The first thing I noticed was an emphasis on running the football from the get-go against the Cleveland Browns this week. As many expected the Baltimore Ravens tried to get back on track by handing the ball to their best offensive weapon and using well timed play action to keep the defense honest.
For the first quarter the Ravens were running a well balanced and creative offensive game plan. They ran the ball out of many offensive formations and used both sides of the field in their schemes while using both Ray Rice and his back up effectively. They ran pitch plays with blockers set up at the line of scrimmage to both sides of he fields with good success and mixed in some off tackle running from rookie back Bernard Pierce.
Once the run was established Cleveland was forced to play the run and leave some of their secondary in man coverage. In the early goings quarterback Joe Flacco did a nice job of recognizing these situations and calling audibles to passing plays. Flacco found Anquan Boldin for some big plays early on good play action fakes. Boldin always seems to play well against our rivals from Ohio, perhaps Flacco was thinking this early on.
After getting up 14-0 early on the offense inexplicably shut down cold. From the second quarter until the fourth the Ravens offense had a string of seven straight three and outs. In that time the Cleveland Browns kicked five field goals to take a 15-14 lead. The Ravens offense went from deadly to dead in a very short time. The creative running plays that forced the Browns defense sideline to sideline disappeared and for some reason Cam Cameron called ruining plays directly up the gut time after time with little to no success.
In each of the Ravens possessions in the second and third quarters they were almost immediately handicapped due to bone head penalties. Whether it was an inexcusable holding or block in the back penalty on a punt or kick off or a false start or the usual Michael Oher melt down that would set Flacco and crew into a tough first and twenty situation, something would always seem to happen.
However even with the bad starting position the coaches had to see that the interior of our offensive line is not getting any push down field so there for it is probably the worst area to try and run behind but never the less for a good two quarters they did just that and almost lost the game because of it.
It seemed to me that the offense was set up for failure upon taking the field until the game was on the line. How many times can you run up the middle twice for no gain and then throw into a pass heavy defensive set up and hope for success on third down before you get the picture that this is not going to work?
Thankfully, when the game was on the line, all of the sudden the Ravens offense was able to move down field with ease and score an easy touchdown and a two point conversion just for good measure. As great as that was to see at the moment, I'm sure there were many fans out there that were thinking the same thing as I was, "Why couldn't they do that for the last 30 minutes?"
Do the Ravens deploy a vanilla game plan once they get a comfortable lead so they can save their best plays for when they need them? If so I think they need to take a serious look in the mirror and realize that every time they get the ball is important like New England does. This team needs practice and what better way to get real good at your best plays than by running them in a live game.
When the Ravens ran outside they had success. When they ran up the middle they did not. It was pretty simple. I hope it was not simply a case of the hardheadedness of Cam Cameron that wasted half of an offensive football game for the Ravens. Once again the defense was on the field for way too long and we need to sustain drives to keep our defensive stars well rested and explosive. It's a team sport Cam, I hope you know what you are doing....