Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers provided little to write home about offensively for the Ravens.
While Baltimore put together a perfectly executed drive to tie the game with just two minutes to go, unfortunately, that was their only touchdown drive. Outside of said drive, which ended with a Dallas Clark touchdown reception, missed opportunities were a theme for the Ravens.
But there are still successful plays to build on.
Here are some key offensive plays that helped decide the game – two positive and one negative.
Q2, 1st and 10, 6:57 remaining
Run blocking: still a problem. Sunday’s game was one of the offensive line’s better blocking games this season, but it still wasn’t good enough.
Running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce were constantly swallowed up for little-to-no gain on most run plays; however, there were some long run plays that the offense can, hopefully, build on.
On first down midway through the second, the Ravens had one of their longest run plays of the season.
Lined up in the shotgun, Baltimore has tight end Ed Dickson on the strong side.
The run play is designed to the right, and each offensive lineman finds a man to block on this play.
Rice has two holes to choose from as his running lanes open.
Unlike he has on many plays this season, Rice correctly diagnoses the blocking scheme and attacks the right opening
Rice finishes the play by hitting safety Ryan Clark with a quick cutback, and he gains 13 yards.
There haven’t been many occasions this season in which both the offensive line and the running back perfectly executed the play. But if the Ravens can execute these types of run plays on the outside, the struggling interior run game will improve as well.
Q3, 3rd and 12, 11:14 remaining
Here is an example of where a missed opportunity hurt the Ravens dearly.
The Ravens are facing a 3rd and long in Steelers territory, and the play call couldn’t have been better.
With quarterback Joe Flacco lined up in the shotgun, the Ravens have three receivers on the left side, and Jacoby Jones is the go-to man.
The Ravens give Flacco more than enough room in the pocket, and as Jones breaks down field, Flacco continues to have ample operating space.
There’s only one problem. With Jones about to become wide open on his way to the end zone, Flacco is taking an unnecessarily deep drop despite the clean pocket.
By the time Flacco throws the ball, he is on his own 45-yard line, 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage despite the fact the offensive line gave him enough space to stand closer to the line.
As a result, instead of hitting Jones in stride, Flacco underthrows him, giving Steelers cornerback William Gay time to catch up and break up the pass.
Sure Flacco has the arm strength to make the throw, but the fact that he was deeper than he needed to be didn’t help his cause.
A clean pocket on an obvious passing play is a rare occurrence for Flacco this season, and he can’t afford to have a mental mishap again on critical plays.
Q4, 3rd an 1, 2:01 remaining
There is one overwhelming key to this play that the Ravens must continue to use on many occasions in future games this season.
Facing a third down on the goal line, the Ravens were down to their second-to-last chance to score a touchdown and tie the game.
The Ravens line up with a heavy formation on the left side of the line that includes linemen Ricky Wagner and A.Q. Shipley.
Flacco is lined up under center, which wasn’t a common theme on Sunday.
Off the snap, the Ravens direct the play toward the left, and with two extra linemen, logic would make the Steelers believe it is a run play to that side.
Instead, the Ravens run play action, and fullback Vonta Leach and tight end Dallas Clark find open space on the right side.
Flacco has two options, and he goes with the easier choice, Clark, resulting in an easy touchdown.
Play action has not been as common or effective in the Baltimore offense this season (this has a lot to do with the running game’s lack of success), but plays like this one can work wonders for the Ravens. The Ravens have been using heavy packages that include Wagner often in recent weeks, and when those packages are used, perhaps a play action pass or two each game could get the Baltimore offense rolling.
Sunday’s game was another sub par performance by the Ravens offense, but the opportunities were there. Through man blocking, play action and better execution, hopefully the offense will be much improved following the bye week.