Focus will be on Ravens' offense vs. Texans

Harbaugh, Cameron feeling heat from fans over lackluster showing in loss to Steelers

December 12, 2010|By Kevin Cowherd

Think John Harbaugh and Cam Cameron are under a little pressure as the Ravens get ready to play the Houston Texans on Monday night?

Well, maybe. All the fans want them to do is fix the offense — immediately.

Here's the mandate for the Ravens head coach and offensive coordinator as I understand it: get the running game back on track. Get the offensive line in sync. Get Ray Rice some more carries. Willis McGahee, too. (Where's he been, anyway? On a Club Med vacation?)

But don't forget to open up the passing game, too. Take some shots downfield to Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Get Donte' Stallworth and his blinding speed involved. Have Joe Flacco throw some balls over the middle for a change. Why is the middle still the Bermuda Triangle for this offense?

Oh, and if Harbaugh and Cameron get all that done, maybe they could do something about the beer prices at Ravens games, too.

OK, are the fans being unreasonable with these expectations?

Yeah, a little bit. You're not going to turn this offense into "The Greatest Show on Turf" overnight. Even the Hooded Genius up in New England can't work that kind of magic.

On the other hand, there's no question the offense need fixing — in a major way.

Before Sunday's games, the Ravens ranked 31st in the league in rushing average at 3.6 yards per game. And just nine teams had scored fewer rushing touchdowns.

That, said Harbaugh, is "completely unacceptable for the type of team we want to be."

Not only that, but the passing offense has been strictly middle-of-the-pack, too, ranked 15th in the league last week.

So it's time to do something about it. And that starts Monday night at Reliant Stadium in Houston, when the only people watching will be a nationwide TV audience of millions.

(How about the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings stealing some of the Ravens' and Texans' thunder by playing on TV Monday night, too? In Detroit's domed Ford Field? Just because the roof of the Metrodome collapsed in a raging blizzard? What kind of wuss nation have we become where we re-schedule football games just because three-ton roof panels and live electrical wires dangle dangerously overhead?)

Getting back to the Ravens, they might find it easier to get their passing game on track Monday night rather than their running game.

That's because the Texans are last in the NFL in pass defense — they've allowed 14 completions of 40 yards or better.

That's not just bad pass defense. That's horrible pass defense. That's a secondary that might as well be taking in the game from lawn chairs for all the good it's doing.

So, yeah, there's pressure on Harbaugh and Cameron to get this offense straightened out Monday night.

But here's the thing: NFL coaches are under tremendous pressure every week.

It's the ultimate what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. The only thing that matters is winning the next game.

That's why I've said all week that if the Ravens had beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday instead of losing 13-10, all this doom and gloom about the team vanishes.

The Ravens would be 9-3 and atop the AFC North heading into Monday's game. The hated Steelers would be a game behind.

We wouldn't be talking about how bad the running game is and Rice disappearing.

We wouldn't be talking about how timid and unimaginative the passing game is and what Cameron is going to do about it.

But it didn't work out that way, which is why both Harbaugh and Cameron went on a bit of a PR blitz this week to mollify the fan base.

It was good to see Harbaugh acknowledging what the fans already knew: that after owner Steve Bisciotti opened his checkbook in the offseason and signed Boldin and Houshmandzadeh and Stallworth, this Ravens offense has under-performed all year.

It was good to see Cameron step up and take responsibility for the disastrous play against the Steelers that allowed Troy Polamalu to rip the ball out of Flacco's hands, leading to Pittsburgh's game-winning touchdown.

(Think Cameron had a few sleepless nights after that one? The guy won't be able to pick up a tube of Head & Shoulders for years without having flashbacks.)

But now it's time for both coaches to produce some results.

Fourteen games into the season, and both have been called on the carpet by Ravens fans.

We'll see what happens Monday night in Houston.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coelman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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