Browns game is perfect time for Ravens' offense to bounce back

Winning big at Cleveland will be chance for Baltimore to show it can put up points on the road

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Joe Flacco celebrates a touchdown run in September. The Ravens face the Browns again November 4. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun / September 27, 2012)

It's hard to tell what's causing more angst in this town, Hurricane Sandy or whether the Ravens will bounce back after that 43-13 beatdown they took from the Houston Texans before the bye week.

Here's the best thing the Ravens can do now: go to Cleveland and get this offense fixed Sunday against the Browns (2-6).

Get off to a good start instead of the usual sputter job we've seen in the first three road games, when Joe Flacco and his pals managed to score just 13 first-quarter points.

Put up 30 or 40 points on the afternoon and show that this offense can actually make big plays away from M&T Bank Stadium.

It's time — way past time, actually — for this unit to show it can carry the Ravens no matter where they play, especially with the defense looking so awful.

(Can the D really be ranked near the bottom of the league? Or is that some horrible cosmic joke? What a come-down from the glory days when Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs could send shivers through the other team even before they came out of the tunnel on game days.)

But let's get back to the offense. Want to know why it's looked so awful on the road?

Join the crowd. Because the truth is, the Ravens themselves have no idea. If they did, they would have fixed it weeks ago.

Oh, they give you all this coach-speak about not executing, not using proper technique and blah, blah, blah.

But at the heart of the matter is WHY aren't they doing those things on the road? And what can they do to turn things around? And that remains a mystery to both the players and coaches.

"I don't know, but I've been getting asked that by everyone in grocery stores and everywhere," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "I don't know. You're putting all the same players on the field, you've just got to execute and for whatever reason, on the road we haven't done as well."

The Ravens coaches have had a week to study the tape of that horror show at Reliant Stadium, and we'll see what kind of fixes they come up with against the Browns.

Two weeks ago, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron told me crowd noise remains the single biggest challenge to a road team in the NFL. And he said it was definitely a factor in the Ravens' 1-2 record in away games.

OK, fine. It's noisy in the other team's stadium. We get that. Now find a way to deal with it.

The Ravens blast crowd noise and ear-shattering music during practice at the Castle to simulate road-game conditions. (You haven't lived until you've heard "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire played at a decibel level that can be heard in Wyoming.)

But maybe, instead of worrying about noise as they get ready for the Browns, the Ravens should worry more about the offensive line, which could land Flacco in the hospital if this keeps up.

I've heard people say the Ravens' quarterback looked scared from some of the hits he took in the Texans game.

But Flacco didn't look scared — at least to my mind. No, what Flacco looked was confused. He didn't have a good game by any means, but the pressure was coming from everywhere. And when he wasn't getting pounded by the Texans' linebackers, he was getting his passes swatted down by defensive end J.J. Watt, who has the wing span of a condor.

That probably won't happen against the Browns, who somehow managed to hold on for a 7-6 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday in a game that put all of northern Ohio to sleep.

But Flacco has been sacked four times in three of the past four games. That's not exactly healthy for a quarterback. If the Ravens can't get guard Bobbie Williams to play better and the line to protect better as a unit, Flacco and the offense could bomb again in Cleveland.

 
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