The Baltimore Ravens played an amazing game against the Miami Dolphins last week. The defense once again dominant, notching three interceptions on a previously red-hot Ryan Tannehill. Also, the Ravens had their second dominant win of the season. The first was the Thursday Night second-half drubbing of the now 0-12 Cleveland Browns, who thankfully had a bye last week. Two victories this season where Baltimore fans didn't have to sweat it out at the end. That's may be a record for them. Nonetheless, there is one tiny negative about the game on Sunday, they still didn't run the football.
I know running the football wasn't part of the game plan and judging by the exchange between quarterback Joe Flacco and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg early last week, running the ball probably wasn't at the top of the list for the Dolphins game, but its still something the Ravens must do to win. Flacco threw the ball 47 times on Sunday, that's the eighth time this season that Flacco has thrown the ball 40 or more times. Including throwing the ball 52 times earlier in the year against the Oakland Raiders. Small sidenote: Flacco is leading in failed completions this season, and it’s almost twenty more than the next closest.
2016 - most failed completions— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) December 6, 2016
Flacco - 106
Carr - 87
Bradford - 86
Wentz - 82
Eli - 82
Brees - 80
Stafford - 75
In those eight games the Ravens are 4-4. No doubt a few of those could've been victories had the team stuck with the run. One of the reasons the Ravens fired Marc Trestman, his lack of commitment to the ground game. The game that got Trestman fired was the 16-10 loss to the Washington Redskins. The Ravens only ran the ball 19 times, 11 of those carries went to Terrance West for 95 yards. For a game that finished only 16-10, that is absurd. There's no reason for West not getting more carries.
The Ravens promoted Mornhinweg to offensive coordinator after the firing of Trestman to help bring some life back to a Ravens ground game that does feature two quality running backs. One of them, Kenneth Dixon, is chock-full of potential and could finally be the teams permanent replacement for Ray Rice. You could make the case he should be the starting running back right now. The problem though, Morhninweg abandons the running game as well. The Ravens put up a good, balanced offensive performance in a loss against the New York Giants. That was Marty's first game on the job. Going into the next game against the previously 1-5 New York Jets, with a quarterback who had an injured throwing shoulder, you figure the game plan involves more emphasis on the ground game to help an injured Flacco. This did not happen. Flacco, on an injured throwing shoulder, threw the ball 44 times and the Ravens lost to the Jets 24-16. Ravens running backs carried the ball 10 times in that game. 10! Eight of those carries went to Terrance West for ten yards.
On a side note: How in the world did the Ravens lose to the Jets? If any Ravens player watched that atrocity on Monday night, they must be asking themselves the same thing. I know I still am.
Anyway, despite Flacco's big day, Dixon and West carried the ball 16 times. Seven of those attempts came in the last two drives of the game when it was out of reach and Ryan Mallett came in as the quarterback. For once, abandoning the run wasn't a big issue for the them, but it was only one game. In order to clinch a trip to the playoffs and try to make a deep push to the Super Bowl, they must be a balanced attack on offense. The Ravens can't be pass heavy on Monday night against the New England Patriots in Foxboro. Baltimore needs to impose their will and running the ball with tough backs like West and Dixon will help. Especially against Tom Brady. You beat the Patriots by keeping Brady on the sidelines.
The key to the offenses success is Joe Flacco, but the X-factors are West and Dixon. There have been too many times where the Ravens have forgotten about them and it has cost the team dearly. They got away with it Sunday, but they won't get away with it again. Especially on Monday night, against Belichick, in Foxboro.