Throws that were wild and off-target. Runs stopped not very far from the line of scrimmage. Blocking that appeared non-existent.
Not much seemed to change between the game plan called by former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and the one crafted by his successor, Jim Caldwell for Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos. The same offense that scored 29 points in back-to-back wins against the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers and fizzled in the fourth quarters of successive losses to the Steelers and Washington Redskins re-appeared in Sunday's 34-17 loss to the Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium.
But nearly every player on the offensive side of the ball deflected any conjecture about Caldwell's effectiveness in his first game as the Ravens offensive coordinator.
"It ain't really about the play calling," Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin said . "It's about the players on the field. Whatever's called, you have to go out there and execute it."
Said Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta: "I felt like Jim called a great game.We just, as players, didn't execute as cleanly as we would have liked, and there's a lot of plays out there we would like to have back – myself included."
When coach John Harbaugh made the bold move of firing Cameron after last week's 31-28 overtime loss to Washington and promoted Caldwell from quarterbacks coach, several observers pointed out Caldwell had never handled that responsibility on the NFL level.
Harbaugh insisted that he was not prepared to assess Caldwell's debut as the offensive coordinator, saying he would leave that task to the pundits.
"Everybody fought like crazy and did their best," Harbaugh said. "We've got a lot of capable people. So it's not about that, it's not going to be about that. You guys can do all that [analyzing]. What we're going to do is, we're going to work on achieving our dream, achieving our first goal. That's what we've been doing, and that's what we have to do. We aren't going to get bogged down with that stuff."
Against Denver, the Ravens ran some bunch formations and more stretch plays — plays that were a familiar part of the playbook with the Indianapolis Colts, who were guided by Caldwell between 2008 and 2011.
But running back Ray Rice said the differences between Caldwell's game plan and Cameron's were minimal.
"The plays were the same," Rice said. "The playbook was the same. Same play calls. We just didn't execute."
The Ravens first five possessions ended in three-and-outs, mustering just 24 yards.
In fact, the offense didn't record a first down until there was 7 minutes, 38 seconds left in the second quarter when running back Bernard Pierce gained 14 yards with a run off left tackle on second down-and-6 from the Ravens' 31-yard line. Even then, the unit lost 7 yards on its next set of downs, aided by a holding penalty on center Matt Birk.
The offense's struggles were punctuated by Joe Flacco's ill-timed decision to try to hit Boldin on an out pattern from the Broncos' 4 that cornerback Chris Harris intercepted and returned 98 yards for a touchdown and a 17-0 deficit.
Flacco took the blame for the gaffe.
"As much as we weren't playing very well in the first half, we still had that opportunity at the end of it to go down there, put points on the board and really put a touchdown on the board and then get the ball coming out of the half," Flacco said. "That could have changed the game. It was a 14-point swing, and that really hurt us."
The pain of Sunday's loss will sting for a few days. It will be up to Caldwell and the offense to get the Ravens back on track next week against the New York Giants.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun