Now that's what the Ravens' offense should look like

They started running the ball and stayed with it

September 11, 2014|Mike Preston

This is what Gary Kubiak's West Coast offense is supposed to look like.

It's an offense predicated on running the ball and setting up the passing game off play-action fakes. Of course, the Ravens would like to have converted a few more of those field goals into touchdowns Thursday night, but that should come in the future.

Nearly a week after throwing 62 passes, the Ravens stayed with the run and they came away with a big win against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Ravens didn't have a lot of big-gainers, but they had over 100 yards rushing and were committed to the run. That set up two touchdown passes off play-action fakes from quarterback Joe Flacco to tight end Owen Daniels.

The running game has always been a major staple of a Kubiak offense from his days as an assistant coach and coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos.

The 62 passes against the Bengals on Sunday were an aberration, but it seemed to be a sign of things to come. Against the Steelers, the Ravens stayed with the run and wore them down by midway in the fourth quarter.

They did it without star running back Ray Rice, who was suspended indefinitely earlier this week by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his domestic abuse case earlier in the year.

By the fourth quarter, the Ravens were controlling the tempo of the game with running backs Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett.

Next up for Kubiak is getting more production in the red zone, especially from a receiver other than a tight end.

Defining moment

The season has many defining moments for a team and the Ravens had one against the Steelers.

If they had lost a second straight home against a divisional rival, they would have dug a deep hole. Instead, they played hard from start to finish and wore down Pittsburgh.

It was a gutsy effort.

Draft concerns

During training camp, Ravens coach John Harbaugh kept building up reserve offensive tackle Jah Reid and outside linebacker Arthur Brown, but both were inactive for the second straight game.

That's a sign that some of the recent Ravens drafts haven't been up to par because Reid was a third-round pick four years ago and Brown was a second-round pick in 2013. Both were supposed to be the top reserves at their respective positions and neither can get on the field.

Corner rotation

The Ravens wised up this week. Against Cincinnati in the opener, the Ravens didn't rotate cornerbacks and kept Jimmy Smith on the left side and Chykie Brown on the right.

Thursday night against the Steelers they had Smith shadow Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown all over the field and put Asa Jackson on the No. 2 receiver and Brown on the bench except in nickel and dime situations, and until Jackson was injured.

It was a good move by the Ravens, but was a game and a loss too late.

Pierce starts

Four days after Harbaugh benched him, Pierce was the Ravens starting running back Thursday night. Harbaugh replaced Pierce with Forsett after a fumble Sunday in an attempt to get the team's running game going.

If Harbaugh didn't start Pierce against Pittsburgh the third year runner out of Temple might have lost confidence. Instead, Pierce ran hard in the first half and appeared to have rebounded.

Catching on

Steve Smith has clearly established himself as the Ravens' top receiver. He runs better routes than fellow receiver Torrey Smith and is tough to bring down after the catch.

Because of his speed, Torrey Smith has become more of a clear-out decoy allowing the other receivers and tight ends to work underneath.

Tough call

The roughing the passer call on Ravens outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw on the Steelers first offensive series of the game was borderline, but Upshaw just gets his head up a little bit he might have avoided the penalty.

After three years in the league, Upshaw should know better.

What's up, Ben?

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger still has a lot to offer and is one of the best in the NFL, but he appears to have lost his fastball.

In the first half, he kept overthrowing receivers in the middle of the field and most of his completions were of the short variety. You don't see those hard darts over the middle and down the field much anymore.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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