Last Week: 3
This Week: Vs. Cincinnati Bengals
John Harbaugh may know how to say football but his team better start learning how to play it better and more consistently vs. the teams they are supposed to beat. For the most part, the Ravens are in the driver’s seat for the AFC North, but they no longer have the option of thinking about using the cruise control switch. That’s because while on cruise control last week in Seattle, the Ravens dropped their third game of the season, and second to a team with a substantial losing record.
Baltimore could be a team headed for turmoil in the locker room, as well as on the field. How up and down are the Ravens this season, well, it depends when you watch them play. Baltimore can look like a serious Super Bowl contender on one play, and on the next, a team that should be in the running for Andrew Luck.
Yes, it is that big of a disparity at times, and it is starting to frustrate everyone on the team. During Sunday's 22-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Joe Flacco, threw a career-high 53 times and only handed the ball off to Pro-Bowl running back Ray Rice, a season low five times.
Rice, a Pro Bowler in 2009 is a multipurpose back in Baltimore's offense. His 13 total touches in Sunday’s game tied for a season low for him.
This week, Rice has been classy in not calling out his offensive coordinator, QB or head coach in saying,“I am never going to be the guy that talks about touches,” said Rice, who has averaged nine carries in the team’s three losses. “But obviously, we know going into a game, five carries is not going to cut it.”
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Rice said, "You look at it, and I know five carries is not going to do us any justice, but at the same time, we found ourselves so deep in the situation that we had to climb our way out,”. "We were looking for answers. Whether it was running or passing, we have to find our way out of a situation. I always spoke about not getting down in a situation like that, to where you have to be in a two-minute offense. I always said the two-minute offense is great, but when you have to take your fullback (Vonta Leach) off the field, who is a Pro Bowl fullback, and not lead him on people, that leads to trouble."
Ravens QB Joe Flacco, who is on pace to obliterate Vinny Testaverde's franchise record of 549 pass attempts during the 1996 season, was not loud with reporters on Wednesday, but was visibly upset with a few questions about the Ravens run/pass ratio during the Seahawks game. Flacco answered the questions, but in a frustrating tone, and was condescending at times.
The fourth year QB is on pace to throw almost 650 times this season, and has already attempted 64 more passes through nine games this season than last season.
The flip side is Ray Rice, who has 9.3 rushing attempts in the team's three losses this season. Rice has carried the ball 28 times for 98 yards in loses to the Titans, Jaguars, and Seahawks. What makes matters worse is that during the loss to the Jags and Hawks, Maurice Jones Drew and Marshawn Lynch each rushed for over 100 yards, as both teams flipped the script on the Ravens, both backs needed an average of 31 carries to reach to century mark, while Rice combined to carry the rock 13 times in both.
Even Ray Lewis chimed in with his thoughts, “We know who our bell cow is on offense,” Lewis said to reporters after practice on Wednesday. “If that talent right there isn't touching the ball … 25, 30 times, then you have to question yourself, 'What are we actually doing balance-wise?' Jamal Lewis was that type of player back in the day. Ray Rice is definitely one of those talents that has to get an offense going. So, I just think our offensive guys will definitely do a better job getting the ball in his hands."
Sundays game vs Cincinnati is once again huge for the Ravens. The Bengals have proved to be a formidable foe over the years, Running back Cedric Benson has broken the 100-yard barrier just twice this season, but he is only the second opponent to post 100-yard games in back-to-back meetings against the Ravens when he rushed for 120 yards on Oct. 11, 2009 and 117 yards on Nov. 8, 2009.
The Ravens are 14-4 after a loss under coach John Harbaugh. Baltimore has won 11 straight games after a loss, which is the longest current active streak in the NFL. After struggling offensively in their previous two losses this season, the Ravens are averaging almost 34 points the following week.
The Ravens will have their work cut out for them, as the Bengals rank second in the league against the run and 10th against the pass. So getting Rice on track may be a tough chore this week.