Coming out of a Week 11 loss at the hands of the white-hot Dallas Cowboys, the failures of the Ravens offense is yet again the biggest story. The unit was not able to keep up with the Cowboys offense, despite how well the defense kept Dak Prescott and company in check, even with Jimmy Smith out of the lineup.
The Cowboys offense took advantage of the Jimmy Smith’s absence, but the Ravens were unable to take advantage of the Cowboys being without starting CB Morris Claiborne and starting S Barry Church. Despite being weakened on the backend, Joe Flacco was not able to take advantage and did not hit on any of the deep passes he threw.
Flacco wasn’t good in the big spots either. The Ravens passed on seven of their nine third downs in the game, and only converted one of those times, a 14 percent conversion rate. As a result, it’s no surprise half of the Ravens ten drives ended in punts, and those ten total drives include the Cowboys kickoff to the Ravens at the end of the first half where the clock expired on the return. These added to the Ravens 55 punts this season, fourth most in the NFL.
On Sunday, the Ravens crossed midfield just three times in the entire game. The Ravens averaged 33.2 yards per drive on Sunday, and yes that is including the 90 and 75 yard touchdown drives.
As a result of struggling to move the ball, the Ravens have not been able to put points on the board. The Ravens are averaging 19.9 points per game, seventh fewest in the NFL, and sadly, less points per game than the 49ers. What’s worse, the Ravens have only scored 18 touchdowns all season, less than the Cleveland Browns.
Penalties aren’t helping either. The Ravens totaled 12 penalties on Sunday, and have committed the second most penalties per game in the NFL, with 8.4 per game.
Clearly, the Ravens have work to do on offense. The defense just cannot carry the weight the offense is putting on their shoulders, with or without Jimmy Smith. It’s easy to say, if the Ravens can get going, then they will be fine. But let’s look at how they can accomplish that.
That really comes down to one thing, something I have desperately pleaded for: run the ball. Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon both ran exceptionally well in the first quarter, but were seemingly ignored for the remainder of the game, long before the Ravens started to fall behind. On just 14 total rushing attempts, the two backs combined to run for 82 yards (42 yards on eight carries for West, 40 yards on six carries for Dixon). The duo continue to be the most explosive part of the offense, but the least used. Ravens football has always been predicated on running the football. The Ravens just frankly aren’t set up to be the pass happy team that they seemingly want to be. It’s time to make a commitment to running the ball.
It’s also time to get the tight ends involved. Yes, the Ravens tight end group has thinned out dramatically. But in the preseason, the Ravens offense was clicking with Darren Waller, who is now back. Dennis Pitta still remains a playmaker at tight end despite his injury history, but the Ravens refuse to use him as such. When the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, the offense leaned heavily on the tight ends. When the Ravens had one of its best offensive seasons in franchise history with Gary Kubiak as coordinator, the offense relied on its tight ends.
Now, Pitta and Waller are being used only to pick up the tough, short yards, which, while important, is nowhere near the extent of their skill set. Outside of Mike Wallace, no other Raven has proven to be a consistent big play receiver down the field. So instead of trying to force a big play deep, why not give the tight ends a chance to make something happen?
The Ravens are running out of time to put it together. The playoffs are getting closer and closer, and upcoming divisional showdowns loom large. Despite how good the defense is, it can’t carry Baltimore all the way to a division crown, it needs help. The offense needs solve their woes, quickly.