If the Ravens make those plays, the Browns might not have a chance to climb back from the 20-0 deficit.
“Those are guys who have made those plays, can make those plays, will make those plays, want to make those plays,” Harbaugh said.
With Boldin down, the Ravens have turned to Smith and Evans as the top two receivers, and rookie Tandon Doss worked as the number three option.
Smith was the only wide receiver to catch a pass – two receptions for 38 yards – as the rest of the catches were made by the running backs or tight ends. The rookie receiver was targeted with seven passes and drew a 60-yard pass interference penalty on the Ravens’ first offensive play.
Evans was targeted with four passes, but was held without a catch.
“In the second half, we just didn’t play well, and that starts with me,” Evans said.
Coaching players to avoid dropped passes can be tricky, as all of the Ravens receiving options have shown the ability to make impressive grabs at times. Harbaugh said they vary their approach when talking with players after a dropped ball.
“Depends on the guy, depends on the situation,” Harbaugh said. “With our guys, I think it’s more encouraging. We do encourage them to get on the JUGS machine, catch more balls, run better routes. There’s a lot of things that go into it.
“But bottom line, when you throw a guy the ball you want him to catch it.”