The Ravens’ offense has a ‘foundation’ for success. Here’s how they can build on it.


For so much of their loss Sunday to the New York Giants, the Ravens made offense look easy. Six of their first seven possessions crossed over into Giants territory, the one exception being a milk-the-clock drive just before halftime. Six times in the game’s first 48 minutes, they moved into range of a field-goal attempt, if only briefly, or scored a touchdown. The 406 total yards they finished with were their second most of the season.

But by the time the offense needed points late in the fourth quarter, the Ravens had only 20. All the rocks they’d stubbed their toes on inside, all the holes they’d stepped into, had accumulated into something impassable inside MetLife Stadium. The Ravens’ penultimate drive ended with an interception, their last drive with a fumble. They left Week 6 with a 406-238 margin in total yardage and a four-point loss.

“We’re going to try to finish everything,” coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday. “You try to finish the first play just like you try to finish the last play. So keep playing football, keep doing what we do, and we’ll be fine.”

The Ravens’ three losses this season, all fourth-quarter collapses, have somewhat obscured the resurgence of quarterback Lamar Jackson and their offense. The Ravens (3-3) are third in the NFL in yards per play (6.2) and third in overall efficiency, according to Football Outsiders. No team has had a more effective running game over the past three weeks, and Jackson, despite his recent spate of turnovers, ranks fifth in the NFL in ESPN’s QBR.

Their challenge now, entering Sunday’s game against the defensively challenged Cleveland Browns (2-4), is to have their output match their peripherals. Complete performances have been elusive: The Ravens were shut out in the second half of their Week 4 loss to the Buffalo Bills, settled for three field goals after halftime in their Week 5 win over the Cincinnati Bengals and squandered a breakout rushing performance in Sunday’s loss to the Giants.

“The foundation is there,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not that I’m looking at it, or anybody’s looking at it, like, ‘Hey, we’ve really got some things to worry about.’ We know we’re playing good football, both sides of the ball. Just keep striving, keep trying to get better, keep building on what we’ve done in the past, and we’re going to be good.”

Here’s a look at how they can get better.

Get Bateman back

For all the hubbub over the addition of practice squad wide receiver DeSean Jackson, whose signing was finalized Wednesday, Rashod Bateman remains the team’s most important wideout.

With Bateman on the field this season, according to the play index site nflfastR, the Ravens have averaged 7.9 yards and 0.28 expected points added per drop-back. (EPA is a measure of efficiency that accounts for situational factors such as down, distance and field position.) Only the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs have averaged more than 0.28 EPA per drop-back overall this season, according to analytics site

With Bateman off the field this season — he’s missed two-plus games since spraining his foot in the loss to Buffalo — the Ravens have averaged just 5.4 yards and minus-0.08 EPA per drop-back. Only 13 NFL offenses have a negative EPA rate on drop-backs this season.

Bateman was back at practice Wednesday as a limited participant, and Jackson said his return to the field would “do a lot for us.”

“That’s our No. 1 guy,” he said. “He runs great routes. He’s a fast receiver. He’s our top guy, so we definitely need him back out there, but he’ll just take his time. When he comes back, I feel like we’re going to need him at the perfect time.”

Beat the blitz

After struggling against the blitz last year, Jackson opened the season like he’d spent all summer working up solutions. Over the Ravens’ first three games, he went a combined 26-for-32 for 368 yards and six touchdowns, along with no interceptions, against five or more pass rushers, according to Pro Football Focus.

Over the Ravens’ past three games, however, Jackson’s performance has been more mortal than superhuman. He threw his first against-the-blitz interception in the loss to Buffalo. He went 7-for-18 for just 77 yards against the Bengals’ pressure looks. And against the Giants and former Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, he finished 11-for-21 for 121 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Even amid their downturn, the Ravens have given themselves chances for success. Jackson has largely avoided sacks in the face of pressure, and the team’s offensive line has gelled into one of the NFL’s best pass-protecting units. But a confluence of small problems — Jackson’s inaccuracy on deep throws, the receivers’ struggles to separate in coverage, coordinator Greg Roman’s reluctance to call screen plays — has chipped away at the Ravens’ big-play potential.

“It’s always going to be that way during the season; there’s going to be ups and downs, ebbs and flows,” Harbaugh said Monday. “But [we’ll] keep working on it. I know we’re capable of having an explosive offense. We had a pretty explosive offense [Sunday], except for points, which comes back to the red zone — either that, or you get the ball behind them and score on long plays.”

Finish drives — and games

The Ravens seemed to hit a speed bump whenever they ventured into field-goal range Sunday. Outside of the Giants’ 40-yard line, the offense averaged an impressive 8.1 yards per play. Once the Ravens reached the 40 and closer, though, they clammed up: just 5.3 yards per play.

The offense’s struggles with finishing in recent weeks have been universal. Harbaugh has fielded question after question not just about the team’s red-zone woes — the Ravens scored a touchdown Sunday on just one of their three trips for the second straight game Sunday — but also about its fourth-quarter fades.

According to Football Outsiders’ offensive efficiency metrics, the Ravens rank 10th in the NFL in the first quarter, second in the second quarter, fourth in the third quarter and 21st in the fourth quarter and overtime. They have four turnovers (three interceptions and one fumble) and just one touchdown in the fourth quarter over the past three weeks.

“I feel like we need to stop putting that [finishing] on our mind because we know we should be doing that anyways,” Jackson said Wednesday. “We’re the offense. We get in the red zone, we should score points — not overemphasize that, like, ‘We’re in the red zone. We need to score.’ Me and some of the guys were talking, like, ‘We’ve just got to go out there and do us.’ Because we’ve been doing it without thinking about scoring in the red zone or scoring from here. We just went out there and did it. And we need to get back to it.”

Week 7


Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Ravens by 6 1/2



Source link