For a second straight week, the Baltimore Ravens faced a balanced defense at home, and while the Ravens won both games, the offense failed to get going.
Against the Houston Texans on Sunday, the Baltimore offense coped with the loss of starting running back Ray Rice, a rare occurrence for the team.
Without Rice, the Ravens still managed to win 30-9; however, the offense only scored one touchdown in the blowout win.
Here are a few key offensive plays that decided the game.
Q3, 13:55 remaining, 3rd and 13
The first half provided little offensive action yet again for the Ravens, so we jump to the second half for some of the key plays.
One play that stood out was a 3rd and long that the Ravens faced on their first second-half drive. On the play, the Ravens decided to take their first shot downfield of the game.
The Ravens open up out of the shotgun in an 11 personnel with three receivers, facing a two-safety look from the Texans.
Exploiting the two Texans safeties, the Ravens sent all four receiving targets downfield, which opened up throwing lanes across the secondary. Running back Bernard Pierce came out of the backfield as a receiver as well.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith noticeably gains more separation than the three targets on the right side, and quarterback Joe Flacco feasts on the opportunity.
Flacco perfectly placed a ball down the left sideline with a Texans safety coming over to help in coverage.
This play is a prime example of how the Ravens don’t need great receivers outside of Smith to get him open. The mere threat of Marlon Brown, Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark on the right side made the Texans safety wary of the situation, opening up a chance for Smith in man coverage.
Q3, 12:49 remaining, 3rd and 7
While the first play profiled showed Smith’s deep threat capability, it was this play that showed how the Ravens can overcome their lack of offensive pieces for Flacco this season.
Facing a 3rd and 7, the Ravens come out in an 11 personnel, with Flacco in the shotgun and three wide receivers.
Smith is the wide receiver to the left of Bryant McKinnie.
The Ravens send each of the three other receiving targets Smith on deep routes, opening up plenty of space for Smith on a crossing route underneath.
Sending the other three receiving targets downfield opened up more than enough space for Smith, who broke one tackle after the catch and moved the Ravens inside the 10-yard line.
This isn’t the first time that the Ravens have incorporated crossing routes for Smith this season. The usage of this type of play was evident in last week’s game against the Cleveland Browns, and the method persisted against Houston.
With Smith’s speed, getting the ball in his hands and letting him do the work after the catch is a much easier and less risky method than sending him on go routes as the Ravens did in the past.
The Kansas City Chiefs use this simple concept to get the most out of wide receiver Donnie Avery’s speed, and it appears that the Ravens are doing the same thing with Smith.
Q3, 0:24 remaining, 1st and 10
Sunday’s game offered few signs of confidence regarding the Ravens’ ability to run block. Having Rice out certainly didn’t help, but even in last week’s game with Rice, the offensive line failed to get any push, which is part of the reason why the Ravens currently have one of the worst rush attacks in the NFL through three games.
One run play stood out in a positive way, however, late in the third quarter.
On first down, the Ravens came out in an I-formation, with one tight end (Ed Dickson) lined up on Michael Oher’s right side.
The run play is a standard power play to the right. Off the snap, Texans defensive end JJ Watt easily beats right guard Marshal Yanda, and has a clear path to Pierce in the backfield.
Pierce is able to bounce to the right and evade the oncoming Watt, with a running lane developing. The key here is the stellar blocking by the right side of the offensive line, and by fullback Vonta Leach, who led the way.
This is why Leach is the best in the business at what he does, and his seal on the edge gave Pierce ample running space to pick up 25 yards.