An uncharacteristically defiant Joe Flacco bristled at critical questions about the Baltimore Ravens’ offense on Wednesday and defended the play of the NFL’s 32nd-ranked offense.
“I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves when we all of a sudden start saying we haven’t played well for three weeks,” Flacco said. “We played terribly last week. There’s no way around that. But the other two weeks, we did what we had to do to win football games. I don’t think that’s anything that we can hang our head over.”
The Ravens rank last in the NFL in total yards, averaging at least 9 yards less than every other offense in the league.
Baltimore kept to a conservative game plan in victories over the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns to start the season because the Ravens led by a combined score of 38-7 in the first half. But the Ravens flopped offensively in Sunday’s 44-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, producing minus-1 yard in the first quarter and failing to produce a first down until four minutes left before halftime.
Flacco, who is known for his laid-back demeanor, answered questions about the offense with more of an edge on Wednesday.
“The stats aren’t going to be there in those [first two] games, and you can’t look at that and say we played bad,” Flacco said. “You have to look at the film and say, good play, good play, bad play, good play. You can’t necessarily grade people’s performances based on how many catches they had or how many throws they’ve completed.”
Flacco insisted the struggles of the last game won’t diminish his optimism for the offense.
“It better not, or we have no shot,” he said.
Through three games, the Ravens rank last or second-to-last in four offensive categories categories: total yards, yards per play, passing yards and average passing yards per attempt.
“On that side of the ball, we’re working really hard to be a lot better than we’ve been,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We recognized that we’re not playing the kind of football on offense that’s going to put a lot of points on the board. We want to score points. We want to take pressure off the other two phases as much as we can.”
At the outset of his weekly session with reporters Wednesday, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was asked for his thoughts on why the Ravens offense hasn’t played well in 2017.
He didn’t like the question.
“I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves when, all of a sudden, we say we haven’t played well for three weeks,” Flacco said. “We played terribly last week; there’s no way around that. But the other two weeks, we did what we had to do to win and I don’t think that’s anything we can hang our heads over.”
The question came in the wake of the offense’s indisputably nightmarish performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday in London. Baltimore’s offense opened the game with four straight three-and-outs and didn’t register a first down until the Jaguars had a 20-0 lead on their way to winning, 44-7. Flacco threw for just 28 yards while being intercepted twice.
But before that, the offense gashed the Cincinnati Bengals for 142 rushing yards in a Week 1 road victory and then reached the end zone three times in the first half of a Week 2 home win against the Cleveland Browns.
“We did what we had to do to win,” Flacco said. “All of a sudden when you lose one and didn’t play well, you act like you haven’t played well at all and it’s not true.
“Statistically it wasn’t the best performance (in the first two games), but we did what we needed to do to win the football game, and that’s what this is all about.”
No doubt, the offense’s numbers aren’t pretty through three games. The Ravens are last in the NFL in total offense, last in passing offense and No. 23 in points.
“We definitely have a lot of work to do. It hasn’t been good enough offensively,” tight end Benjamin Watson said Wednesday. “I think everyone on offense would say they want it to be better.”
Where does the problem lie?
“Watching the film, there’s usually one guy here or there. We’re not that far off,” Watson said.
Flacco expressed a similar opinion when asked what he saw when reviewing tape of the Jacksonville debacle.
“It’s never as good as you think or as bad as you think. Having said that, when one or two guys do something wrong every single play, it isn’t the biggest thing that went wrong, but they add up,” Flacco said.
He continued: “If we make a first down on those first two drives, the game could be completely different. We could go down and score a touchdown or kick a field goal, and the whole game is different from that point on. There’s a butterfly effect to everything. You don’t get a first down and it just grows. That’s what you see when you go back and look at the film. It wasn’t anything major, but little things, each guy taking their turn doing their little thing that wasn’t correct, then you’ve got a blowout.”
The fix-it list on that side of the ball is no secret. Flacco needs to get his wide receivers more involved and his banged-up line needs to perform better, although Head Coach John Harbaugh praised guards Matt Skura and Jermaine Eluemunor, who replaced Marshal Yanda Sunday.
“Watch the tape in detail, those guys are playing pretty good. You would be pretty happy with the way those two right guards played. You would probably be a bit surprised,” Harbaugh said.
Flacco’s top fix-it item involved his unit’s mindset more than anything tangible.
“We’ve got a good football team,” he said. “We have to continue to believe that and continue to go out there and just do what we’ve been doing, just do it a little better.”
In other words, the Jacksonville game didn’t dull his optimism over what the offense can achieve this season?
“No, it didn’t,” Flacco said, “and it better not or we have no shot.”