No Offense, But Ravens Need Touchdowns

Reaching End Zone Key To Playoff Push

November 24, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

The Pittsburgh Steelers might have to start third-string quarterback Dennis Dixon against the Ravens on Sunday night if Ben Roethlisberger (concussionlike symptoms) and Charlie Batch (wrist) are both sidelined.

The Ravens' offense is hurting these days, too, but it has nothing to do with injuries.

The Ravens haven't scored a first-half touchdown since Oct. 4. Joe Flacco is hitting a sophomore slump. Wide receivers Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington have disappeared. And the red zone turned into the dead zone in Sunday's 17-15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

As a result, the Ravens have scored two offensive touchdowns in their past three games, a rut that has kept them in the middle of the AFC pack and one game out of a wild-card spot.

"This season is not over by any stretch," coach John Harbaugh said. "We still aspire to be that kind of [elite] football team. I guarantee you that's what we're fighting for - to make those blocks, to make those throws, whatever the case may be."

In the first three games of the season, the Ravens averaged 34.3 points, which ranked second in the NFL in scoring.

The Ravens are averaging half that during the past three games, managing 16 points per game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts.

"We have to find a way to put it in the end zone, obviously," center Matt Birk said. "There's your 'Duh' quote of the week."

The Ravens have gone 14 series without scoring an offensive touchdown, a drought of 87 minutes, 28 seconds.

"We're way better than this," running back Willis McGahee said. "We know what we've got to do."

The players said the problems aren't related to play-calling or defenses playing them differently, but to execution on their part.

"They make plays; we have to make plays," running back Ray Rice said. "You've seen boxing fights. They punch, we have to come out there and counterpunch whatever they do."

Meanwhile, the Steelers' biggest concern is the injuries suffered Sunday by their top two quarterbacks.

Roethlisberger was hit by a knee to his helmet in overtime and left with concussionlike symptoms. Batch injured his left wrist after replacing Roethlisberger. Batch could undergo surgery later this week and miss about six weeks.

Here are the four concerns regarding the Ravens' offense, and they have nothing to do with injuries:

* Slow starts: Major concern.: The offense has hit the snooze button way too many times to chalk this up to coincidence. The last offensive touchdown scored by the Ravens in the first half was Derrick Mason's leaping 20-yard catch in New England.

In the six games since that touchdown, the Ravens' offense has produced just seven field goals before halftime.

No one on the Ravens has an answer about how to fix this, but they need to figure out a solution heading into the game against the Steelers, who have the No. 8 scoring defense (18.4 points per game).

* Flacco: Mild concern. : Teams are dropping more defenders into coverage to clog up the passing lanes for Flacco. That's why Flacco has no touchdown passes in the past three games, the longest drought of his two-year career. But young quarterbacks are expected to have uneven stretches.

There's never any panic with Flacco. Last season, he struggled in his 10th game, passing for 164 yards and getting intercepted twice. In his final six games, he threw eight touchdown passes and three interceptions.

* Wide receivers:: Major concern. : In the past three games, Clayton (two catches for 25 yards) and Washington (two for 18) have made no impact. Whether they're not getting open or Flacco isn't comfortable with them, just 11 of the Ravens' 75 passes in this stretch have been thrown in their direction.

The Ravens have been so desperate that they even put little-used Demetrius Williams onto the field Sunday to try to generate production other than from Rice and Derrick Mason. Their struggles have reignited questions of why the Ravens didn't improve the supporting cast for Flacco in the offseason.

* Red zone: No concern. : The Ravens failed to crack the end zone on four trips inside the 20-yard line against the Colts, coming away with six points. It was a hiccup for a Ravens offense that had scored a red-zone touchdown in all but one of the first nine games this season.

The Ravens' struggles Sunday might have something to do with the opponent.

"They're not the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL by accident at this stage," Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said of Indianapolis. "You have to give them some credit. We can execute better, and I can do better."

Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Van Valkenburg and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

Ravens online

STEELERS @RAVENS

Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

TV: Chs. 11, 4

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Off

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.