Breakdown of Our (Lack of) Offense: 1st & 10 to Blame

As fans, we've done a lot of speculation as to what the issues are with this offense. And we've made the following conclusions: The offense sucks because the running game sucks. The running game sucks because the O-Line sucks. And the O-Line sucks because of a supposed new blocking scheme. We've also searched for a scapegoat: Gradkowski, McKinnie, Castillo, Caldwell, the zone-blocking scheme, Harbaugh, Rice, Pierce, etc.

But what if it's more simple than that? Check out these stats on 1st & 10 from the Packers/Ravens game:


First Ten Drives (on 1st & 10)
9 runs, 8 of 2-yards or less, 7 of 1-yard or less, 6 of no gain or less, 3 for a loss
1 6-yard flacco scramble
4 pass, 1 complete, 1 first down, 3 incomplete

Last Three Drives (on 1st & 10)
5 runs, 2 of 2-yards or less, 2 of 1-yard or less, 2 of no gain or less, 2 for a loss
6 pass, 5 complete, 4 first down, 1 td, 1 incomplete


These stats define our season. Every week, the offensive game-plan is horrible. And it takes way too long to make the proper in-game adjustments. Only three gains of more than 2-yards on 1st & 10 over the first TEN drives. Six rushes of no gain or less. It's like we're spotting the other team a down on every possession.

Now look at the final three drives. 1st & 10 yielded eight significant gains in 11 attempts. What did we do differently? Less predictability, faster pace, more no-huddle, more outside zone rushes, and most of all, we let our best player (Joe Flacco) do his thing. This put the Packers defense on their heels and suddenly, the O-Line actually looked pretty good.

Simply put, if you chose option "Caldwell" above, I believe you are correct. The play-calling has been unacceptable. He has to get better and he can start by putting the ball in the hands of his best player (Joe Flacco). You simply can't continue doing the same thing if it's not working. Over the first 10 drives, he called 9 running plays (compared to just 4 passing plays) on 1st & 10 and 8 of them went for 2 or fewer yards. And they all looked exactly the same. Insanity... If it's not working, try something else. Or just give Joe the damn ball and let him take over.

So how much blame goes to the blocking scheme? A bit, but not nearly as much as we initially thought. In the second half, the Ravens started running a very familiar-looking outside zone stretch play. It's a play that worked with both Rice and Pierce. Pierce likes to take these all the way outside, whereas Rice prefers to make a cut-back move and run straight down-field. I actually think we can be successful running with certain aspects zone-blocking. Shocking, I know! However, the play-calling needs to improve and the most obvious flaw has been on 1st & 10.

Finally, I'm reasonably confident that the personnel is mostly not to blame. There have been too many mistakes made by too many good players for it to be a coincidence. The mistakes were very evenly distributed. Even pro-bowl caliber guys like Yanda and Leach played poorly. They aren't completely blameless, but they were definitely set up for failure.

So lets call it... 75% play-calling, 15% blocking scheme, 10% personnel.

Somehow, I'm still confident they'll figure this out. Hopefully it happens this week against Pittsburgh.

The opinions posted here are those of the administrator of this blog and his loyal readers. They are in no way official comments from the team, and should not be misconstued as such, even though he thinks he could do just as well or even a better job!

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