Tag Archive | "Joe Flacco"


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Clausen claimed by Ravens to back up Schaub at quarterback

Posted on 24 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Needing a backup quarterback for new starter Matt Schaub, the Ravens were awarded veteran Jimmy Clausen off waivers from the Chicago Bears on Tuesday.

The injured Joe Flacco (knee) was officially placed on injured reserve to make room on the 53-man roster for the 28-year-old Clausen, who now reunites with former Chicago head coach and current Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. The 2010 second-round pick from Notre Dame had spent the last two seasons with the Bears after beginning his career with the Carolina Panthers.

Trying to add a No. 2 quarterback on short notice, the Ravens preferred someone with knowledge of Trestman’s offensive system, which would accelerate the learning curve with only several days to get ready for Monday night’s game in Cleveland.

“I think that would be a plus if we had that guy available,” said head coach John Harbaugh about the search for a new backup quarterback on Monday. “Someone who has some experience would be a plus.”

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Clausen has played in 19 games (12 starts) in his six-year career with most of that coming in his rookie season with Carolina. He has completed 53.2 percent of his passes for 1,965 yards, five touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in his career.

On Monday, Schaub will become the first player other than Flacco to start at quarterback for the Ravens in a regular-season game since Troy Smith on Dec. 30, 2007. Counting the postseason, Flacco had started 137 consecutive games for the Ravens.

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Cleveland benches Manziel ahead of Monday’s game with Ravens

Posted on 24 November 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens won’t be the only team with a different starting quarterback for Monday’s game in Cleveland.

After videos and photos surfaced of Johnny Manziel partying over his bye week, the Browns announced Tuesday that veteran Josh McCown would start against the Ravens in a prime-time game featuring two of the worst teams in the AFC. A 2014 first-round pick and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, Manziel had recently been filling in for an injured McCown, who began the season as the Cleveland starter.

Browns head coach Mike Pettine had only announced last week that the 22-year-old would start the final six games in an effort to evaluate whether he could be the starting quarterback moving forward, but Manziel now becomes the team’s No. 3 quarterback behind McCown and Austin Davis.

The Ravens would have likely preferred to face the inexperienced Manziel on Monday night after McCown threw for a whopping 457 yards and two touchdowns in Baltimore in Week 5. The Browns won 33-30 in overtime to win their first game at M&T Bank Stadium since 2007.

Of course, the Ravens now have quarterback problems of their own after losing eighth-year starter and Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco to a season-ending knee injury in Sunday’s win over St. Louis. Veteran Matt Schaub will make his first start since the 2013 season on Monday night after serving as Flacco’s backup for the first 10 games of 2015.

On Tuesday, Baltimore claimed former Chicago quarterback Jimmy Clausen off waivers to back up Schaub.

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Ravens indicate Flacco could be ready for start of training camp

Posted on 23 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, MD. — A magnetic resonance imaging exam confirmed Joe Flacco suffered two torn ligaments in his left knee in Sunday’s game, but the Ravens remain hopeful that their franchise quarterback will be ready for the start of next year’s training camp.

Head coach John Harbaugh said Monday that surgery to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments won’t take place until after the swelling subsides in Flacco’s knee over the next week or two. However, the early prognosis suggests the Ravens won’t need to drastically alter their plans for the quarterback position in 2016.

“It’s probably way early and, obviously, speculative,” Harbaugh said. “But my indications that I’ve been given would be that he would be back for the start of training camp and that it wouldn’t be an issue. However, as we well know, those are always things that get determined based on how the rehab goes.”

Conventional projections suggest a recovery period of nine to 12 months for tears to the ACL and MCL, but some athletes have made it back sooner depending on a variety of factors including how rigorously they rehab. Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a torn ACL on Nov. 9, 2014 and was fully cleared to participate in the Cardinals’ minicamp this past June, a recovery that took only seven months. Palmer knew what to expect after suffering the second ACL tear of his career, but he is also five years older than Flacco, who said Sunday that he’d never suffered more than a MCL sprain before.

Though his mobility and speed are underrated, Flacco isn’t a quarterback who has relied heavily on his legs as he ran the ball just 13 times in 10 games this season. The rehabilitation process isn’t quite as challenging for a quarterback compared to a skill position player like a wide receiver or cornerback who depends on constant changes in direction and quick lateral movement.

“Joe can run and he’s athletic, but if there is some drop-off, that’s not the main thing for the quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “He’s certainly going to have plenty enough athleticism, even if there is some drop-off there. The way technology is, guys bounce back from these things really well and I have every expectation that he’ll bounce back 100 percent and be stronger than ever and be ready to roll next year and be in great shape like he always is. That’s a long way away, but right now, there’s no reason to think he won’t come back better than ever.”

While the Ravens look forward to having Flacco return next season, they will now face the reality of playing a regular-season game without him for the first time since Dec. 30, 2007 when he was still a senior at the University of Delaware. His streak of 137 consecutive starts (counting playoff games) will officially come to an end Monday night when veteran Matt Schaub starts against Cleveland.

For his head coach and most of his teammates, it will be uncharted territory not having Flacco under center. The 34-year-old Schaub, a two-time Pro Bowl selection with Houston, will become only the second starting quarterback of the Harbaugh era.

It won’t be an easy chore for a 3-7 team that was already highly unlikely to move back into the playoff race, but the Ravens will still try to push through their biggest injury to date.

“I don’t know how many coaches have had that kind of a run with their quarterbacks,” Harbaugh said. “It’s definitely been a great blessing and something I’ve been very grateful for over the years — all of us here. Not just the [head] coach but all the coaches and all the players and the organization have had that remarkable run with a quarterback that just has really stayed healthy. He’s been an iron man.

“This will be a change for all of us and something that will be a big challenge for us. It’s a challenge I wouldn’t say we’re looking forward to — we’d rather it not be the case — but we’re not going to shy away from it.”

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Ravens couldn’t be further from “paradise” right now

Posted on 22 November 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Upon being inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime on Sunday, former Ravens safety Ed Reed ended his brief speech by belting out the refrain from “Two Tickets to Paradise,” conjuring memories from the franchise’s victory in Super Bowl XLVII.

The Ravens couldn’t be further from that paradise almost 34 months later after losing Joe Flacco — the MVP 0n that memorable night in New Orleans — to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the final drive of the 16-13 win over St. Louis. Of course, Baltimore’s 2015 playoff hopes were all but officially gone long before Flacco and 2014 Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett suffered season-ending injuries on Sunday, but losing your franchise quarterback to a serious injury rocks an organization from top to bottom.

The season from hell continues.

“I’m probably still in shock a little bit,” said Flacco, who started the Ravens’ last 137 games counting the playoffs and will now miss the first action of his eight-year career. “You play football and you play as long as I have and you play as hard as we do out there, then stuff like this happens. You have to just stand tall and be tough about it.

“That’s all you can do.”

At 3-7 and now preparing for the final six games with veteran backup Matt Schaub at the helm, the Ravens will play out the string with eyes pointing squarely toward the future and an unsettling offseason. In addition to improving a roster lacking game-changing talent on both sides of the ball, general manager Ozzie Newsome will need to renegotiate Flacco’s contract that carries a $28.55 million salary cap figure in 2016 while not knowing for sure if the veteran signal-caller will be ready for the start of next season.

Until Flacco is healthy and back under center, the Ravens won’t be able to help but feel there’s a black cloud hanging over their heads.

In the meantime, the Ravens and their fans will receive a glimpse of life without their franchise quarterback. Troy Smith was the last quarterback not named Flacco to start a regular-season game for the Ravens when Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden was playing in his final game and Brian Billick was coaching his last contest on Dec. 30, 2007.

Jettisoned by Houston and Oakland in the last two years, Schaub will now be asked to compete without the Ravens’ top two receivers (Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman), top two running backs (Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro), and starting center (Jeremy Zuttah) entering training camp. Frankly, it’s a near-impossible situation for a 34-year-old many feared had already reached the end of the road as an NFL quarterback before signing a one-year deal to back up the durable Flacco.

The Ravens may be fortunate to win another game the rest of the way, which would at least help their position in the 2016 draft after the most disappointing season in franchise history. From that perspective, the ugly win over the Rams on Sunday felt more like a loss, especially after learning of Flacco’s injury minutes after Justin Tucker’s game-winning 47-yard field goal.

Anyone watching the Ravens play in 2015 knows the problems run deeper than a slew of injuries to impact players such as six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs, tight end Dennis Pitta, Smith, and now Flacco and Forsett, but it’s difficult to recall too many NFL teams suffering such a number of injuries to high-impact players in recent memory. At least an already-poor record numbs the disappointment of losing Flacco compared to if the Ravens had been 7-3 and just seen their Super Bowl aspirations crushed on Sunday like Arizona experienced losing Carson Palmer to a torn ACL last November.

But you still can’t help but feel like the Ravens are snakebitten.

“I guess when it rains it pours,” outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “We’ve been dealing with it all year, from Suggs to Steve. It’s tough. … Nobody feels sorry for us. We’ve got to make sure we come out and prepare hard.”

What’s next?

Many wondered how the Ravens would respond to last week’s gut-wrenching loss to Jacksonville and if they would continue to compete in the way they have all season with one-possession outcomes in every game. Baltimore flirted with the wheels completely falling off the cart for much of Sunday’s game with more than 100 yards in penalties in the first half and scoring just three points through three quarters.

Receiving plenty of help from the sloppy Rams, the Ravens managed to pull out their third victory of the season by making fewer mistakes than their opponent in the end. But without Flacco — or Forsett — for the rest of the season on top of their many other injuries, when will enough finally become enough physically, mentally, and emotionally?

“It’s tremendously disappointing for those [injured] guys,” said John Harbaugh, who will coach his first game without Flacco under center next Monday night in Cleveland. “We’ll be fine as a football team. We’ll bounce back — that’s what you do. Matt Schaub can play quarterback, and he’s going to come in [and] he’s going to play very well.”

If only it were that simple, but what else can the Ravens coach really say at this point?

The Ravens were reminded on Sunday that it wasn’t that long ago that they reached paradise in raising the second Vince Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.

But less than three years later, that memory feels a universe away.

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Ravens lose starting running back Forsett to broken arm

Posted on 22 November 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — An injury-plagued 2015 season got even worse for the Ravens in the first quarter of Sunday’s 16-13 win over the St. Louis Rams.

Starting running back and 2014 Pro Bowl selection Justin Forsett was lost for the rest of the season after suffering a broken right forearm in the first quarter. The veteran back was slammed to the turf by Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and television replays showed his arm bending in a grotesque manner.

Forsett’s right forearm was immediately placed in an air cast before he was helped to the locker room.

“I kind of looked over his body and just saw his forearm and said, ‘OK. I’m not looking at that anymore.'” said quarterback Joe Flacco, who also suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fourth quarter. “I didn’t see much, but I knew it wasn’t good. It’s a shame, but we gutted it out and got a win.”

The Ravens immediately announced the severity of the injury as their starting offense has now lost its starting quarterback (Flacco), top two receivers (Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman), top two running backs (Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro), and starting center (Jeremy Zuttah) to season-ending injuries in 2015. With the Ravens having deactivated Terrance West prior to Sunday’s game, they were down to just two healthy running backs — rookies Buck Allen and Raheem Mostert — for the remainder of the game.

In Forsett’s absence, Allen accumulated 115 total yards despite only averaging 3.0 yards per carry against a stingy St. Louis defense. The 2015 fourth-round pick is expected to be the starter for the remainder of the season.

“He played like a pro. He played like a top-caliber NFL running back,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “You saw it out there. He made guys miss. He made plays in the passing game, plays in the run game. I thought our offensive line did a great job.”

Entering Sunday’s game, Forsett was averaging 4.2 yards per carry and had rushed for 26 yards on four carries against the Rams. The 30-year-old signed a three-year, $9 million in the offseason after rushing for a career-high 1,266 yards last season.

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Ravens-Rams: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 21 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Nothing is a given for the disappointing Ravens.

The fact that all nine of their games have been decided by one possession leads you to believe that the 2-7 Ravens are likely to win at least a couple more games in 2015, but last Sunday’s home loss to Jacksonville further changed their perception after the bye week. Baltimore may be able to compete — even win — any of its seven remaining game, but none can be pointed to as a predicted win with any level of confidence, either.

That principle certainly applies against a St. Louis team that sports the NFL’s 31st-ranked offense but also the sixth-ranked defense int he league. However, the Rams will be missing Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Quinn, which will hurt one of the best pass rushes in the league.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and St. Louis meet for the sixth time in their regular-season history and for the first time at M&T Bank Stadium since 2007. Baltimore holds a 3-2 advantage in the all-time series as the Rams are seeking their first road win in three tries against the Ravens.

Here’s what to expect as Baltimore tries to win just its second home game this season …

1. Lardarius Webb will see more snaps as a safety and secure another interception. The veteran cornerback saw a handful of opportunities at the new position against Jacksonville, and head coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees like his range and ball skills in that spot. It would be even more interesting to see the Ravens work Terrence Brooks into the mix and use him and Webb interchangeably between safety and the nickel spot in passing situations. The new look will result in Webb picking off a pass for the second straight week against the worst passing game in the league.

2. Todd Gurley will remind us why he’s the next big thing at the running back position. With Case Keenum taking over for the benched Nick Foles at quarterback and winds that could approach 20 miles per hour on Sunday, the Rams figure to ride their rookie running back, who is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He’ll approach his career high of 30 carries and eclipse the century mark with a touchdown on the ground against a good Baltimore run defense that has given up just 3.8 yards per attempt. Gurley once lived in Baltimore and rooted for the Ravens, so it will be a nice homecoming.

3. John Urschel will hold up respectably in his first NFL start at center. With left guard Kelechi Osemele likely departing via free agency this offseason, Urschel figures to step into a permanent starting role next season, but he’ll be filling in for the injured Jeremy Zuttah for the rest of 2015. It won’t be an easy task blocking 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year Aaron Donald, but Urschel proved his worth as a blocker filling in late last season. He won’t shut Donald down completely, but there won’t be much drop-off from Zuttah and he’ll quell concerns about his shaky shotgun snaps from Week 8.

4. Keenum will make some plays as a passer while still looking like a backup. Yes, the 27-year-old quarterback played against the Ravens last year in an embarrassing defeat at Houston, but Keenum only completed 47.6 percent of his passes in that game. With Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin as pass-catching weapons, Keenum will be able to make some throws, but this is a very poor passing game that hasn’t been able to sustain drives all season. Rams offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti will rely on the running game, but Keenum will commit two turnovers to go along with his 160 passing yards.

5. The Ravens defense will be the difference in a 17-16 win for Baltimore. The long touchdown to Malcom Floyd in Week 8 and a heartbreaking ending last week have masked the fact that Pees’ unit has played better in recent weeks, and that improvement will continue against a bad offense now turning to its backup quarterback. Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense won’t be able to consistently march up and down the field against a talented Rams front seven, but they’ll do enough to narrowly pull out a victory in what looks like another coin-flip game between two disappointing teams.

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Perriman calls injury “hardest thing I’ve ever been through”

Posted on 19 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Walking to the podium to address the media for the first time since injuring his knee on the first day of training camp in late July, Ravens receiver Breshad Perriman cracked a smile.

There hasn’t been much for the 2015 first-round pick to be happy about this season as he was officially placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, ending his rookie campaign before it ever began. Perriman’s partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament wound up being a microcosm of the 2015 season for Baltimore.

Much worse than anyone thought.

“It has been probably the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, honestly,” said Perriman, who is still wearing a brace on his right knee that is “healing very well” now. “It’s just a huge disappointment for me, and I feel like I’m letting them down as well, because I feel like I do have a role on this team. I don’t know how much I can help, but I know that I can help somewhere.”

Drafted to be the replacement for speedy veteran Torrey Smith, Perriman had impressed in spring workouts and was considered more advanced than Smith was as a rookie in 2011. The Ravens were so confident in Perriman’s ability and potential that general manager Ozzie Newsome did not add another veteran to pair with the 36-year-old Steve Smith, a mistake that’s come back to haunt them in the midst of a 2-7 season.

Injuring his knee in the final 30 minutes of the first full-squad practice on July 30, Perriman was initially told he would only miss a couple days of practice. However, a closer look revealed a PCL sprain — which is defined as a partial tear — that would keep him out longer than expected.

With head coach John Harbaugh not providing many specifics along the way, fans and media questioned what was really going on with Perriman’s knee and some began questioning his tougness. Meanwhile, the 22-year-old was struggling with the reality of not being able to contribute to the team that selected him 26th overall in April.

“I didn’t really see it coming, so once it happened, I shut everyone out,” Perriman said. “I wasn’t really talking to anybody. Finally, my parents noticed it, because I wasn’t even picking up their calls. Finally, they came up here for the weekend, and they really noticed my feelings and my reaction to all this stuff. They gave me words of encouragement about all the stuff that I’ve been through and all of the things that other people have been through that is way worse than this.”

His knee finally feeling good enough to return to the practice field on a limited basis on Sept. 24, Perriman experienced a setback a few days later in a pre-game workout at M&T Bank Stadium. Admitting that he “overdid it” working out with wide receivers coach Bobby Engram on the morning of the Cincinnati game, Perriman felt a “pop” in his knee, which would prove to be the fatal blow to his chances of playing this season.

Head coach John Harbaugh denied any knowledge of a setback when asked a few days later, but Perriman visited renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who discovered that the tear was worse than what it was originally. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound receiver received a platlet-rich plasma injection in addition to having the knee scoped, but the Ravens’ lack of transparency created more skepticism without any confirmation that he had re-injured his knee.

Even after the setback, the Ravens hoped Perriman would be able to return before the end of the year, but the rookie never appeared close to returning to practice as his teammates began realizing it looked like he wouldn’t be playing in 2015.

“As the season went on, it’s kind of like, ‘OK, this is going to be tough for him to really come in and contribute,'” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “Yes, you obviously feel for the kid. At the same time, it’s tough to really think too much about that, because we’re all in the midst of our own little thing and our own little battles.”

Harbaugh acknowledged during the bye week that the clock was ticking for a potential return, but Perriman said the collaborative decision was made to for him to go on IR this week because he would not have enough time to rebuild quadriceps strength and get back into football shape to realistically be able to play before the end of the season.

Despite his obvious disappointment of missing the entire season, Perriman said doctors haven’t shared any concern about the knee being a chronic or long-term problem.

“Not at all. They never expressed that to me, so that’s not [part] of my worries at all,” said Perriman, who also confirmed that the injury was unrelated to the Osgood-Schlatter disease that plagued him when he was younger. “They basically told me once I get this thing back 100 percent, that I’ll be good, and I should be fine throughout the rest of my career. It could potentially happen again, but the odds of that probably are slim.”

Even if Perriman is fully healthy moving forward, questions remain about his ability going into a critical offseason. At the time they drafted him, the Ravens hoped he would be their No. 1 receiver of the future with Steve Smith entering his 15th NFL season. Now, the latter is recovering from a torn Achilles and hasn’t yet announced whether he will follow through with his original plan to retire.

Trying to find a silver lining in a disappointing rookie year, Perriman feels confident about his mental approach to the game after learning all receiver positions in the offense, saying he’s at “a very strong point in the playbook.”

Despite his physical and emotional challenges dealing with the injury, coaches see a player with a strong commitment to the game.

“It’s difficult to continue to talk about the same subject, so we talk about other things,” offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. “I think football’s really important to Breshad. I think being a Raven is really important to him, and he wants to get back here as quickly as he can. I know he’s working with the people who are trying to help him do that. He loves football, and he wants to be a part of this.”

After his frustrating and bizarre rookie season, fans will remain skeptical until Perriman proves that he is fully healthy and ready to contribute in 2016.

He can look no further than to a receiver the Ravens recently played — San Diego’s Keenan Allen — for inspiration. Having suffered a Grade 2 PCL tear in late October of his final season at Cal, Allen was slow to recover throughout the pre-draft process, which contributed to him falling to the third round of the 2013 draft.

Allen went on to catch 71 passes for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games as a rookie that fall. Perriman and the Ravens can only hope his career follows a similar path after a trying first year.

“This was a difficult point in time for me. I was in — I would probably say — like a dark hole for a good period of time,” Perriman said. “But I feel like next year — when next year comes around once I finally get healthy — I’m going to be hungrier than ever. I feel like I’m going to come back harder than I ever have.”

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Ravens running game continues to be forgotten under Trestman

Posted on 17 November 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have lost their way.

That statement carries many connotations these days as Baltimore holds a 2-7 record for the first time since 2005, but it’s especially true when examining the disappearance of the running game after the Ravens finished eighth in the NFL with 126.2 rushing yards per game under Gary Kubiak a year ago. Despite maintaining that it was in the Ravens’ DNA to run the football when they hired pass-happy offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, head coach John Harbaugh has seen his rushing attack plummet to 23rd in the NFL with just 98.1 yards on the ground per game. The Ravens rank 18th in the league at 4.0 yards per carry after averaging a healthier 4.5 yards per attempt in 2014.

The running game again wasn’t a major factor in Sunday’s 22-20 loss to Jacksonville as the Ravens carried 21 times for 89 yards while Joe Flacco attempted 45 passes.

“We’d like to run the ball more; there’s no question,” Harbaugh said. “On the other hand, if you look at the defenses [the Jaguars] were playing, there were eight guys within four or five yards of the line of scrimmage at all times, pretty much, and even then, we had some really good runs. We had some nice runs in the second half. We weren’t able to finish in four-minute [drill] like we would have wanted to; we were close to popping a couple of those runs.

“In the first half, we weren’t getting much. If we could have converted a couple more first downs there, you would have seen more runs. It’s something we had planned on doing. We were going to run it at them anyway, but we just didn’t get the opportunities that we wanted to.”

It’s fair to note that the Jaguars entered Sunday ranked seventh in the NFL in run defense, but the Ravens barely even tried in the first half with just four designed runs compared to 29 drop-backs for Flacco in his first game since No. 1 receiver Steve Smith was lost for the season. As for Harbaugh’s explanation, the Ravens picked up 11 first downs in the first 30 minutes of action, which wasn’t indicative of a team struggling to get on schedule with moving the chains.

Asked if Flacco checked out of a high number of plays at the line of scrimmage because of the Jaguars stacking the box, Harbaugh said that there were only a couple instances when the original play was changed, leading one to conclude that Trestman was responsible for the out-of-whack ratio. The pass-happy attack may have found success to the tune of 14 points and 223 yards of offense in the first half, but the approach backfired in the third quarter with Flacco turning the ball over on the first three possessions after intermission.

The Ravens carried 16 times for 70 yards in the second half.

“We knew we had some opportunities in the passing game, but we always look to run,” said running back Justin Forsett, who finished with 53 yards on 14 carries. “It’s just tough that we didn’t get it going faster. If we had, we would’ve been able to run the ball a little bit better. At the end, we just didn’t finish well.”

It’s easy to point to the opponent to defend Trestman’s approach on Sunday, but the Ravens also ran six times — one was a quarterback kneel — for 15 yards in the first half against San Diego, a run defense that currently ranks 27th in the NFL. Not counting plays resulting in sacks, the Ravens rank 26th in the NFL in running the ball just 37.29 percent of the time in 2015.

Last year, Baltimore ran the ball 44.67 percent of the time to rank 11th in the league.

Is it understandable to expect more passing in 2015 with the Ravens trailing in more games? Absolutely, but Baltimore has trailed by more than one score in the second half of just four games this year and one of those was the comeback win at Pittsburgh when the Ravens ran for almost 200 yards in an overtime victory. It’s difficult to say you’re committed to the running game when it wasn’t even allowed to find a rhythm in the first half of each of the last two games when they never trailed by more than seven points.

Whether because of a lack of commitment or production — or both — a ground game that returned the same starting running back and same starting offensive line from a year ago continues to be a significant disappointment under Trestman. It’s made life even more difficult on Flacco, who is trying to succeed with arguably the most underwhelming group of pass-catchers in the NFL.

The Ravens rank ninth in the NFL with 263.6 passing yards per game, but they’re 25th at 6.7 yards per attempt. For the second time in three years, the offense has fallen on Flacco’s shoulders despite a substandard cast of receivers around him.

Despite what the coaching staff has said at numerous times this season, there doesn’t appear to be much urgency to get the ground game going after the latest soft showing against Jacksonville.

“The run game is something to talk about,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “We were looking at it hard this morning, this afternoon with the coaches. Early in the game, we’re a block here and a block there away from popping runs. But a block here and a block there doesn’t get it done. We did a lot of things with scheme. We had a lot of formations. We protected our edges with tight ends and with seal blocks coming back and sift blocks coming back the other way. We did a good job of protecting our edges. But inside of all that, they had a couple of little changeups with their linebackers that gave us a little trouble that we sorted out toward the end of the game, [and we] had some better runs.”

Entering 2015, the running game was supposed to be the rock-solid commodity for a Ravens offense that experienced plenty of change in the offseason. Instead, it’s become just another of the many problems plaguing a 2-7 football team.

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In last stand, Ravens fail to change losing tune

Posted on 15 November 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Sunday represented the last stand for the 2015 Ravens.

After their win over San Diego two weeks ago, players and coaches talked about making a second-half run to climb back into an underwhelming AFC wild-card race. Coming off their bye, the Ravens had an extra week to make mid-season adjustments and to prepare for a 2-6 opponent that hadn’t won a road game in nearly two years.

Their most optimistic fans believed there was at least a small chance for the Ravens to turn around their season starting with a win over the lowly Jaguars. But that dream vanished with Elvis Dumervil’s face mask penalty with no time remaining, setting up Jason Myers’ 53-yard field goal to hand the Ravens a stunning 22-20 defeat.

Head coach John Harbaugh called it “as tough a loss as you’re ever going to see” as Baltimore fell to 2-7, but it was just the latest crushing defeat in the most disappointing season in franchise history. The Ravens are just bad enough to find new ways to lose close games on a weekly basis.

“I felt like we lost the game way before that,” said wide receiver Kamar Aiken, citing the Ravens’ slew of other mistakes and his own dropped passes. “It should have never gotten to that point.”

Dumervil’s penalty was just the last of several miscues over the final four minutes of the game after Jacksonville punted the ball back to the Ravens with 3:57 remaining.

The first play of that drive was a Joe Flacco pass to Kyle Juszczyk that resulted in six yards before the fullback ran out of bounds — stopping the clock. After then moving the ball to the Jacksonville 43, the Ravens elected to take a timeout on fourth-and-5 instead of letting the play clock expire and taking a five-yard penalty for a delay of game.

Arguably the best punter in the NFL this season, Sam Koch punted the ball into the end zone for his first touchback of the season, giving the Jaguars the ball at the 20 instead of inside their 10 with 1:06 left and no timeouts remaining.

The decision seemed inconsequential at the time, but how crucial did that extra second and field position turn out to be for the Jaguars?

On second-and-15 from the Jacksonville 40, Ravens safety Kendrick Lewis dropped what would have been the game-clinching interception. That missed chance came just two plays before Dumervil’s critical mistake on a play in which virtually everyone on the field had stopped playing except for Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles and the Pro Bowl outside linebacker.

But the Ravens had other failed chances and errors — including four second-half turnovers — that put them in position for the final bizarre play to matter. There may have been some new post-bye wrinkles with more three-tight sets on offense and new personnel groups on defense — the previously-missing 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown even played — but the same mistakes came at critical times as the Ravens committed nine penalties for 121 yards.

It used to be that the Ravens had to play poorly and a team like Jacksonville would need to be nearly perfect to have a real chance to win in Baltimore, but let’s not pretend that the Jaguars were a juggernaut with their collection of dropped passes, a 26-yard field goal miss, and questionable play-calling throughout the day.

Sunday was 60 minutes of mediocre football played between two bad teams, with the Ravens blinking hardest at the end.

“We’re just not the type of team that’s finding ways to win right now,” said Flacco, who committed three turnovers in the third quarter despite three touchdown passes on the day. “We’re not good enough to [win] football games at the end. You can look at how crazy it is no matter what. We have chances to close those games out. We’re just leaving room for stuff like this to happen.”

You can keep pointing to closes losses and dwelling on misfortune.

Instead of turning a corner after their bye week and making a statement that the second half of 2015 would be a different story, the Ravens played the same losing tune in the end. And it wiped out what faint hope might have remained in their lost season.

M&T Bank Stadium used to be a place where the Ravens were almost invincible, but they’re now 1-3 at home with losses to Cleveland and Jacksonville, perennial doormats of the AFC. There’s just no explanation for it other than being a bad team, even if the Ravens and their fans might feel like the football gods were conspiring against them on that final play.

“We are not catching those breaks,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “It’s a flag here, dropped picks, and [missed] opportunities, and we’re not coming up with them.

“It’s not the universe; it’s us.”

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Ravens-Jaguars: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 14 November 2015 by Luke Jones

This isn’t a “homecoming” game for the Ravens.

Scoff as much as you’d like over the notion of the 2-6 Jacksonville Jaguars winning a road game for the first time in nearly two years and earning a victory at M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since Bill Clinton was in the White House (1999), but the 2-6 Ravens have no room to be taking any opponent lightly these days. That’s especially true when one of the Jaguars’ greatest strengths — the NFL’s 11th ranked passing game — matches up against Baltimore’s 29th-ranked pass defense.

Head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens have spoken all week about Sunday providing the opportunity for a fresh start and the first of many steps toward climbing back into an underwhelming AFC playoff race, but they’ll first need to show they’ve put some of their first-half struggles behind them.

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore and Jacksonville meet for the 19th time in the regular-season history and for the second consecutive year at M&T Bank Stadium. The Jaguars hold a 10-8 advantage in the all-time series, but that can be attributed to Jacksonville winning the first eight all-time meetings between the teams from 1996-1999 when they were old AFC Central foes. Dating back to 2000, the Ravens have won eight of 10 against Jacksonville.

Here’s what to expect as Baltimore tries to win consecutive games for the first time all season …

1. The team that performs better on third down will win on Sunday. This is a boring talking point often used by the unimaginative, but I only bring it up because both teams are so poor in this area, a major reason why they sport matching 2-6 records. The Ravens rank 24th in third-down offense and dead last in the NFL in third-down defense while Jacksonville is 19th in third-down offense and 29th in third-down defense. Baltimore will be challenged to find success running the ball in early-down situations against the league’s seventh-ranked rush defense while the Jaguars want to avoid putting the mistake-prone Blake Bortles in third-and-long spots. This will be critical factor in a close contest.

2. The Ravens secondary will snap Allen Hurns’ touchdown streak, but Allen Robinson will post over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown. Hurns is questionable to play with a foot injury, meaning he will be less than 100 percent if he does find his way to the field on Sunday to try to continue a streak of six consecutive games with a touchdown reception. However, the 2014 second-round pick Robinson is emerging as one of the better big-play threats in the NFL and will create problems for Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb. The Ravens should be fine if they can limit one of Jacksonville’s two impact receivers, but Robinson is just too good for the Baltimore secondary to stop at this point.

3. Kamar Aiken will have an encouraging day as the No. 1 receiver, catching six passes for 80 yards and a score. After two weeks to prepare and to talk a good game, the Ravens will now face the reality of life without Steve Smith the rest of the way. The good news for Baltimore is that Jacksonville sports the league’s 25th-ranked pass defense and has struggled to create pressure on quarterbacks this season, which should allow time for Aiken and Chris Givens to gain separation. Jacksonville’s starting cornerbacks, Davon House and Aaron Colvin, are solid, but No. 3 option Dwayne Gratz is a liability in the nickel, which will create a good matchup for Aiken on a touchdown pass.

4. Bortles will throw a costly interception midway through the fourth quarter. Counting the postseason, the Ravens have created four or more turnovers in a game 51 times in franchise history, but they have just four total takeaways in eight games in 2015. That trend just has to change at some point, right? Bortles has shown plenty of promise and has played at a high level at times this season, but he hasn’t been able to avoid critical mistakes like he made against the New York Jets last week. In a tight game, the Ravens will force their first turnover since Week 3 to end a scoring threat and preserve a narrow lead. The five-game streak without a takeaway has to end — even if it’s by accident.

5. Efficiency will be the theme of the day for Joe Flacco and the Ravens in a 28-23 win over Jacksonville. I feel for the Ravens quarterback, who has been given inferior weapons to work with in two of the last three seasons, but you never hear him complain about the factors regularly working against him. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens offense functions the rest of the way with Steve Smith out and the running game being a disappointment to this point. But Flacco will consistently make plays to move the chains and take a few deep shots to Givens in the process. The Ravens found a way to score 30 points without Smith in Week 5, and they’ll find ways to score enough against Jacksonville.

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