Flacco, offense flop in Tennessee

In a week’s time, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice went from the cover of Sports Illustrated to searching for answers.

It was a rough day at the office for the Ravens’ top two offensive stars yesterday, as Flacco - who looked as smooth and comfortable as could be last week - struggled to find any sort of rhythm with the passing game, and Rice - who gashed the Steelers on the ground a week ago - couldn’t find many holes against a Titans defense committed to stopping the run.

The end result was a game where the Ravens put up just 229 yards of total offense, went just 3-of-10 on third downs, and held the ball for only 24 minutes of game action, compared to 36 for their opposition.

“In the end, we never did get (the running game) going, and we didn’t make enough big plays down the field in the passing game,” head coach John Harbaugh told reporters after the game. “You have to do that. You have to make plays on third down, and you have to make plays down the field to open up the running game as well. It’s not just the running game sets up the pass, the pass sets up the running game, as well.”

While Rice only had 43 yards on the ground and averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, he doesn’t deserve the bulk of the blame for the Ravens’ offensive issues.

The Titans made stopping the run their top priority, and wanted to put pressure on the Ravens’ passing game to beat them. Tennessee appeared to bring a safety down into the box on more than a handful of occasions, pitting Rice against eight-man fronts and giving him little room to work with.

As Harbaugh said, however, when a team brings a safety down to stop the run, an opposing team needs to be able to counter that strategy by putting up numbers through the air. That obviously didn’t happen yesterday.

Flacco wasn’t helped out by a wide receiving corps which failed to give him many openings to throw the ball, but the Ravens’ quarterback certainly didn’t look too sharp in his own right.

The fourth-year signal caller was poised last week against Pittsburgh, calmly going through his progressions and picking the right moments to take his shots. How quickly things can change.

Yesterday, Flacco looked confused. He lobbed balls into double coverage, didn’t have zip on his shorter passes, and appeared a step behind and a beat too late. He never got comfortable in the pocket, was constantly spinning away from defenders and completed just five passes to wide receivers the entire afternoon.

Maybe Flacco was a little confused and thought he was playing Pittsburgh again, because this was the Joe Flacco we were used to seeing against the Steelers’ defense up until last week.

In a game played in warm and muggy Tennessee, ball control was especially important yesterday. While the Titans were able to sustain four drives of at least nine plays, the Ravens only had one such drive.

The offense was unable to stay on the field and give their defensive teammates a breather, and by the second half, you could see the result. The Titans scored on four of their five second-half drives, and were clearly wearing down a Baltimore defense which looked gassed.

There’s plenty of time to make corrections and get this offense back on the right track. The Ravens weren’t as good as they appeared last week, and they aren’t as bad as they appeared yesterday.

But offensively, it is a little concerning to see this unit take such a big step back after a strong opening performance against Pittsburgh just a week ago.

Here’s your Monday morning question: Do you blame this loss at all on an emotional letdown coming back out of the win over Pittsburgh, or do you think the Ravens just got outplayed by a developing Titans team?

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