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Five stats that stand out as the Ravens prepare to face the Steelers

Each Wednesday, blogger Matt Vensel highlights five stats that really mean something for the Ravens.

nine -- running plays in Sunday’s loss when a Ravens running back was hit before the line of scrimmage.

In Sunday’s 19-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Ravens once again created little running room for their running backs, a troubling trend that could prompt the coaching staff to make schematic changes. The Ravens rushed for just 47 yards on 22 carries Sunday and they are now tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars for dead last in the NFL at 2.7 yards per rush attempt. You can probably spread the blame around, but one stat from ESPN Stats and Info should absolve the running backs of some of it. Against the Packers, the running backs were hit in the backfield on nine of their 21 designed runs, according to ESPN Stats and Info, who says the Ravens backs hadn’t been hit in the backfield since the 2010 season.

4.55 – Ravens’ average yards gained on first-down plays.

The Ravens converted just two of their third-down opportunities against the Packers, continuing their trend of third-down struggles. But the play that has been hampering them is not third down, but first down. According to my colleague Jeff Zrebiec, the Ravens have gained less than four yards on 114 of their 177 first-down plays this season, which is 64.4 percent of them. The Ravens are gaining an average of 4.55 yards on first down, better than only three teams. Those minimal and negative gains on first down -- and second down, too -- have put them in a lot of third-and-long situations, making it tough for quarterback Joe Flacco and company to move the chains.

134.6 -- Flacco’s QB rating between the numbers Sunday.

Flacco had his best statistical game of the season Sunday, completing 20 of his 34 attempts for 342 yards and two touchdowns, though much of that damage was done in the game’s final 20 minutes. One nice development Sunday was Flacco’s efficiency throwing between the numbers, the area of the field where the losses of Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta have left a big void. Tandon Doss and Dallas Clark, who had four catches apiece, made plays for him over the middle against the Packers. According to Pro Football Focus, Flacco completed 17 of his 21 attempts between the numbers for 321 yards and a touchdown. He had a 134.6 passer rating on those throws.

52 -- Baltimore’s average total yards in the first quarter.

The Ravens have been slow starters on offense, scoring just one touchdown in the first quarter of a game this season and that was in the season-opening loss to the Denver Broncos. Of their 17 first-quarter drives, the Ravens have gone three-and-out on nine of them, according to Zrebiec. Over their last four games, they have started 12 drives in the first quarter and their only score was a field goal against the Miami Dolphins. The Ravens are averaging just 52 yards of total offense in the first quarter.

three -- straight Ravens regular-season wins in Pittsburgh.

Remember when Heinz Field was a house of horrors for Flacco and the Ravens? They have won their last three regular-season games in Steelers territory. Each win was by a three-point margin, including last year when a punt return touchdown by Jacoby Jones propelled them to a 13-10 win. Of course, that does not include their loss in the divisional round in the 2010 playoffs, which was a biggie. Still, the Ravens have fared well at Heinz Field the past three years, helping them improve to 5-5 against the Steelers in the regular season with Flacco under center and John Harbaugh as head coach, with eight of those 10 games since 2008 being decided by three points.

Bloggers note: Have a nifty stat you want to share? E-mail me at matt.vensel@baltsun.com or tweet at me at @mattvensel. If I use it, I’ll be sure to give you a nice plug on the blog.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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