Without Boldin, receivers struggle

It’s impossible to say how much more effective the Ravens’ passing attack would have been if Anquan Boldin was in the lineup.

Could have changed everything, could have changed nothing.

Regardless, without Boldin - who missed his first game this season after undergoing knee surgery this week - the Ravens really struggled to move the ball through the air in today’s win over the Browns.

Joe Flacco went just 11-of-24 for 132 yards today, which was his lowest passing output of the season.

Running back Ray Rice was the Ravens’ leading receiver both in catches and yardage with just three grabs for 48 yards. Rookie Torrey Smith had two catches for 38 yards ... and those were the only two receptions made by a Ravens wide receiver all day.

Is that bad? It’s not good.

The Ravens did gain 60 yards in penalty yardage when Smith was interfered with on the first offensive snap of the game, but outside of that, their aerial attack struggled.

“We missed a little bit,” Flacco said. “We had a couple of drops. There’s certain things that I could get better at there and help those guys at, and there’s certain things that we can work on just as a unit. Obviously, missing Anquan’s a big thing. He’s a good receiver for us, but I like to think we can have confidence in everybody who is out there and really improve.”

The Ravens had a number of drops today, including two big ones from tight end Ed Dickson, who admitted that his first-quarter touchdown is lessened in his mind by letting two very catchable passes slip through his fingers.

But probably the bigger concern going forward is that the Ravens’ wide receivers not named Boldin failed to step up in the veteran’s absence. Lee Evans, Smith, Tandon Doss - those are the guys that will get a chance to make plays with Boldin out, and they failed to do so today.

“It’s very disappointing, because the amount of talent we have out here at the wide receiver position warrants a lot more than (two catches from wide receivers),” Evans said. “So it’s very disappointing, and we know we’ve got to play a lot better if we expect to be the type of offense that we want to be.

“In the first half, we got off to a fast start and in the second half, we just didn’t play well. And that starts with me.”

Boldin hasn’t exactly put up Pro Bowl numbers this season - he has 57 catches for 887 yards and three touchdowns - but his physicality, route-running ability and veteran presence are key factors in the Baltimore offense.

The Ravens say that they expect Boldin to return in time for the playoffs, but even if he does come back by the time they play their first postseason game, there’s a chance he isn’t 100 percent. That’s why the other receiving options, including the tight ends, know they need to pick their game up.

“Q is one of our leaders on the team,” Dickson said. “It’s hard to get a person in who can do what Q does. And when we don’t have Q in, we’ve got younger guys, so Joe probably doesn’t have that much chemistry with them.

“We need Q in the playoffs, and if we don’t have him, other guys have to step up. Myself, with those two drops, and I don’t think Dennis Pitta had a catch today. The younger guys (need to step up), too.”

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