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QB Joe Flacco says one terrible performance doesn't tell whole story about Ravens offense

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco wanted to get one thing out of the way pretty quickly, and he understood that it wasn't exactly a revelation either.

"We played terribly last week," he said. "There's no way around that."

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Otherwise, Flacco spent his nearly 10-minute news conference Wednesday defending the early-season play of the offense he leads and expressing confidence that the Ravens will start putting points on the board.

Three days after a 44-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in which he threw for a career-low 28 yards in perhaps the worst performance of his career, Flacco was a mixture of defensive and defiant. The message the 10-year veteran, who was edgy but composed throughout, clearly wanted to get across was that Sunday's brutal performance has not in any way affected the optimism he harbors for the offense as a whole.

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"It better not or we have no shot," he said.

The Ravens (2-1) enter Sunday's key AFC North matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) with, at least statistically, one of the worst offenses in the NFL through three games. For all the improvements made by the running game, the Ravens rank last among 32 teams in total yards per game (263.7), passing yards per game (121.3) and passing yards per attempt (5.2).

They are also tied for 23rd with the winless San Francisco 49ers in points per game (17.0). That they average even that many points is largely a function of the defense setting the offense up with 10 forced turnovers.

"We recognize that we're not playing the kind of football on offense that's going to put a lot of points on the board," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We want to get a lead, we want to score points, we want to take pressure off the other two phases as much as we can, and that goes for the defense and the special teams as well. Every phase wants to do that. Sure, we've pinpointed areas that we're working on, specific football ideas and techniques and ways to attack our opponent and things we need to get better at so that we can execute better in situations. We're looking at all those things and trying to become the best we can be."

Players say discussion on whether to kneel or protest before Sunday’s game is a private matter.

The offense's struggles weren't a big deal in Week 1 because the Ravens built a 17-0 halftime lead over the Cincinnati Bengals and the defense had quarterback Andy Dalton and company bottled up. So the Ravens ran the ball 42 times and Flacco threw just three times after halftime.

Flacco was sharp in the Week 2 victory over the Cleveland Browns, but with a two-possession second-half lead against a rookie quarterback, the Ravens took the air out of the ball and won comfortably despite scoring just three second-half points.

"We played terrible last game, but the first two weeks, we were standing up here and saying how it wasn't the best statistical performance, but it's what we needed to do to win a football game," Flacco said. "That's what this is all about. I think we're getting ahead of ourselves when we all of a sudden start saying that we haven't played well for three weeks. … The other two weeks, we did what we had to do to win football games. I don't think that's anything we should hang our heads on."

Still, Sunday's performance, in which the Ravens were shut out by the Jaguars until backup quarterback Ryan Mallett connected with tight end Benjamin Watson for a 6-yard touchdown pass with 3:24 to go, conjured up all the offseason concerns about the team's offense.

The Maryland Army National Guard member had been team's anthem singer since 2014.

While the team ranks fourth in the league in rushing yards per game, it still hasn't shown that it has a big-play running back, though there is hope that Alex Collins becomes that player. The much-maligned offensive line was overpowered by the Jaguars and faces more questions than ever before because of the season-ending injury suffered by standout guard Marshal Yanda in Week 2.

Flacco, who missed training camp and the preseason because of a back injury, has been extremely shaky at times and has has thrown interceptions in a league-high nine straight games dating to last year.

"What do you want me to say? They are bad plays. I don't care what the reason for it is, the result is not good for the team. It falls on my shoulders and that's the end of it," Flacco said. "I've thrown many picks in my life, man. The ones that I threw on Sunday aren't going to be the last ones I throw. I'm never happy that I throw them, but it's part of the game and I'm going to do my best to limit them going forward. You have to understand it's going to happen and if you don't have a short memory as a quarterback, then you're in trouble and your team is in trouble."

Perhaps most troubling about the Ravens offense is that their outside receivers, aside from two touchdown catches by Jeremy Maclin, have been nonfactors and the team has had no downfield passing game.

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Linebacker Terrell Suggs said he won’t fall for the Pittsburgh quarterback’s “mind games” about the offense’s troubles.

On a conference call with Baltimore-area reporters Wednesday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin spoke of the challenges the Ravens provide offensively because of their balance and Flacco's ability to throw the deep ball. However, in two of his three games this season, Flacco has not completed a pass that has traveled more than 10 yards in the air. For the season, the veteran has a worse quarterback rating (65.2) than all but one signal caller, Cleveland Browns rookie DeShone Kizer.

The Ravens' two leading receivers are Watson, who has 11 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown, and backup running back Buck Allen, who has 10 receptions for 48 yards and a score.

Meanwhile, wideouts Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman have combined for four catches for 26 yards on 17 total targets, and the Ravens' entire wide receiving corps has just 13 receptions. To put that into perspective, 35 NFL players have more catches than the Ravens' entire wideout group.

Maxx Williams, Benjamin Watson and Jaylen Hill not practicing for team on Wednesday.

“I feel like we’re fine. For one reason or another, it’s just not happening,” Wallace said, refusing to use Flacco’s lack of practice time this summer as an excuse. “I think he’s had enough time. All that is just excuses to me. We don’t need excuses. We just need to have production. Nobody cares about why it’s not happening or what’s going on. We have the ability, we have the players, we have the coaches — we just need to get it done. I don’t care why it’s not happening. We need to find a way to make it happen.

"It takes a long time sometimes, but when it happens, it's going to happen big. Hopefully it starts this Sunday."

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