Ravens offense finds balance, now must keep it

Once again, Ray Rice running the ball is key to strong game by Ravens

November 20, 2011|Mike Preston

The script has been set and now it's just a matter of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron following it — possibly to the Super Bowl.

There is little doubt that when the Ravens bring their "A" game, they have the best overall team in the AFC. But if they want to play in the big game, they need to continue having a balanced offense, great defense and respectable special teams.

The biggest problem thus far has been the lack of identity on offense, and maybe the Ravens solved it Sunday against Cincinnati by slowing down the passing game and giving running back Ray Rice more touches.

Rice had 20 carries for 104 yards including a long of 59, and another run of 26 yards called back because of a penalty. He also had five catches for 43 yards, but was the intended target ten times. The Ravens had 28 rushes compared to 27 passing attempts.

Quarterback Joe Flacco complemented the Ravens' running game completing 17 of 27 passes for 270 yards. Flacco's 38-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith in the fourth quarter came off of play action, and Flacco is at his best using those fakes.

"The running game takes a lot of pressure off Joe," said Rice. "Every week I expect to be a big part of the game plan. It's no surprise. I think this week, when we see it's going to be a tough game, you see the balance. As long as we play balanced football going forward and the running game being a big part of it, I think we'll be pretty successful."

Are you listening Cam Cameron?

We know it's hard for coordinators not to want to throw the ball 40 times a game. We know they like to be cute and creative. And if that urge to throw the ball 53 times again becomes unbearable, grab a towel and bite it. Bite the hell out of it.

"We've got to be able to run the ball to be able to win," said Ravens safety Ed Reed. "As long as Ray Rice and Ricky Williams keep touching the ball, we've got a shot."

No more Lewis

CBS and Ravens officials ought to be ashamed of all the shots of Ray Lewis cheerleading on the sidelines. By the midway in the first quarter, we had seen enough of Lewis waving the towel.

It reminded me of the old Boston Celtics when forward Paul Silas was no longer a factor, and he became the best towel waving player at the end of the bench in the NBA.

Home field advantage

The Ravens got some home cooking Sunday. Officials took away Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham's touchdown catch with 5:43 remaining because they said he didn't complete the play by allowing the ball to hit the ground.

That was a great catch, a great play and it should have been a touchdown. Ravens fans shouldn't complain about being picked on for the rest of the season after that one.

Wrong call?

The Ravens appeared to call an all out blitz with 11:03 left in the game and ahead, 31-14. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton burned the Ravens for a 49-yard touchdown down the left sideline as Andre Caldwell beat rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith.

At the time, you had to wonder why the Ravens showed the blitz so early. And why didn't they just drop six or seven into coverage to give up the short pass, but not allow any long touchdowns passes?

"The call got cut off from the sideline to us in the huddle," Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We were supposed to show it and then drop. But that microphone is only opened about 15 seconds, and we didn't get the rest of the call."

Going with Ravens

The 49ers have a better record than the Ravens, but I'll take Baltimore in the Harbaugh Bowl on Thanksgiving Day.

Both teams have a short week, but it's the 49ers who have to make the trip to the East Coast. Plus, the Ravens always play well against good teams. Now, if they were playing the Cleveland Browns or the Indianapolis Colts, I'd be a little concerned.

Evans returns

Veteran receiver Lee Evans was active, but didn't get much playing time. It will be interesting to see if he can push Smith, a rookie, for playing time. Smith had six catches for 165 yard and a touchdown.

Evans didn't have a catch, and only had one pass thrown his way.

New approach needed

Ravens fans had become so disenchanted with the offense that they began booing on the team's second possession.

But the Ravens did a nice job Sunday. I'd only boo if they ran that pass to fullback Vonta Leach in the flat against the 49ers. It might work better if Leach is going up the field on some kind of wheel rout.

But the 1-yard pass to him going toward the sidelines doesn't and hasn't worked. In other words, they're fooling no one.

Goal line changes

Two changes the Ravens might want to consider on short yardage or goal-line situations: They might want to get defensive tackle Terrence Cody off, because he got blown away by double teams on several occasions, and they might want to run a lot of plays behind right guard Marshal Yanda. He crushed people on the goal line.

Different ways to tackle

Best hit of the day belonged to Bengals safety Taylor Mays who crushed kickoff returner Tom Zbikowski in the first quarter. You felt bad for Zbikowski because of the concussion he suffered early this season.

You also felt a little sympathy for Smith who was yanked down by his dreadlocks in the second quarter by cornerback Adam "Pac Man" Jones after a 28-yard reception.

Learning experience

Dalton will be better prepared for the Ravens when they meet later again this season. He clearly was nervous in the first half, but got better once he became comfortable. He was a lot more accurate in the second half compared to the first.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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