OWINGS MILLS – During the final minutes of the Baltimore Ravens’ embarrassing, nightmarish loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, quarterback Joe Flacco kept looking toward the sidelines awaiting the play call from embattled offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
The delay caused by Cameron relaying signals to Flacco instead of the quarterback calling his own plays ate up precious time.
And Flacco acknowledged that the Ravens could accelerate the pace of their two-minute offense by him simply calling the plays at the line rather than having everything run through Cameron from the sideline.
“I guess there’s probably truth to that,” Flacco said. “It’s just how quickly can I think on my feet and get the play out there. Yeah, there’s probably truth to that, it’s just a matter of how we want to do it.”
Even though Flacco supposedly has the green light to call audibles or offer suggestions for the game plan, it doesn’t seem like he has actually been granted significantly more responsibility over the direction of the offense in his fourth NFL season.
Cameron indicated that Flacco has the authority to change plays or influence the game plan, but he also suggested that the Ravens are still working toward that goal.
There still seems to be something of a disconnect, though, between the stated goals and what actually goes on with the offense.
“I think that’s something you always want to work for,” Cameron said. “Joe and I have talked about that. He knows this and understands this. He can call any play that he feels he needs to. He can suggest one at any time. He’s made several suggestions this year.
“He knows when he suggests one, I call it. I just believe in that. I come from that kind of environment where the quarterback gets involved in the play-calling. He’s had a significant amount of input, and I’d love for him to do that."
The Ravens’ futility Monday night in a 12-7 upset loss was glaring: zero first downs for nearly the first 40 minutes of the game, 16 net yards by halftime for a new franchise-worst in a half and absolutely no scoring until there were two minutes remaining.
As the team moves on from that disaster, Cameron said he’s encouraging Flacco to take on a greater role in shaping the offense.
“You always tell him, ‘Hey, you got it,’ " Cameron said. “The next thing you know, they need help. Sometimes what I’ve done with guys in the past, they look over, and sometimes they need a play. I said ‘Don’t be afraid. Don’t let your pride get in the way if you need an idea. You need a call, all you got to do is press a button and you can talk to the guy instantly.’ It’s something that obviously can work.”
Little worked in Jacksonville, though.
Flacco was overwhelmed by the Jaguars’ suffocating, relentless defense. He was sacked three times, completing only 21 of 38 passes for 137 yards, one touchdown and an interception for a 61.0 passer rating.
And Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice rushed for a season-low 28 yards on eight carries, spending several minutes on the bench following a lost fumble even though he and the coaches insist he wasn’t benched after his turnover.
That lack of involvement prompted star outside linebacker Terrell Suggs to say he was baffled by the game plan not utilizing Rice more. And Cameron said he agreed with that assessment.
“Bottom line is everything that has been said, there is some truth to it, there really is,” Cameron said. “And I think we acknowledge that.”
Plus, the wide receivers gained precious little separation as the Jaguars’ press coverage, especially cornerback Rashean Mathis, clamped down on Flacco’s downfield targets.
It was a perfect storm of failure against a fired-up defense.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday that the press coverage was an effective strategy against the passing game.
However, Cameron insisted that the receivers were open. If that’s the case, then the pass protection was shoddy.
“If you look at the tape, there is separation,” Cameron said. “It’s a matter of us finding them. It’s a matter of us having the time to find them. We’ve got guys open. There’s times we had a guy open and didn’t have time.
“We got people behind their secondary and didn’t have time to get it to him. Maybe one time they didn’t see the guy, but there was enough separation there to throw the football.”
Out of the Ravens’ 53 offensive plays in Jacksonville, they attempted to throw on 41 of them.
They only ran the football 12 times for 34 yards, abandoning the ground game as it yielded only 2.8 yards per carry.
Cameron expressed optimism at the Ravens’ prospects of executing a turnaround.
Something needs to change.
While the Ravens rank first in total defense, the offense has now dropped to 20th in the league with a 330.3 average. They’re 19th in passing offense, 17th in rushing offense and 24th in third-down conversions, a 32.9 percent success rate.
“Offensively, we’ve got to go to work,” Cameron said. “I’m not wavering. We’ve just got to play better and execute better. Ray Rice has said it a number of times. When we take the fundamentals of this offense and execute it, it looks the way we want it to look.
“It looks aggressive. It looks like we know what we’re doing. When we go out and don’t execute, it looks like we weren’t prepared for the game. We were prepared for this game, obviously not well enough.”
Harbaugh has taken on an increased role with the offense this season, but little has changed in terms of the results.
“John has great perspective for me,” Cameron said. “John knows our special teams, he knows our defense, and he knows our offense. He knows all three phases inside and out. It’s a tremendous help.”
This setback raises questions about whether the offense is ever going to be consistently successful with this group of coaches and players.
Since last season, the Ravens fired quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn and offensive line coach John Matsko, cut tight end Todd Heap and wide receiver Derrick Mason and added fullback Vonta Leach, wide receivers Torrey Smith and Lee Evans, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie and center-guard Andre Gurode.
Despite the personnel changes and retaining Cameron after his status was debated internally by the organization, the offense isn’t much better.
Now, they’ve reached another crossroads after six games.
“If you can’t find a way to get better and move on, then you give yourself no chance to get it corrected,” Cameron said. “That’s what we have done. We have to get better. I have a ton of confidence in the guys in our room, the coaches and players.
“We have the kind of guys to make sure that we are going to do everything to see that that doesn’t happen again. This building is a special place. We’re all in this together.”