OWINGS MILLS – It’s been a rocky start for the Baltimore Ravens’ revamped offense, a myriad of errors defined by costly turnovers, uneven pass protection and a lack of production despite a series of splashy moves intended to upgrade the roster.
No one is off to a rougher start than quarterback Joe Flacco, who’s been uncharacteristically erratic after two encouraging NFL seasons.
Flacco appears to be regressing in his mechanics, ball security and decision-making despite the additions of accomplished wide receivers Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and the team retaining Derrick Mason.
Flacco threw a career-high four interceptions during a 15-10 road loss Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals.
In two games, Flacco has completed only 48.1 percent of his throws for 402 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions and a lost fumble for a 41.2 passer rating.
He’s the last-ranked starting quarterback in the NFL in terms of passer rating, right behind the Carolina Panthers’ Matt Moore, and leads the league in interceptions.
Despite his struggles, Ravens coach John Harbaugh is convinced that Flacco will ultimately snap out of this slump.
“Hey, four interceptions is too much,” Harbaugh said Monday. “It’s not just the quarterback. I’m not ducking the fact. Joe will be the first to tell you he wants to play better. So, I’m not going to stand up here and single one guy out.
“Joe will be the first guy to single himself out. It’s a long season. He’s going to play a lot better. I guarantee you that.”
Flacco has been under duress with the offensive line allowing three sacks.
He has thrown off his back foot, held the football too long and thrown into heavy coverage.
Despite his issues, the Ravens aren’t inclined to go to $3.8 million backup Marc Bulger. The two-time Pro Bowl selection was acquired this summer as an insurance policy in case Flacco got hurt, not in case he faltered.
Harbaugh wouldn’t say whether the team contemplated inserting Bulger against the Bengals.
“I wouldn’t probably share that with you if there was,” Harbaugh said. “That’s just something that’s kind of what we talk about in-house. You always want to put your team in the best position to win a football game on a given day.”
In a 10-9 win over the New York Jets to open the season, Flacco was intercepted once and lost a fumble.
“You just move on, you have to take it game by game,” Flacco said after the loss to Cincinnati. “I don’t think anyone feels good about it. We just have to make sure we bounce back and get ready to go. I think everyone will.
“Everything about it is tough. We didn’t do enough on the offensive side of the ball to win the game, and we know that. We have to get better.”
The Ravens’ offense is ranked 24th in the league.
And the team ranks last in the NFL in turnover margin with a minus-six ratio on five interceptions and two lost fumbles.
Harbaugh said he expects Flacco to react well to the setback in Cincinnati.
“He’s always bounced back,” Harbaugh said. “He bounced back from a tough first half and led us on that drive to start the second half. He’s always done it in the past.
“That’s the type of person he is. He’s a competitive guy, he’s a talented guy. He’s starting his third year. You look at the history. There’s going to be ups and downs."
Despite upgrading the receiving corps during the offseason, the Ravens have only scored 20 points with two touchdowns in two games.
The lone team to rank behind the Ravens in scoring in the AFC are the Buffalo Bills, who have scored 17 points.
Harbaugh expressed confidence that the offense is going to live up to expectations.
“It’s going to materialize,” Harbaugh said. “It’s going to be a winning season. There’s no doubt about that. We’ve got good players. We’ve got a good, physical offensive line. We’ve got a great scheme.
“You’ve going to have ups and downs because it’s competitive. You’re going against different defenses. They come up with different ideas.”
Against the Bengals, the Ravens had trouble stopping their pass rush and creating separation downfield with their receivers.
“This game was a tough game for us,” Harbaugh said. “We did not play as well on that side of the ball as we expect to.”
Although there are obvious issues on offense while the defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown in two games with eight field goals surrendered, Harbaugh is certain that the right personnel is on the roster to succeed.
“Nobody’s got a better perspective on it than us, in house," Harbaugh said. "We’re not one bit concerned about our talent level at any position. We know we can win with the guys we’ve got, and that’s what we intend to do."
The Ravens are one game behind the unbeaten Steelers in the AFC North.
They had an opportunity to jump out to a 2-0 start.
Now, they’re heading into a key game against the Cleveland Browns in their home opener Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.