The Green Bay Packers did a commendable job of containing the Ravens' most dangerous offensive weapon: wide receiver Torrey Smith.
During the Ravens' 19-17 loss Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, Smith was limited to a season-low one reception for 12 yards despite being targeted four times by quarterback Joe Flacco.
The Packers primarily matched up cornerback Sam Shields on Smith, who has 28 receptions for 563 yards and one touchdown this season. They also deployed safeties Morgan Burnett and M.D. Jennings to account for Smith, who had six catches for 121 yards last week against the Miami Dolphins and five catches for 166 yards two games ago against the Buffalo Bills.
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“We called some plays in the first half looking for them to kind of rotate the single high and drop a guy down and they do," Flacco said. "They kept their safeties wide. They stayed in cloud coverage. If anything, they might have done that a couple more times than we anticipated."
The Ravens fell behind 16-3 before Flacco did most of his damage in the fourth quarter, when he connected for touchdown passes to wide receiver Jacoby Jones and tight end Dallas Clark.
As the season progresses, the challenge for the Ravens will be to find creative ways to keep Smith involved even when defenses are determined to negate his impact.
The Ravens converted only 2 of 14 third downs as the running game was ineffective, held to 47 rushing yards on 22 carries. That meant plenty of third-and-long situations for the Ravens to deal with.
"It's tough when you don't have any success on first and second down, and you're putting yourself in third-down situations and the only way you score touchdowns or kick a field goal is you convert four third downs to get there and you get 12 yards at a time," Flacco said. "Twelve yards, 12 yards, 12 yards. In order to sustain drives, you need to get first downs on first and second down, and you need to get a couple chunks in there, and we're not doing that. We're not getting one big chunk and then we're putting ourselves back in third-and-long situations and not getting it."
Are the Ravens being too predictable on early downs?
"I always feel like we can mix it up a little bit more on first and second down just to get everybody going," Flacco said. "It's tough to say when we're just not running the ball up to the ability that we think we should run it. If we were running the ball better, we wouldn't be saying it.
"We wouldn't be talking about it. We're just not getting the yardage and the creases. We're getting put in bad situations and kind of fighting an uphill battle every single drive. When you do that, everything slows down. You start making mistakes."