Offense struggles in first postseason test

In the first 15 minutes of this afternoon’s game, the Ravens scored 17 points and went 2-of-2 in the red zone.

They didn’t exactly move the ball with ease, but capitalized on two Texans turnovers in Houston territory and turned them into points.

In the final 45 minutes, the Ravens scored three points and put up only 156 yards of offense. They finished the game going just 4-of-16 on third downs, at one point went seven possessions without a score and averaged just 3.6 yards per play.

It’s important to note that the Texans had the NFL’s No. 2-ranked defense and they do an excellent job of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and stuffing the run. But three points in three quarters (and none for a 41-minute stretch) is not what the Ravens want going forward.

“They’re a very good front, and we knew that coming in; we played them before,” center Matt Birk said. “We would have liked to have won more battles up front today, that’s for sure, but obviously the important thing is we got the win. And I guess the good thing is tomorrow in meetings we’ll have plenty of things to look at and plenty of things to work on this week to get better at.”

“You always want to play a little better, and the film is not going to lie,” said running back Ray Rice, who had 61 rushing yards on 21 carries. “We know we have some things to work on. They had a great pass rush and they got inside of us a little bit, but you have to take what’s there and there wasn’t a lot there today.”

Joe_Flacco-Texans-sack-sidebar.jpgEarly on, everything seemed to be going right. Quarterback Joe Flacco was clicking, throwing two first-quarter touchdown passes, wide receiver Anquan Boldin was getting involved after missing the last two regular season games because of knee surgery and even little-used tight end Kris Wilson was catching scoring strikes.

But Houston’s defense clearly dominated the Baltimore offense for much of the game. The Texans racked up five sacks on the day, four of which came in the final three quarters, and held Flacco, Rice and company in check.

Asked what changed after the early-game surge, left tackle Bryant McKinnie paused to reflect on the question.

“I’m not really sure,” McKinnie said calmly. “We just weren’t executing the way we were supposed to, so we were coming up short.”

Flacco said that the members of the offense did a good job of not getting too frustrated during the offensive slide, but it’s clear players weren’t pleased with their inability to move the ball with any sense of consistency.

There’s certainly a level of concern associated with the offense’s poor play, and a large part of it has to do with the fact that they’re getting set to face a Patriots team which just dropped 42 points on the Broncos through the first three quarters of yesterday’s game. You won’t beat the Patriots too often when you score 20 points.

But while it wasn’t pretty today, the Ravens can take solace in the fact that it didn’t need to be. They’re one of just four teams that will play next weekend, and one more win will have them in the Super Bowl.

“This football team won the game no matter what. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but they found a way to win the football game,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Those guys are as advertised. Their defense was the No. 2 ranked defense in the National Football League this year. As advertised.

“That’s a really good football team. They made plays when they had to. They stopped us when they needed to, and when we needed to get something done. But, at the end, we found a way to win the football game.”

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