Joe Flacco failed to throw the ball down field in Sunday’s 17-14 heartbreaker against Cincinnati, that is why they lost.
In order to beat the Vikings, Flacco and the receiver corps needs to bring their A-game. Statistically, the Ravens are a better offense, including rushing offense, but that is because Adrian Peterson rushes the ball alone, while McGahee and Rice split time rushing.
Rushing the ball against the Vikings is no easy task, neither is against the Ravens, unless your Cedric Benson. The Vikings defensive line is a 4-3 line, which includes Pro-Bowlers Pat and Kevin Williams, All-Pro DE Jared Allen, and Ray Edwards. The four are also accomplished pass rushers, with Allen posting 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and a defensive touchdown. Kevin Williams has 2.0 sacks, and Edwards had 1.5.
However, the Ravens offensive line held off the Bengals pass rushers, especially Antwaan Odom. The challenge for the line is providing enough push for Ray Rice and Willis McGahee to get through a 4-3 defense, something they had trouble doing against Cincinnati, the first 4-3 defense they faced.
The Ravens receivers are going to have to pick up their game. If rushing the ball fails to produce any results, then they need to be there so Flacco can throw the ball downfield. Check down passes won’t work, they didn’t work last week.
If possible, the running backs should block against the Vikings veteran pass rushers.
Speaking of which, the Ravens receivers need to get open fast enough, so Jared Allen and Ray Edwards can’t sack Flacco before he throw the ball. And most importantly, Flacco needs to target them. The Ravens receivers saw very little passes their way, and only had a combined three receptions.
The Ravens are statistically better than the Vikings at passing in every aspect except interceptions, but that is because Flacco has thrown the ball more than Brett Favre. Flacco has thrown for more yards, and matches Favre in touchdowns with nine.
The real advantage Flacco has is that he can spread the ball to all his receivers. All five of Flacco’s top-five targets have 200-plus yards.
Derrick Mason leads the team with 284 yards and two touchdowns, Kelley Washington is next in line with 219 yards and one touchdown. The best stat about Washington is that 87 percent of his passes result in first downs. Mark Clayton and Todd Heap both have 213 yards, but Heap has two touchdowns to Clayton’s one.
Ray Rice leads all running backs in the league with 208 yards and one touchdown, a 48 yard catch in run that found a place in SportCenter’s Top Ten Plays of Week Five.
The Vikings have six interceptions this season, but three of those are from linebackers, Chad Greenway with two. If Flacco avoids errant throws down the middle and in the flats, the linebackers shouldn’t get their hands on the ball.
However, the Vikings are a QB sacking, fumble forcing machine. The offensive line of the Ravens should be able to limit the number of times Flacco is sacked, especially with the return of Jared Gaither. However, they may have their hands full trying to limit the amount of pressure the defensive line and linebackers can put on Flacco.
A balanced offense might have to wait until week eight. The Ravens might need to air it out this week. The Vikings are a run stopping defense and a QB killing defense, but they are not a pass-stopping defense.