Why a Boring Style of Play Is Good for the Baltimore Ravens

Michael CallahamContributor IIOctober 28, 2011

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 2:  Linebacker Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens is introduced before taking on the New York Jets at M&T Bank Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Sure, the Ravens' style of offense might seem a bit boring at times, but ultimately, it's a small price to pay for a legitimate run at a championship.

They didn't invent it, but the Ravens may be the only thing keeping the Chuck Knox, 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust scheme from fading into the obscurity of NFL history. It's the same system they've run since the franchise's inception back in 1996 and the same system that carried them to a Super Bowl title just four years later.

It's not always pretty and perhaps somewhat less thrilling to watch than the high-flying, run-and-gun style of offense that has dominated the NFL's modern era.

The Ravens, though, stand as living proof that this old-school style of football—largely abandoned by the rest of the league—can still be effective.

Over the years, rule changes made by the NFL in an attempt to increase scoring has led to quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Tom Brady putting up previously unimagined numbers through the air. In contrast to teams like the Saints and the Patriots, the Ravens look very much like a throwback—slightly out of place and time.

They remind us of a day when an offense could be just as physical as the defenses they opposed, delivering blow after blow, sustaining long, bone-crunching, clock-consuming drives with a pounding running back. And while some fans might not prefer to see this style of football relegated to the distant past, it probably represents the Ravens' best chances at making a run in 2011.

The best system for any team, though, is one tailor-made to fit its personnel.

BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 2:  Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the ball against the New York Jets at M&T Bank Stadium on October 2. 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Jets 34-17. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images


No matter how hard you try, Joe Flacco will never be Joe Montana. Even with Jerry Rice and Dwight Clark in their primes, Flacco would likely still just be Flacco. And even if the Ravens could get more out of the quarterback position, Montana himself would need a couple more targets down field to dominate through the air. As good as Anquan Boldin is, he's only half as good as he would be if the Ravens had just one more top-flight target on the roster to compliment him.

What the Ravens' “boring” system does best is take advantage of the team's strengths while protecting its vulnerabilities.

With a perennially-great defense led by Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed and a devastating one-two punch of Ray Rice and Ricky Williams, Baltimore is perfectly suited to the system they employ.

And why not?

Over the years, Baltimore has made creating scoring opportunities on defense and controlling the clock on offense their trade-mark. Coach Harbaugh has carried on the tradition by relying heavily on the running game to keep the clock moving and to wear down opposing defenses for the second half. Pass the ball just enough to keep the defense from cheating up too close to the line of scrimmage, and dominate the time of possession, limiting the amount of scoring opportunities for the opposing offense.

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 16: The Houston Texans offense lines up against the Baltimore Ravens  defense during the first half at M&T Bank Stadium on October 16, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens won 29-14.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

It's not rocket science.

The Ravens system puts more of the pressure where it should be, given the players they have, on Lewis and the rest of the defense. For Baltimore, winning or losing depends on the defense's success in shutting down the opposing offense and keeping the game close at all costs. The weakness in the scheme is when the defense fails to do this.

When Baltimore gets in trouble is when they fall behind by two or more scores, forcing them out of their game plan, requiring them to do something they're not built to do—score points quickly.

In any case, the bottom line is that while some Ravens fans might like to see it, Baltimore simply does not have the horses on offense to run a wide-open passing attack. Besides, at this stage of the 2011 NFL season, their unyielding defense and punishing ground attack gives the Ravens their absolute best shot at playing football in January.