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People are going to look at Joe Flacco’s statistics, 158 yards and no touchdowns, and just assume that it was a lackluster performance. Flacco certainly didn’t blow anyone away by taking over the game and throwing multiple touchdowns and a bunch of yardage, but anyone who has watched the Ravens and understands how they win has to be pleased with his performance.
That’s because Flacco played within the Ravens’ game plan for this game. It was very clear that the Ravens wanted to run the ball and grind out the game. That game plan makes sense because it burns the clock, limits the risk of injuries and almost assures a victory if the Browns cannot stop the running game.
It’s a game plan that Ravens fans have seen for years, and it’s still one of the best ways to cash in wins for the Ravens. It’s also a game plan that they’ve gotten away from time-to-time under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and that’s okay… The team needs to feel itself out in the regular season.
In order for the Ravens offense to be successful against the different types of defenses that they will face, they need to be able to be versatile. That’s why—despite the criticism that Cameron has faced so often—the experimentation can actually be a good thing. It certainly has helped the Ravens find their strengths and weaknesses this season.
After seeing the offensive experiment up to this point, there’s no question that the Ravens have struggled most when they’ve strayed too far from the running game. Now, that’s not to say that Flacco isn’t capable of running a passing offense, because Flacco is certainly capable of making every throw an offensive coordinator would need.
The problem with throwing too much is that they currently do not have the receivers around Flacco to make that offense work. Wide receiver Torrey Smith is an up-and-coming talent, but outside of him, the Ravens are still a team full of possession receivers and tight ends. This is a problem that the Ravens have had for a long, long time.
That being said, the Ravens will obviously need to throw the ball more than they did today against most good teams, but they will still be much better off if the bulk of their offense is centered on the running game rather than Flacco’s arm or—maybe more accuately—the receivers’ hands.
The bottom line is that Flacco has shown that he will make plays when the Ravens need them if they can have some measure of success in the running game. He did it against Pittsburgh twice, San Francisco and today versus Cleveland. We can ignore the statistics in those games for the most part because the most important thing for Flacco is that he makes conversions and threatens the opposing defense in critical situations.
If he can continue to do that, his overall statistics won’t really matter, and the Ravens will be a very dangerous team in December and January.