The Ravens haven’t shied away from watching last year’s film of a disastrous 43-13 loss at Houston in which Texans defensive end J.J. Watt didn’t disappoint as the eventual 2012 AP Defensive Player of the Year.
The Baltimore offensive line held Watt without a sack — he collected 20 1/2 in his award-winning season — but the 6-foot-5, 289-pound defensive end batted down two passes. Watt batted down a league-leading 16 passes in 2012 and is as talented as any defensive lineman in football.
“He’s really hard to block,” Harbaugh said. “He is hard to block in the run game, when you run at him, when you run away from him. He’s hard to block when you try to pass block him. He bats balls, he gets sacks. He’s just a very dominant-type defensive player.”
It’s easy to be intimidated by the big defensive end, but Flacco believes the Ravens weren’t physical enough upfront with Watt last season, allowing him to control the line of scrimmage and wreak havoc by putting his long arms up in passing lanes.
The Ravens are saying all the right things this week — left tackle Bryant McKinnie told WNST.net that Watt will have to worry about him just as much as he’ll have to contain the defensive end — but knowing what to do and executing are different stories. Trying to double-team him as much as possible should also be in the plans.
“If you’re not physical with him and you basically don’t play football, then obviously he’s going to have his day and have his way,” Flacco said. “But you’ve just got to try to be as physical as you can with him and stay under control so he doesn’t swim over you or dodge you left or right. He’s a good player. He’s going to do his thing, but we’ve just got to make sure we’re as physical as possible and limit his chances.”
Vertical passing game stalled
With wide receiver Jacoby Jones already out for Sunday’s game, the Ravens will try to make strides in a vertical passing game that’s been all but nonexistent early in the season.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith has faced bracketed coverage and has been forced to work more in the short-to-intermediate portion of the field in the first two games with Jones’ speed not available on the opposite side of the field. This has limited the Ravens’ quality opportunities to go vertical even though both Smith and rookie Marlon Brown dropped deep balls that would have been touchdowns in the first half of the Week 2 win over the Browns.
“There’s not anything that we feel we’re doing extremely well at this point in time,” offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. “That’s another one of them that we haven’t connected [on] enough times. What we have to do is try and continue to work on it, try and get a little better in that area.”
In two games, Flacco is just 2-for-15 for 63 yards on pass attempts of 21 to 40 yards compared to last season when he was 26 of 66 for 819 yards and eight touchdowns on passes traveling that range of distance through the air.