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Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston

Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers readers' questions about the Ravens' Week 8 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and other topics about the team heading into Week 9.

Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers readers' questions about the Ravens' Week 8 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and other topics about the team heading into Week 9.

On the play in the fourth quarter when Andy Dalton avoided the rush and hit the receiver down the field, it looked to me that Dominique Franks quit on the play. It seemed he thought that Dalton was being sacked and stopped covering the receiver. Is that what happened? -- Robert B.

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Robert, it appeared that the coverage was a Cover 2 zone where Franks passed off the receiver to the safety, Terrence Brooks. Unfortunately, the safeties on this team should be nicknamed toast, popcorn, and marshmallow. They either get burned or play way too soft. Brooks did not get over in time and allowed the completion. Later, one of them said they lost the ball in flight.

Oh my ...

Wasn't it a rule that it's illegal to aid the person who has the football by pushing him in the back to gain yardage? How is the defense supposed to get to the runner when there are people behind him and in front of him blocking? Dalton scored two touchdowns in that way, and I fail to see how that can be stopped. -- Michael W.

Michael, my understanding of that rule is that you cannot push a player forward who has had his forward momentum stopped. Quarterback Andy Dalton never lost his forward momentum on either play. On the game-winning touchdown, he got assistance from left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Years ago, it was illegal to assist the runner and it was a penalty. Now, every team does. In fact, it appears to be a regular part of the playbook.

For all the positive change that has happened with Gary Kubiak's offensive system, one thing that has carried over and continues to baffle me is play selection on third-and-manageable (less than 10 yards). For all the talk about converting and "keeping a rhythm" on offense,  the number of low-percentage pass plays when the goal is to move the chains is truly perplexing. I know they must have five-to-10-yard routes in that playbook. And I don't think there is a rule against running on third-and-3 or less. Any explanation? -- Eric, Pikesville

Actually, Eric, the Ravens had some of those plays in and receivers open, but quarterback Joe Flacco chose to throw long. When you play poor teams and make big plays, sometimes you start believing you are better than you really are. I think Flacco might have learned some lessons in the film room Monday morning.

The Bengals haven't been able to stop the run so far this season. Should the Ravens have run more? If Bernard Pierce would have been available, would he have helped achieve that? -- Don T.

The Bengals struggled with the run earlier in the season because of injuries. Some of those injured players came back and improved the run defense a lot this week. I had no problem with the game plan against the Bengals in this game. I did in the first game between the two teams and later when the Ravens lost to the Indianapolis Colts. Pierce is clearly no longer in the Ravens' plan. They probably tried to trade him and Arthur Brown before the trade deadline.

What is the rule on the play when Torrey Smith appeared to get hit on the crossing pattern, which caused him to stop his route and led to an interception? Why was that not pass interference or illegal contact? That interception turned into a field goal, which was the margin of victory. -- Mike, Fairfax, Va.

Mike, the contact that you are referencing occurred within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.  Defenders are allowed to have contact with receivers at that point. Torrey Smith just has to become tougher.

Why does Joe Flacco never step up in big games? -- Dennis M.

Um, please look up his playoff record, and maybe a certain four-game run that led to him receiving an award and holding a shiny, silver trophy. If you want to talk about his inconsistency, we can chat.

One would think that a veteran like Steve Smith would know better than to commit a penalty like the one in the last minute of Sunday's game. The replay clearly showed him grabbing and pushing the defender. His aggressive style is fine if it doesn't hurt the team, but he needs to think before he acts in the heat of battle. Your thoughts on the play? -- Steve N.

It was a good call. I have no problem with Smith's efforts. He was trying to make a play and in previous years would have gotten away with it. No one was at fault. If Smith did one thing wrong, it was extend the arm. That's a no-no.

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Do the Ravens only have the killer instinct against weaker teams? It seems like, when they play one of the better teams, they have them reeling but somehow always seem to give them life. -- Elmer B.

The Ravens are an average team. They will beat the bad teams (Buccaneers, Falcons), compete well with the average teams (Bengals, Chargers), and lose to the good teams (Colts).

Why does John Harbaugh insist on deferring opening kickoffs instead of taking the ball and attacking from the outset, especially on the road? -- Jerry B.

The Ravens, despite what they want to claim, are still a defensive team. If the defense can come out, get a stop, and set the tone for the game, it benefits the Ravens much more than the offense coming out and going three-and-out.

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