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Ravens mired in growing trend of slow starts offensively

Ravens have zero points, 54 yards of offense and one first down in past three games during the first quarter.

One of the most problematic trends for the Ravens has been their inability to get off to a fast start over the past three games.

During the opening quarter of their games against the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins, the Ravens have scored zero points on offense and have generated just one first down and 54 yards of total offense. The Ravens' lone touchdown scored in the first quarter during that span came on a blocked punt against the Jaguars.

The Ravens are ranked 10th in total offense and eighth in scoring. They've outscored opponents overall in the first quarter, 76-63.

"I think one of the biggest things about us is we should be ready for that part of the game," quarterback Joe Flacco said Tuesday. "We come up with plays that we're going to do and everybody knows what to expect and what to do. It's kind of tough to see that we've started out that way. Obviously, these last two games it's kind of carried over the course of the game.

"Obviously we have to get past some issues, but I think the biggest thing is not being crisp enough and clean. I think teams have done a good job of coming up and limiting the yards we've been getting. That's put us in a little bit of a hole. We've had some penalties that have backed us up."

The Ravens scored 28 points in the first quarter of a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 12. They scored 10 points in the first quarter No.v 30 against the San Diego Chargers.

“Each game has been different,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Every play and every series is different. There are different reasons for it. We’ve also had fast starts, too.”

One of the Ravens' biggest problems during the slow starts has been their running game. The Ravens have averaged 1.8 yards per carry in the first quarter during the past three games, gaining 18 yards on 10 runs. The Ravens have gone 0-for-6 on third downs in the first quarter during that span.

“They’ve blitzed the run game quite a bit,” Harbaugh said. “In some games, we’ve handled that and made them pay for it, and some games we haven’t."

The Ravens have had seven scoreless first quarters this season. They typically defer to the second half when they win the coin toss and kick off most of the time.

“We give thought to that every week," Harbaugh said. "We consider all the ramifications of that,” said Harbaugh about the decision to receive or defer. We do what we think is best to win the game. We generally like to start on defense. That’s generally our rule of thumb. If you look at the stats on it, that’s the way to go.

"You have a little better chance, maybe a percent-and-a-half better at winning, historically, if you defer and kickoff. We also have a very good defense. We like doing that, but it could change next week. It’s not to say that it couldn’t change or we have any aversion to taking the ball.”

awilson@baltsun.com
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