Ravens need to know when to say when with the passing game

Every now and then, the Ravens should turn the game over to Ray Rice

Joe Flacco

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is sacked for the second time against the Houston Texans on Sunday. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun / October 21, 2012)

As the Ravens' coaching staff huddles during the bye week to determine new strategies, hopefully they will come up with a time to unplug quarterback Joe Flacco and the passing offense.

No, this is not to suggest replacing Flacco with backup Tyrod Taylor. It's more about setting parameters on the passing game.

Flacco is like any other quarterback in the NFL. He has good days and bad days. But Flacco is no Tom Brady or Drew Brees. Even on some of their worse days, they are still good enough to beat a team.

When Flacco is off, he is off. Way off. He'll kill a team.

It was evident in the Ravens 24-23 loss to Philadelphia in Week 2, and clearly on display in the Ravens' humbling, 43-13, loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday.

Flacco completed only 21 of 43 passes for 147 yards against the Texans, and threw two interceptions, one returned for a 52-yard touchdown. He finished with a quarterback rating of 45.4.

In the first half, Flacco was 7 of 20 for 52 yards and had a quarterback rating of 4.2. Somewhere in this game, long before it got out of hand, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron should have put some constraints on the passing offense.

But that will never happen. Cameron has visions of Flacco becoming another Peyton Manning dancing in his wee little head. That leaves only head coach John Harbaugh, and he hasn't done it yet.

Now, this could be the time to lay down the law. It's the bye week.

"It's always good to kind of go back and kind of see where you're at at this point in the season," Flacco said.

Here's where we're at: At home this season, Flacco has completed 94 of 140 passes for 1,271 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. On the road, he is 56 for 112 for 566 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.

Something has to be modified because The Show at home isn't the same on the road.

There are several reasons, but the top one is that teams that have speed rushers on the outside and can play the Ravens in man coverage for an entire game (see Kansas City, Philadelphia and Houston) will give the Ravens problems.

And since that is the key, and if Flacco is struggling early, why not turn off the passing juice?

It was great to see the Ravens open the season running the no-huddle. It works at times, especially at home. But now after seven games, one game short of the midseason mark, the Ravens have to make adjustments.

There is a time to throw the ball and a time not to throw it, and the Ravens have to set those parameters.

There are some around town who believe that if the Ravens had kept handing the ball off to Ray Rice, the Ravens would have beat Houston.

They probably would have lost by 20 points, not 30. On Sunday, Houston was just a better team in every phase of the game.

But on the Ravens first series of that game, an eight-play 45-yard drive which ended in a 51-yard field goal, Rice carried the ball three times for 27 yards.

He didn't carry the ball again until there were 22 seconds left in the quarter. By then, the Ravens were already down 9-3. The Ravens eventually abandoned the running game before they had to.

Rice finished with nine carries for 42 yards, and it made no sense for the best offensive player on the team to rarely touch the ball.

Even more ludicrous was that the Ravens kept throwing while having a bad day. You could see the fear in Flacco's eyes from getting hit. You could see the nervousness in his feet when he dropped back.

He looked the same way last year in the postseason against Houston.

But it's just not the inconsistency of Flacco which should force the Ravens to pull the plug at times, but the play of the defense as well.

The Ravens can't stop anybody. Teams are running and passing against the Ravens while compiling record numbers, and the defense can't get off the field. In the past two games, the opposition has had the ball nearly 37 minutes more than the Ravens.

If the Ravens defense can't slow them down, maybe a run-dominated offense can. Right now, that has to be an option.

It's the bye week. Just about everything should be on the table for discussion. The Ravens are 5-2, and the goal is to get better every game. That hasn't happened.

To achieve that, they had to know when to slow the game down. If not, the Ravens will only go as far as Flacco's arm will take them.

That might not be far enough, especially without Rice.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

 
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