“We had stalled for a while, so we needed a touchdown,” Smith said. “There were a few plays I felt like I could have made earlier in the game. I was frustrated by it, so I was glad we got to finish on the good side.”
Yes, the Ravens finished on a high note and improved to 6-2. They’re still sitting in first place in the AFC North and a game ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers, with whom they have two games in the next four weeks.
But Sunday showed the problems plaguing the Ravens offense are more than just the number of carries Rice receives.
Issues still exist along the offensive line after the unit played well early but struggled to adjust to the run blitzes the Browns used to slow the running game. The pass protection was better than it had been in previous road games but is unpredictable from week to week.
Flacco started the game on fire but then reverted to the 50-percent passer we’ve seen most of the season away from M&T Bank Stadium.
And wide receivers and tight ends struggled at times to get open and failed to rein in a few passes that could have made a difference in changing the middle portion of the game.
But unlike previous performances in Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Houston, the Baltimore offense answered the bell in the final eight minutes of the game to score 10 points and come away with a much-needed road victory and division win.
It was progress, but the Ravens need much more from their offense if they’re to continue their current 6-2 pace in the second half of their schedule, which includes five games against teams with .500 or better records and two of the other three coming on the road.
“We have lots to work on,” Harbaugh said. “We had lots to work on last week. We’re going to have lots to work on next week. We’re going to try to become a great football team. We’re not there by any stretch, but we have a chance to get there if we all come together and do the things we need to do to get there.”
If the Ravens are truly to become great this season, it will be on the offense to pick up the bulk of the work for a full 60 minutes, week in and week out.
And while Sunday’s performance was better than previous road debacles, it showed the offense still has a long way to go.