So far in 2013, the Ravens are missing a key element from their 2012 season: big passing plays down the field.
Last season, quarterback Joe Flacco had 1,100 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions on passes thrown beyond 20 yards. He threw 92 such passes, which accounted for 17.3 percent of his total throws. That frequency led all NFL quarterbacks and was a full percent more than Russell Wilson, who was second.
This season, Flacco is in the top six among NFL quarterbacks in frequency of deep balls thrown, but he has completed just two passes beyond 20 yards for 63 yards and no touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus.
He has had more success on passes thrown between 10 and 19 yards, completing nine of 16 for 147 yards and a touchdown. Flacco, who leads all NFL quarterbacks in attempts, has thrown 59 passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Still, it may not feel like it because the passes are failing harmlessly to the turf, but Flacco is actually attempting more deep passes per game than he did last season. But once again, that data is skewed because Flacco has thrown three games worth of passes in the season’s first two weeks.
The big plays have been lacking, though. Last year, the Ravens had 62 passing plays of 20 or more yards, which ranked fifth in the NFL. They had 41 completions of 25-plus yards. This season, they have eight completions of 20-plus yards, but six of them were caught within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage and the receiver added the rest of the yards after the catch.
Losing outside wide receiver Jacoby Jones midway through the season opener has definitely been a factor, as has been the injury to tight end Dennis Pitta. Jones was responsible for some of those catches down the field and Pitta attracted the attention of the safeties, creating one-on-one matchups on the outside. Trading away Anquan Boldin obviously hurts, too.
The Ravens did leave a couple of deep touchdowns on the field against the Cleveland Browns, though. Marlon Brown dropped a would-be touchdown and Torrey Smith bobbled a deep throw in the end zone before catching it out of bounds.
We shouldn’t draw too concrete of a conclusion based on two games against quality defenses. But it will be worth watching to see if their deep passing game can start clicking.