By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun
11:42 AM EST, November 8, 2012
Errant passes. Missed opportunities. Sacks. Third-down failure.
It was the story of the Ravens' offense for a large stretch of a 25-15 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Although the Ravens finished the game with 282 yards of total offense and 18 first downs, there was a lengthy drought between the middle of the second quarter and the middle of the fourth quarter where the AFC North leaders didn't generate a first down.
The Ravens went 5-for-14 on third downs, converting only 36 percent of those shots.
And Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is cognizant of the need to improve in this area.
"This past game, we just have to give ourselves better situations," Flacco said. "Obviously, we would have liked to convert a couple of those. When you leave yourselves at third-and-long and those guys have a lot of momentum, they are feeling good about themselves, the crowd is into it, and it becomes tough to convert. That’s kind of what happened this game. We definitely need to do things more precise and be better at first and second down to limit those circumstances."
The Ravens didn't have a first down for six consecutive drives as the running game got stuffed after a fast start with touchdown runs in the first quarter by Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.
"You have to look at what we weren’t doing well on those drives," Flacco said. "I think the big part of it is we have to be better on first and second downs, give ourselves a better shot on third. Even if that’s not the case, we probably could have converted a couple of those or one of them or whatever it may have been. In the NFL, things can switch pretty quickly, because you have two good teams. People adjust and get tired of getting touchdowns scored on them. They try to make it more difficult for you, but we could have been better in the middle part of that game, and we just weren’t.
"Thankfully, we have the talent, and we were able to kind of manage some of the things that were going on in that game and push through it. I think that shows what kind of team we are and have been in a good amount of those games since I’ve been here. We’ve won some, and we’ve lost some. We were fortunate enough to win this one, and we just have to move on. We just have to look at what we can do better and on those drives it would probably be on first and second downs.”
The Ravens (6-2) rank 19th in total offense (346 yards per game), 16th in rushing offense (108.3 yards per game) and 15th in passing offense (237.8).
They're 11th in scoring, averaging 24.9 points per game. However, they're 22nd in third-down percentage with a 35.4 success rate.
"I think we started off pretty good, been a little bit disappointed on where we have been headed more recently, but I think since we’ve been on the bye and have looked at some of those things," Flacco said. "I think we are trying to find ways to just get better and better each day and really improve on what we’ve done so far. I think we have a lot of talent here. I think the sky is the limit for us, but we have to talk about doing some of the things.
"Not only do we have to talk about doing some things to look better, we actually have to go out there and do them. Going out there on a consistency basis and doing those things are what we are looking to do here on out.”
That includes Flacco improving his accuracy in all situations.
He has completed 165 of 276 passes, 59.8 percent, for 1,990 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions for an 85.0 quarterback rating.
"Oh yeah, we talk about being closer to 70 percent," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That's where we want to be. We don't want to be around 60 percent. We're capable of being better than that. That's kind of what we're talking about in the second half of the season that has to improve."