4. What's happened to the Ravens' deep passing game?

Behind the strong arm of quarterback Joe Flacco, the speed of Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, and the added help of Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta last season, the Ravens ranked third in the NFL with 72 plays of 20 yards or more last season. This year, they've fallen to 21st in the NFL, with 34 plays of 20 yards or more. The big play has become a rare occurrence, with few long passes and only two long runs, including a season-long 47-yarder from Ray Rice last week in Chicago. "Oftentimes, you can't pinpoint exactly what it was," offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. "We've taken a few shots here and there. We just haven't been able to connect as often as we like, and that's something that we continue to work on. Obviously, we think we do have speed. "A quarterback that has a strong arm with speed that can stretch the field, not only vertically but horizontally as well. We continue to work on it; we continue to try to get better. It's not quite where you want to be yet, but we continue to work on it." The Ravens have thrown it deep plenty, but just haven't connected. Flacco has short-armed a few throws to open receivers for incompletions, including one apiece against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals intended for wide receiver Jacoby Jones. "We have guys on the outside that can do that and can get deep, and we have to do our job and take those chances, and we probably haven't been taking as many as normal, and we probably haven't been as successful as we normally would be when we do," Flacco said. "That's kind of how we've been with every facet of our game this year. We probably haven't quite done it as well as we should, where we have before. Like I said, I think we're working on getting better at that and doing some things to take advantage of that and get back to how we should be. And that's all we can worry about." Flacco has been sacked 33 times, one of the factors contributing to the decline of the deep pass. Asked about the reason behind the lack of production on long passes, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said: "I'm not getting into all that." "I think that's something we work on," he said. "To analyze it and put the reasons out there wouldn't really help us as a football team. We'll let people figure that out for themselves. Our task is to get better at it. You need big plays, that's for sure. "You need chunk plays in the run game, you need over-the-top pass plays, and you need catch-and-run pass plays. Those are things that make the difference for you. It's pretty hard to just whittle your way down the field and be perfect every play against the caliber defenses we play. The big plays are very important, and we've got to find a way to make those and eliminate the issues we're having right now." Despite Smith's ability to separate from defensive backs, he's scored just three touchdowns on his 46 receptions for 785 yards. "It's just all on execution," Smith said. "It's not like it's a protection issue or anything. It's just several different things that have gone. There is no one thing that we can pinpoint. It's been something different all the time, as is with low-percentage throws. It's the hardest ball to complete. We just happen to be real good at it. Obviously, it's been frustrating, but at the same time, if we get a couple of those to go in a game like we did in the past, it'll do wonders for our team."
Dennis Wierzbicki / USA TODAY Sports
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