Porous Line Play Holding Back Baltimore Ravens Offense

Shehan PeirisCorrespondent IIINovember 10, 2013

Joe Flacco has spent most of the season running away from defenders.
Joe Flacco has spent most of the season running away from defenders.Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens offense doesn’t look like the explosive unit that averaged 31 points per game in last year’s playoffs. Part of that has to do with the missing playmakers from that squad like Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta. The bigger problem, however, has been the play of the offensive line.

To be clear, the blame needs to go to everybody on offense. Joe Flacco has been inaccurate and missed on a number of deep balls. The running backs have not looked explosive at any point this year. The tight ends have dropped passes and aren’t providing anything as blockers.

But on top of all those flaws looms the shadow of the second-worst offensive line in the game, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Offensive Line Grades from ProFootballFocus
TeamOverall (Rank)Run-Blocking (Rank)Pass-Blocking (Rank)
Arizona Cardinals-63.4 (32)-21.1 (24)-42.3 (32)
Baltimore Ravens-61.1 (31)-49.5 (30)-11.6 (24)
New York Giants-54.9 (30)-30.8 (28)-24.1 (30)
New York Jets-53.4 (29)-51.0 (31)-2.4 (18)
Jacksonville Jaguars-49.4 (28)-53.9 (32)+4.5 (12)
ProFootballFocus.com

Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, for all of their nagging injuries, have rarely had any running lanes to exploit. They’ve been brought down in the backfield 26 times (11th-most in NFL) and the Ravens have the third-fewest runs of more than 10 yards.

According to the analysts at Pro Football Focus, Baltimore’s O-line is the third-worst run-blocking line in the league. The inability of the line to open holes for the backs is the reason for their putrid average of less than three yards per carry.

Yards Per Carry (48 Qualified Players)
RankPlayerYards per Carry
46Bernard Pierce2.7
47Ray Rice2.7
48Willis McGahee2.6
ESPN.com

The lack of a running game has taken away any semblance of balance, and the entire offense has struggled because of it.

Furthermore, the ineffectiveness of the O-line doesn’t just apply to the ground game.

Flacco has been running for his life due to the inordinate amount of pressure opposing defenses have been able to generate.

He’s been sacked 25 times this year (and is on pace to record the most sacks of his career) and the offensive line has allowed 111 pressures (sacks, hits and hurries) which is 10th-most in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.

Joe Flacco has taken far too many hits this season.
Joe Flacco has taken far too many hits this season.Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Three of Flacco’s 11 interceptions are the direct result of poor offensive line play because he was hit as he threw the ball.

The offensive line play was so bad to start the year that the Ravens made a midseason trade—something they had never done before—to address the situation.

While Eugene Monroe has been much more productive than Bryant McKinnie, he hasn’t solved all of the line problems.

Flacco receives much of the criticism because he’s the quarterback who signed a record-breaking contract in the offseason. He definitely deserves some of the blame, but the biggest culprit is the offensive line.

The offense is not going to perform any better than it has all year without better play from the line in both aspects of the game.

Their first chance at redemption comes next week, against a battered and bruised Chicago Bears defense that was allowing 128 rushing yards per game (29th) and had only recorded 14 sacks (28th) before Week 10. If they can't perform well against Chicago, there isn't any hope for the line this year.

After an offseason that saw the Ravens lose Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin and Bernard Pollard, who would have thought that Matt Birk is the player they miss the most?