Harbaugh making no excuses for Ravens’ offensive woes

October 25, 2011 | Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Less than 24 hours after the Ravens turned in one of their worst offensive performances in franchise history, coach John Harbaugh would not sugarcoat the fallout from a 12-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Baltimore mustered only 146 total yards and failed to register a first down in the first forty minutes of the game. It was even worse in the first half as the Ravens produced just 16 yards of offense in 25 plays, conjuring nightmares from their darkest offensive days of the 16-year history of the team.

“No excuses,” Harbaugh said. “[It] has to be a lot better. Not even close to the way we’re capable of performing on offense. Everybody realizes that. We’ve all got to do a better job, starting with me. I’ve got to do a better job making some decisions, and we’ve all got to do a better job of coaching, playing, executing, all those different things.”

Predictably, Cam Cameron has received a large amount of the criticism from fans on local talk radio and internet message boards after the Ravens were nearly shut out for the first time since 2002. The offensive coordinator has come under fire over the last two seasons in which the Ravens have failed to produce points with consistency — especially on the road.

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In three road games, the Ravens have scored 57 points, but 37 of those came in one game against the winless St. Louis Rams. In Baltimore’s three home games — against Pittsburgh, the New York Jets, and Houston — the Ravens have produced 98 points.

As many fans call for Cameron to be fired, Harbaugh thinks plenty of criticism needs to be spread around to everyone involved on the offensive side of the football.

“It’s warranted for all of us. I think we all deserve to have fingers pointed at us when the offense plays like that. That’s tough. It’s just a bad performance. Everybody knows it. Cam has broad shoulders. He’s a tough guy, and he’s been doing this for a long time. Everybody in this building respects him, and nobody’s going to fight harder to make this offense achieve what it’s capable of achieving. It’s still early in the season, but we can’t afford more performances like that. We all know that.”

One of the biggest criticisms was the lack of touches for star running back Ray Rice, who carried the football just eight times for 28 yards. Rice also found himself as the subject for potential controversy when the ESPN telecast suggested Rice had been removed from the game after a lost fumble in the second quarter and a second fumble that was overturned by a challenge replay.

However, Harbaugh flatly shot down the theory that Rice had been taken out due to ball security concerns. It was the first fumble for the fourth-year running back after 522 consecutive regular-season touches without a fumble.

“We had no conversation about [the fumble],” Harbaugh said. “He’s got to get more than eight carries. I also think when you’re a play-caller, you’re searching for things to get you going, to get you jump-started. It wasn’t like those eight carries were gashing them or anything like that either. I think we were looking for some things that we could do, searching a little bit for a way to get a first down.

“Eight carries is never going to be a winning formula for Ray Rice.”

The lack of touches by Rice didn’t go unnoticed in the Ravens locker room, where linebacker Terrell Suggs wondered aloud why Cameron didn’t call Rice’s number more often in comparison to Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew. Despite Baltimore having early success stopping the run, Jones-Drew carried the ball 30 times for 105 yards.

Suggs also went on to question why receiver Anquan Boldin wasn’t more involved in the offense despite the veteran being targeted 12 times and making four receptions.

Many have wondered how appropriate it was for Suggs to make his comments publicly to the media, but Harbaugh agreed with the sentiments brought forth by the Pro Bowl linebacker.

“The things he said are right, but that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Harbaugh, who expressed his respect for Suggs as both a player and leader in the locker room. “It’s not like we’re not trying to do the things he’s talking about doing. I think we’re all on the same page with that.”

Onside kick revisited

Harbaugh’s decision to try an onside kick with 2:02 remaining and two timeouts sparked plenty of discussion in the aftermath of the 12-7 loss. Many believed the Ravens should have elected to have Billy Cundiff boot one through the end zone, preserving the two-minute warning and allowing the Baltimore defense to get the ball back.

When pressed about the decision again on Tuesday, Harbaugh held firm on his decision to try to get the ball back as Cundiff’s kick came just short of the 10-yard requirement before Haruki Nakamura recovered it for the Ravens.

Apparently, the math supported his decision as well.

“Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’m even more sure that it was the right [decision],” Harbaugh said. “I think you can go both ways on it, but we had a chance to do a probability study. The probabilities are for kicking the onside kick.”

Harbaugh acknowledged the rationale of kicking it deep, but pointed out that the Jaguars would have likely brought any kick out of the end zone if at all possible to burn the two-minute warning. Ultimately, even with the probability study, it came down to Harbaugh’s gut feeling on the onside play.

“I think it’s fair to say you can do it either way,” Harbaugh said. “I felt strongly about the onside kick, and the main reason was because I thought we were going to get it.”

But alas, the Ravens did not.

Injury updates

The news was positive on defensive tackle Terrence Cody and safety Ed Reed, who collided late in the second half of Monday night’s game. Neither injury is considered serious as the Ravens turn their attention to the Arizona Cardinals.

“Cody seems OK,” Harbaugh said. “Ed, I think he’s OK. I think he had a burner. It was in the other side from where he’s had his issues, but we’ll see. Those things are a little unpredictable. I don’t want to speak for Ed on that. That’s his, he owns that, but we’ll see how he does. He’s a pretty tough guy.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith returned to action for the first time since suffering an ankle injury against the Steelers in Week 1. However, the first-round pick was limited to special teams duty and did not play a defensive snap after he began feeling the effects of practicing all week and receiving his first game action in six weeks.

“His ankle started to get a little bit sore, and he was gimping around a little bit during the second half,” Harbaugh said. “Also, by the way I think the game went. Ankle’s a little sore, hasn’t had a lot of reps, hasn’t been on defense that much, tight football game — that probably limited his reps a little bit.”

Status quo for Evans, Grubbs

The weekly update on wide receiver Lee Evans and guard Ben Grubbs sounded just like the previous weeks, and Harbaugh’s frustration is apparent.

Grubbs has not played since Week 1 while Evans has sat out since an ineffective performance against Tennessee in Week 2. Harbaugh did not sound encouraged regarding either player.

“We’ll just have to see as the week goes on,” Harbaugh said. “I’m to the point now where I’m not even thinking about it until they come back. I think you give those guys a chance to heal fully where they’re not going to get re-injured again. That’s been a little bit of a mystery, and we’ve just got to let [them] heal.

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