Ravens vs. Lions: Baltimore’s offensive line isn’t good enough for consistent scoring


Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco sometimes runs the West Coast offense as his team struggles to mount a consistent rushing attack. (Nick Wass/AP)
December 12, 2013

There are few moments during a season when NFL coaches are completely honest and Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh had one of those Monday afternoon.

“We’ve been trying to put this thing together throughout the season, and we’ve had some moments, but we’ve had a lot of challenging moments, too,” Harbaugh said.

“There are certain things that we are, and there are certain things that we’re not,” Harbaugh said. “And certainly, at this point, we know what those things are. We are what we are, and we’ve got to find a way with the guys we have to be a real potent offense, and I really believe we can do that.”

Translation: The offensive line isn’t strong. So the Ravens have to resort to any means necessary to manufacture points and get production from individual players.

And that is reason for concern as the Ravens (7-6) face the Detroit Lions (7-6) Monday night at Ford Field . After 13 games, the Ravens don’t have an offensive identity and they are playing one of the most physical defenses in the NFL.

One can see where the Ravens might be going, but no one knows for sure. At times they seem to look like a West Coast offense, but quarterback Joe Flacco isn’t accurate enough on short passes to run that system full-time. They really want to go vertical, but can’t because they don’t have a strong running game and good offensive line.

It’s basically a mess and the Ravens just kind of go with what is hot at the time, which is why they usually play better in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve put ourselves in a lot of situations in the fourth quarter to have to come back on teams and have to play well to win football games,” Flacco said. “We’ve probably spent a lot of time feeling games out and then all of a sudden gotten ourselves into situations where we just have to let it go and see what happens. And I think it’s just kind of turned out that way.”

That brings it back to Harbaugh’s comments. He is hoping the Ravens can milk enough wins to advance into the postseason.

That strategy worked against the New York Jets because the Jets had no offense. It worked against the Pittsburgh Steelers because Justin Tucker had five field goals. The Ravens pulled out a last minute win over the Minnesota Vikings, one of the worst teams in the NFL.

But Detroit is different. The Lions get after people. They brawl as if they were brought up on the tough Motor City streets. They were embarrassed last Sunday in a 34-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles as they allowed four fourth-quarter touchdowns.

They are going to want revenge on national TV Monday night, and it’s not certain the Ravens can handle the Lions because defensive ends Ezekiel Ansah and Willie Young like to charge hard from the outside and tackles Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh usually get good penetration. Detroit has 27 sacks and the Ravens have given up 41.

“I feel like we’re close, and not just because of two minutes in a football game,” said Flacco, alluding to the comeback against Minnesota. “The last handful of weeks, we’ve really been starting to break through and get to the point where we’re giving ourselves opportunities to put points on the board.”

The Ravens have struggled this season because a lot of players haven’t played up to expectations. The Ravens couldn’t find a slot receiver. Both running backs, Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, have looked sluggish. Torrey Smith can make explosive plays but isn’t a legitimate No. 1 receiver which he has proved the past two weeks dropping long passes.

But the return of tight end Dennis Pitta, who came back last week, helps. He was the missing ingredient inside the red zone, a big target who can make acrobatic catches.

— Baltimore Sun

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