A win is never a bad thing in the NFL. They can be hard to come by for some teams, but the Baltimore Ravens have become accustomed to winning football games. This week against the Cleveland Browns was no different. This trend will not continue in the playoffs though, if their passing offense can't improve.
In their 20-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens showed signs of being a dominant team. In the first half, they ran the ball at will and passed the ball efficiently. If the Ravens could play at that level all the time, they would be the best team in the league.
After getting thoroughly embarrassed in the first half, the Browns took complete control in the second half. They did this through no merit of their own, however, as the Ravens' offense completely stalled. Ultimately, the Browns did too little, too late, but they still managed to dominate the second half.
The majority of the blame lies on the Ravens' passing game. Joe Flacco started the game eight of 12 passing, and after one half, he looked like he was on the verge of one of the best games of his career. After an abysmal second half, Flacco finished only 11 of 24 for 132 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.
Flacco does not deserve a majority of the blame, though. His receivers and his offensive line completely let him down. The Ravens first two drives of the second half ended with Ed Dickson drops. Both drops were perfect throws down the field from Flacco.
Drops aside, the Ravens receivers failed to get open. On one play, Joe Flacco scanned the entire field before having to settle for a dump-off pass to Ricky Williams. On another, Lee Evans had a defensive back on his heels in single coverage, only to run a poor route and allow the defender to make a play on the ball. Very rarely does Flacco's first read get open.
How much impact did the loss of Boldin have on the Raven's passing game?
This leads to Flacco being forced to hold on to the ball too long, and the offensive line is simply not good enough to block that long. Surprisingly, Flacco only got sacked once, but he was pressured often and forced to throw the ball before anyone was open.
To be fair, many fans and analysts blame the Ravens offensive issues on coordinator Cam Cameron. In this game, the Ravens had a good mixture of run and pass, but their passing offense was bland and predictable. The main problem, though, was still a lack of execution on the field.
The loss of Anquan Boldin was certainly felt, and his return in the playoffs should help. Even with Boldin, though, the Ravens struggled to pass the football recently.
The Ravens simply cannot hope to win the division next week against the Bengals if they cannot pass the ball effectively. Even the return of Boldin will not be enough in the playoffs if the rest of the Ravens players don't play at a higher level. The Ravens can go as far as Joe Flacco and the passing game can take them.