Ravens' offense not explosive, but situation could be

January 04, 2011|By Mike Preston

They say what happens on the practice field transfers to the stadium on game day. If that's the case, then what is happening to the Ravens?

According to coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens are close to becoming an explosive offensive team because he has seen it on rare occasions during the season, and in practice as recently as last week.

Time for an eye exam, right?

Well, the NFL playoffs start this weekend, so it's the ideal time for the Ravens to have a productive offense and show some explosiveness.

But if you look closely at this team, this is a sensitive time. The lackluster offense is close to causing some division because a poor offense keeps gassing a good defense.

Fullback Le'Ron McClain voiced his displeasure earlier this week, and a defensive tackle complained about the offensive coordinator at halftime loud enough to be heard by other team officials.

Maybe veteran receiver Derrick Mason put it in perspective Sunday after the Ravens' 13-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

"For us, we've just got to go out there and make it work," he said. "I guess that has to be the theme of the playoffs -- whatever is being called, we have to make it work. We can no longer point the finger.

"We've got to make it work as an offensive unit. There are no more excuses, because excuses are going to get you beat. The teams that make excuses are going to have to sit at home next week, so we can't make any more excuses. Whatever play is called, we've got to make it work, so you can't blame Cam [Cameron, offensive coordinator]. Whatever it is, we have to make it work."

Translation: There is no use complaining because the play-calling will remain the same and the Ravens are at the point in the season where few plays will be added to the playbook.

I like reading all these reports now that give praise to receivers Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh for making a sacrifice because they are not getting the ball. That's funny.

I like hearing about how the Ravens have now turned into a running team heading into the first game of the postseason as if all those three-and-outs in the second half Sunday had been planned.

But the sad truth is that the Ravens still haven't learned how to operate this offense at full throttle, and it's starting to wear on this team.

After running back Ray Rice scored a 7-yard touchdown in the third quarter Sunday, safety Ed Reed was up in his face about getting the offense going.

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis' body language on the sideline Sundays often tells the story. He puts his head in his hands, showing disgust and disappointment.

After 15 years of hurling his body around in this league for the Ravens, they still can't find an offense that works. You're darn right, this has to be frustrating.

Harbaugh knows that's it's starting to be a strain, which is why he constantly reminds his team that it is 12-4. The players often repeat the words, but like us, they know better.

Against Cincinnati, the Ravens had only 199yards of offense and the Bengals had nearly a 10-minute advantage in time of possession.

In the past six weeks, the Ravens' offense has dropped from No.12 to No.22. While few want to talk about any potential internal problems, you have to wonder whether the strained relationship between quarterback Joe Flacco and Cameron has been a problem and why an offense filled with so much promise has regressed.

"Well, I think it has been displayed at times," Harbaugh said about the explosiveness. "I don't know if we've had four quarters of it, but there's been times where we scored over 30points, where we've scored three times in a row. There's been stretches where we've been unstoppable.

"So yeah, but I'm looking for that game, where we play the whole game that way. And that's what our players and coaches are looking for, too. So, if we want to win a championship, and I think the offense guys are saying that -- they feel like they need to play that way. And we support them."

As I mentioned several weeks ago, the Ravens win despite themselves. They have enough quality veterans like Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Reed, Mason, Boldin and Houshmandzadeh who can make enough plays to win most games.

That might be enough to get the Ravens to the Super Bowl, but it might not. Just in case, the Ravens want this offense to step up and match the effort of the defense and special teams.

It's about time, because the disappointment and frustration are beginning to show. The Ravens are walking a fine line right now, and if they cross it, the season might end as well.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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

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