Street Talk RAVENS NOTEBOOK: Team struggling to finish off opponents

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HOUSTON – The frustration is mounting, an extremely familiar feeling for the Baltimore Ravens’ offense.

The Ravens built a three-touchdown lead during their 34-28 overtime win over the Houston Texans, but scored no points offensively in the second half.

During the second half, the Ravens generated only 71 yards of total offense and were shut out on their last five possessions.

They only converted two third downs after intermission.

And their 253 yards of total offense represents a new season-low, six yards less than they produced during a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this year.

The Ravens lost a lead in the fourth quarter for the eighth time this season.

“Yeah, we got to put together a complete game on offense,” center Matt Birk said. “We’re certainly not where we want to be and we aren’t going to get to where we want to be unless we learn how to finish. Good teams find ways to win games and we certainly did that.

“Yes, a win’s a win. I don’t want to say it’s frustration, but offensively we’ve certainly not played up to what we’re capable of. There’s no magic answers or magic words. We’ll keep working hard. Players believe in each other and the coaches and the coaches believe in the players. We’ll get this thing right or die trying.”

Quarterback Joe Flacco was 15 of 22 in the first half, piling up 152 yards and two touchdowns.

Under heavy pressure, Flacco cooled off after halftime.

He finished 22 of 33 for 235 yards and was sacked five times.

“Believe me, when we get up like that, we don’t want the game to have to come down to the fourth quarter,” Flacco said. “We’d like to finish them off and play good football for 3 ½ quarters and let our offensive line win the game for us at the end.

“It just hasn’t  happened. We’ll work on that, but as long as we’re winning football game, we’re going to be happy. We’re a 9-4 football team right now and we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

Pro Bowl runner Ray Rice said the Ravens have to learn how to finish games.

“You know, it’s tough sledding,” he said. “When you got them beat like that, you want to put them away.  We have to finish.”

OFFENSIVE LINE DEPTH CHART CHANGES: The  Ravens are serious about their new offensive line configuration.

Oniel Cousins has been promoted to first-string on the depth chart at right offensive tackle.

Cousins started at right tackle with Marshal Yanda sliding over to his old right guard position. It was Cousins’ first start of the season.

Yanda is now listed as the starter at right guard with Tony Moll operating as the top backup at right guard and right tackle.

Chris Chester, who lined up as  a blocking tight end against the Houston Texans, is now listed as the top backup at left guard and center behind Ben Grubbs and Matt Birk.

Chester played tight end at the University of Oklahoma and in high school before moving to the offensive line late in his career with the Sooners.

It wasn’t a smooth transition as the Ravens allowed five sacks and averaged only 2.6 yards per rush.

However, Ravens coach John Harbaugh indicated that the team is going to stick with the move going forward.

“It puts a little more size on the field for us,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said during his weekly radio program Tuesday night. “If you put Oniel Cousins out there at tackle, Marshal out there at guard and Chris Chester out there at tight end, which he played in college, it just gives us a bigger, more physical front to move people around a little bit more.

“We want to be able to do that and have that as an option. We didn’t quite get the production that we wanted, but it was the first week, and I’m really hopeful that that will help us start knocking around a little bit more.

BROWN SIGNED BY BILLS: The Buffalo Bills have signed offensive guard Colin Brown off of the Ravens’ practice squad.

Brown is guaranteed to make at least three NFL game checks under rules governing players signed off another team’s practice squad.

Brown is a 6-foot-7, 335-pound Missouri product who entered the NFL as a fifth-round (139th overall) draft choice of Kansas City in 2009 and spent his rookie year on injured reserve.

He joined the Ravens’ practice squad after being released by the Chiefs prior to the regular season.

CALLING OFF THE DOGS: The Ravens backed off on blitzing in the second half, bringing much less pressure after building a 28-7 lead following rookie kickoff returner David Reed’s 103-yard touchdown return.

That allowed quarterback Matt Schaub to dissect the Ravens’ secondary.

Things got out of hand as he completed 24 of 41 passes for 242 yards in the second half as he wasn’t sacked in the second half after being sacked twice during the first half.

“We didn’t really want to pressure with a 28-7 lead too much in the second half with their receivers and give them a big play in a one-on-one cover situation,” Harbaugh said. “That’s just not something we thought was smart. Make them go the distance.”

BIG PUNT: If not for punter Sam Koch booming a 58-yard punt and reserve safety Haruki Nakamura’s clutch tackle on Jacoby Jones for a three-yard loss, the Ravens might not have won this game.

Beginning their possession at their nine-yard line, the Texans lost the game on Josh Wilson’s 12-yard interception return of a Schaub pass.

Schaub averaged 45 yards per punt.

"I think Sam’s punt was a huge part of the game," Harbaugh said. "I don’t know how far it was but it was a huge punt, and it made a difference in the coverage."

QUICK HITS: The Ravens snapped the Texans’ home winning streak late in the season. They were 10-0 at home in December and January, a string of wins that began following a loss to the Tennessee Titans in overtime four years. … The Texans are now 0-4 all-time against Baltimore.… Harbaugh lobbied for a  home Monday night game after playing their past five Monday night games on the road. Now, the Ravens have a short week of preparation heading into Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints. "We’ve been in [five] straight Monday night games on the road here in the last three years," Harbaugh said. "One of these days, we’re going to get one at home, hopefully." … Texans running back Arian Foster broke the franchise’s single-season rushing record and is up to 1,328 yards for the year, breaking Steve Slaton’s old mark of 1,208 yards.  He rushed for 100 yards on 20 carries.


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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson


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