It's too early to panic about Ravens' offense

September 20, 2010|Mike Preston

It's Armageddon here in Baltimore because the Ravens lost Sunday.

One game. That's it, folks. A game.

Upon returning to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Monday morning from Cincinnati after the Ravens were beaten by the Bengals, 15-10, one sports talk radio host jokingly said he was going to a mental hospital after two bad officiating calls against the Ravens.

I went there. It was no joke. He was in Room 407.

Another one of his peers virtually cried on the air because the Ravens lost. Some Ravens fans want Joe Flacco benched. They want Cam Cameron and John Harbaugh fired. Someone suggested the Ravens bring back Brian Billick.

I blame it on Obama. Why not? Everybody always blames the president.

There has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth this week because the Ravens lost a game. One game. All hell will break loose if they lose two. And heaven forbid if the Ravens don't make the playoffs.

We'll have to call in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to negotiate a peace process.

"It's just one game," Ravens outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "It won't make us or break us."

The message is really simple here: There is no need to panic because the Ravens lost a game. One game. It's time for the Ravens to reevaluate some things and make some adjustments, but it's no reason to kick the dog or move to Pittsburgh.

Get a grip. The Ravens are 1-1 after playing two good teams on the road in a short week. They played a Cincinnati team that had stunk up the joint in New England the week before and was playing for its playoff life in Week 2 in its home opener.

And the Ravens lost by five points and could have stolen a victory if two officiating calls had gone their way instead of against them.

Overall, the Ravens are in good shape. They could easily be 0-2 heading into Sunday's game against Cleveland, but this really is a good football team. They just need to tinker with some things and put some egos aside.

First of all, the Ravens don't need to replace Flacco with Marc Bulger. It's way too early in the season for that much drama. What they should do with Flacco is to continue to stress mechanics, such as stepping up in the pocket, stepping into his throws, getting more bend in his knees and getting his elbow away from his body so his passes won't sail.

The verdict on the future of Flacco will probably come at the end of this season heading into a stretch run and possibly into the postseason, not now.

"We just move on from here, take it game by game and get ready for the Cleveland Browns," Flacco said.

The Ravens do need to make a commitment about this offense and make it a running team. It's great that they added receivers Anquan Boldin, Donte' Stallworth and T.J. Houshmandzadeh for the 2010 season, but this offense has to be built around the running game and feature Ray Rice.

There is no way that he should carry the ball only 16 times in a 15-10 game, one in which the other team is putting pressure on your quarterback with only three or four players at the line of scrimmage. As the game went on Sunday, Rice was starting to take control in the second half, and you felt it was only a matter of time before he broke another long run.

The game plans have to be built around Rice, not the passing game. And speaking of game plans, Cameron, the Ravens' offensive coordinator, needs to burn the one on how to beat 2-deep coverage. Against teams like Cincinnati and the Indianapolis Colts, the Ravens have had very little success.

If you want to get a defense out of cover-2, pound the ball relentlessly and force them to put one of those safeties in the box or near the line of scrimmage. And when that happens, you go over the top with the play-action.

But Sunday, the Ravens wanted to throw, and their receivers, all former No. 1's, failed to work back to the ball once Flacco got in trouble. Newsflash: The only prima donna in this receiving corps is Derrick Mason, and one of the things that makes him the best is that he comes back to the ball when Flacco gets in trouble.

But at least some of these things can be corrected. The Ravens need some work in tackling on special teams, and the players in the secondary have to learn to hold on to interceptions. Defensively, the Ravens have yet to give up an offensive touchdown in two games, but they also failed to hold two leads in the second half against the Bengals.

But that's being picky. It's kind of like whining about the Ravens being 1-1 when they've played two straight games on the road against quality teams.

They've lost only one game. A game.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

Listen to Mike Preston on "The Bruce Cunningham Show" from noon to 2 p.m. Mondays and Fridays on 105.7 FM.

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