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After Ravens' pass-happy day vs. Bengals, John Harbaugh offers a defense that’s only half-true

The Ravens led the Cincinnati Bengals by 10 points after the first quarter Sunday. They led by at least 17 for nearly 45 minutes. They ended the game up by 24.

And yet coordinator Greg Roman’s play-calling indicated that one of the NFL’s best running teams was playing from behind for much of an offensively challenged 27-3 win.

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Against a solid Bengals secondary, quarterback Lamar Jackson attempted 37 passes Sunday, a season high and tied for the second most of his career. Against a weak Cincinnati rush defense, rookie running back J.K. Dobbins finished with only one carry, while leading rusher Mark Ingram II had just 11.

The Ravens entered Sunday’s game with the NFL’s second-most run-happy offense (51.7% of all offensive plays). But of their 62 plays Sunday, 38 were drop-backs for Jackson — 37 passes, one sack and no scrambles — while 24 were rushing attempts.

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In a video conference call Monday, coach John Harbaugh came prepared with numbers. He said the run-pass ratio was somewhat skewed by the Ravens' two drives late in the first half, when Jackson attempted nine passes. (Harbaugh said there were 11, but Jackson was sacked once and handed it off to Dobbins on another.)

Harbaugh also said that on “first and second down throughout the course of the game, we had 20 runs and 13 passes." It wasn’t clear whether he was excluding the Ravens' first- and second-down play-calling during the two-minute drills. Either way, those figures are inaccurate.

Including the Ravens' pair of two-minute-drill drives, the Ravens had 24 pass plays and 20 carries. Excluding those two drives, they ran 19 times and dropped back to pass 16 times. (The Ravens' fourth-quarter kneel-down was not included in either tally.)

Harbaugh also said that on third down, when the distance to the sticks has the greatest effect on a team’s play-calling, the Ravens called 11 pass plays and four running plays. That was also incorrect: They passed 13 times and ran it just twice.

Harbaugh was correct in one respect: The Ravens didn’t have a chance to melt the clock with a run-heavy, fourth-quarter drive. The Bengals' lone scoring drive took nearly eight minutes, and only 32 seconds remained when the Ravens regained possession for the final time.

“It’s almost like they ran our four-minute [offense] for us at the end of the game, the way they were moving the ball down the field, kind of methodically, trying to get that score,” Harbaugh said. “So they kind of chewed the clock up for us.”

Either way, the Ravens' offensive imbalance Sunday stood apart from the splits in last season’s blowouts. In their Week 1 win over the Miami Dolphins, the Ravens had 27 pass plays and 46 carries. Against the Bengals in Week 9, they went for 24 and 22, respectively. Against the Houston Texans a week later, the ratio was 31 and 33. Against the Los Angeles Rams one week later, it was 28 and 46.

Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles will be the last for a Ravens offense searching for its identity before a Week 7 bye. The Ravens are averaging 5.6 yards per carry this season, a slight uptick from last season (5.5), but they’ve struggled at times to generate consistent production. The retirement of guard Marshal Yanda has weakened the team’s offensive line, and Jackson’s diminished accuracy in recent weeks has kept the offense off schedule.

“What I’d like to see is, and I think what we all want to do is, just continue to improve execution and how we attack defenses that we’re going against,” Harbaugh said Monday. “So like I said last week, we’re still very much a work in progress. We have a lot to improve on: run, pass, run-pass options, quarterback-driven, play-action pass. All those things are things that we’ve got to chase all areas [of] and continue to improve, and I think the game-planning and then the run-pass numbers will take care of themselves.”

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