Ravens run up against defenses designed to stop ground game
The Baltimore Ravens find that studying film and portraying opposing defense tendencies has little effect on what they see on game day.
This leads to them changing their approach on the fly.
This is one reason Baltimore's offense has not yet reached the level it reached last year when the Ravens topped the league on points, finished second in total, and set an NFL record of 3,296 yards of rushing.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson missed two training sessions last week due to knee and stomach problems, but when he was on the field against Cincinnati on Sunday he was ready to run a game plan based on what the Bengals showed in the first month of the season.
"We got out of there and it was just a different defense," said Jackson, who threw 37 passes in the 27-3 win.
Coach John Harbaugh stated Monday that Cincinnati “uses a real college 4-3 look with low security. They have played that in the past, but they hadn't played it this year. "
Washington pulled a similar defensive switcheroo a week earlier. While the Ravens (4-1) got the best start in franchise history, they have to take advantage of the strong running game that led them to a 14-2 regular season record in 2019.
"It happens to us a lot," said Harbaugh of the defensive surprises the team has seen over the year. "So we have to learn how to deal with crime and how to deal with it because we run a unique program."
Harbaugh defended Baltimore's 28-37 run-pass ratio against the Bengals, pointing out that many of the passes were thrown in the last two minutes of the first half and that the Ravens only played five games in the fourth quarter. He also noted that Baltimore ran 20 times on first and second runs, compared to 13 passes.
But he admitted: “We want more first downs, we want to move the chains, we want more yards, we want more points. We have to improve as the season progresses to get the things we want to achieve. "
The defense played their best game of the season, got seven sacks and forced three turnovers. Baltimore was ready for its first shutdown since 2018 before the Bengals wrapped up a meaningless fourth-quarter drive with a last-minute field goal.
Seven players had sacks and rookie linebacker Patrick Queen got his first NFL touchdown on a 52-yard fumble return.
"We don't care who makes a piece and I think that's what makes it so fun," said cornerback Marlon Humphrey. "Whoever does a piece, it seems like we're all celebrating like we did."
WHAT MUST WORK
The offense is certainly better than most, but Jackson, Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman know the unit has not yet reached its potential.
Jackson has played three games in a row without hitting the 200-yard mark on the fly, and the 161 yards that stormed the Bengals were improved by a 42-yard attempt by Devin Duvernay in the end.
"We're still in the works," said Harbaugh. "We still need to improve a lot: running, passing, running / passing options, we have to keep track of all areas. In the end the running / passport numbers will take care of themselves."
Second year receiver, Marquise Brown, had six catches for a team high of 77 yards and eventually made it to the end zone, where she scored a 2-yard TD pass from Jackson to make it 17-0 in the second quarter.
"I wish I could connect with him more," said Jackson. "I have a feeling that there are still options for my offense, that we should stop the rides."
Baltimore went 7 to 15 on third downs and was unable to implement their lonely fourth down attempt.
Maybe he was cautious about his knee problem, but Jackson only carried twice for only ten feet. Last year he set an NFL record for yards rushed by a quarterback, and this season was the team's leading rusher in four weeks.
Harbaugh said he expected Jackson to have a full week of training starting Wednesday.
Linebacker Otaro Alaka suffered a knee injury at the end of the season on Sunday and was transferred to the injured reserve on Monday. The Trystan Colon-Castillo center was transferred to the 53-man squad.
18 - The number of consecutive games of a Ravens take-away, the longest active streak in the NFL. Baltimore has forced 32 sales in that time.
The Ravens will travel north on Sunday to compete against the Eagles (1-3-1). Baltimore is 0-2 in Philadelphia.
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