Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Balance is the Key for Ravens Offense

You can question the Ravens sloppy offensive play against the Bengals and you can question Brian Billick’s play calling, particularly at the end of the game. But you can never question the heart and resolve of the 2007 Baltimore Ravens.

Now that we’ve all taken a deep breath and exhaled, it’s time that we actually appreciate what the Ravens did and not condemn them for what they didn’t do.

The Ravens defense held the prolific Bengals offense to 50 yards in the second half. They beat the Bengals up. Carson Palmer has enjoyed success against the Ravens in the past. It’s not that way any more. Something happened in that game last November. Take away the gadget play for a score and the Bengals did little. Rex Ryan has them figured out and Palmer knows it. He feels it.

You can see it in his hurried throws to open receivers out of the backfield or in the flat. The Ravens moved him off his mark and he was rattled.

You can see it in the faces of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson. They weren’t yapping and showboating with their usual animated gestures. They were subdued. They were in mute. They were swagger-less.

That’s what happens when you get punched in the mouth.

And you can rest assured – this will carry over and the scales will begin to tip towards the Ravens in this one-sided rivalry of late. They already have.

Look, this is game 1 of the season. It’s the first turn in a 16 lap race.

If the Ravens win their next 3 how much will those 6 turnovers matter then?

You could make the argument that those turnovers were a blessing in disguise. Perhaps they will serve as a wake up call to an offense that has been comatose during the last three meaningful games including the playoff loss to the Colts and the season finale against the Bills.

They better!

This offseason the Ravens invested in the offensive line and in the backfield to improve upon their 25th ranked rushing attack from a year ago. Brian Billick stressed the importance of a balanced attack yet judging from game 1, that philosophy has not manifested itself in the play calling. On Monday the Ravens chucked it 40 times and ran it 25 times.

The balance is important, particularly to Steve McNair.

During his best years in Tennessee, McNair was supported by a solid rushing attack led by Eddie George. George was versatile and he could also catch the ball out of the backfield. He was the perfect complement to McNair’s game. There’s no reason that Willis McGahee can’t provide the same.

The question is even with McGahee can McNair be the same?

Over the course of the most recent three games that actually mattered, McNair’s QB rating has averaged 61.4. During those games he has thrown for a total of 592 yards without a TD pass to go with four interceptions – all of this against teams that were ranked 18th, 21st and 30th in 2006 in total defense.

And let’s not forget those three fumbles.

Can McNair turn it around? Probably provided he is healthy enough. If he’s not then the Ravens will be forced to turn to Kyle Boller.

Regardless of which quarterback is in, balance is key for the Ravens. It just sets up their offense that much better. If McNair goes, expect defenses to come after him much like the maligned Bengals defense did. He will be no threat to run with the groin injury. If Boller goes, he has never shown the ability to step up in the pocket to buy time. He’ll bail and throw missiles into the seats to avoid a sack.

Unless of course the Ravens get that running game “cranked up” as Brian Billick might say.

They need to establish an identity. There’s little reason to believe that McNair or Boller can put the offense on their backs and lead the team to victory. There’s no recent compelling evidence to support such a notion.

But then again, the season is just one game old.

Let’s see how they handle lap number two.


Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just me, but there seems to be a pattern here. After a big disappointing loss, there's the fiery, passionate blog entry, replete with references to "f-bombs" being dropped, and accurate, astute criticisms being leveled left and right. Then, a couple of days later, there's the conciliatory piece, as if what had just transpired on Monday is now magically either healed, or conviently obsolete. I saw this same thing after the Indy loss.

Oh well. Just one of those things that kinda make ya go: "Hmmmmmmmmmmmm".