The Baltimore Ravens had their fair share of ups and downs on both offense and defense in 2013.
Having lost four games last season by three points or less, the Ravens have put a strong emphasis on improving the offense this offseason.
The Ravens ranked 16th in the league in time of possession (TOP), averaging 30:21 on offense each game.
This stat can be a tricky one and there is more to it than meets the eye, as the Ravens proved last season. Despite being in the middle of the pack in TOP, they were very near the bottom in most other offensive categories.
In addition, the Ravens won four games where their opponent had the ball for more time than they did (Lions, Steelers, Bengals,Texans).
Their biggest deficit in the time of possession battle was in Week 10 vs. the Bengals. Although the Ravens prevailed 20-17 in overtime, the Bengals clearly won the TOP, clocking 6:23 more than Baltimore.
On the other hand, staying true to the cliche of “if you don’t have the ball on offense it’s hard to score,” the Ravens won four games in 2013 where their TOP (Miami, Jets, Vikings, Browns) was greater than their opponent’s.
Their best time of possession output in a victory came against the Miami Dolphins when they held the ball for more than 12 minutes more than a struggling Dolphins team.
In two games last season, Baltimore lost with more time of possession. The first such loss came in their Week 1 blowout loss to the Broncos, where the Ravens had the ball an astounding 7:36 longer than Denver, which is an attribute to the quick-strike Peyton Manning-led offense.
The second one was in rainy, sloppy Chicago, where the Ravens lost despite having the TOP advantage by 5:03.
The other six games the Ravens lost in 2013 (Bengals, Patriots, Browns, Steelers, Packers, Bills) the time of possession heavily favored their opponents. Their worst loss in the time of possession game came in Week 4 against the Buffalo Bills. TOP that game? Bills 36:26, Ravens 23:34.
The Bills run offense trashed a Ravens run defense that gave up 203 rushing yards, while Buffalo’s defense was on the receiving end of Joe Flacco’s five interceptions. Yet somehow, someway, the Ravens had a chance in the end, losing by a thin three-point margin, 23-20.
When it comes to TOP, while 16th in the league certainly isn’t cellar-dwelling, it absolutely leaves room for improvement in 2014.
While some fans will say time of possession doesn’t matter if you have a high-powered offense that can march down the field and score quickly, the Ravens have opted for more of a smash-mouth running game to open up the passing game over the years and will likely follow that same formula this season.
Enter first-year Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
During Kubiak’s eight-year tenure in Houston, the Texans TOP ranked outside the league’s top ten just three times (06′, 07′ 10′). More recently, the Texans have boasted the leagues best time of possession two years in a row (11′, 12′) before finishing fifth in 2013.
Along with Kubiak’s new schemes and the past success of newly-acquired free agents, the Ravens TOP should certainly increase this upcoming season, thus giving the Ravens a better chance in close games.
While it certainly falls on the players to produce and sustain drives, having Kubiak at the helm putting players in a position to excel, the Ravens just may find themselves sitting atop the TOP game.
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