Cameron defends offensive strategy

OWINGS MILLS – Cam Cameron didn't have a blocking back standing in front of him to run interference or an offensive line knocking back blitzing linebackers. Surrounding by a phalanx of reporters, the Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator was standing alone in front of a microphone Thursday.

And Cameron defended his oft-criticized strategy from the end of the Ravens' 23-20 overtime loss to the New England Patriots that has come under considerable fire this week.

Cameron took exception with the characterization of his offensive approach as being too conservative, and he dismissed a few rumors about internal discord between himself and quarterback Joe Flacco and wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. "Everybody has a view of that," Cameron said. "Sometimes, plays, the way they turn out, kind of look conservative. I learned this back with LaDainian [Tomlinson], handing the ball to Ray Rice is not conservative, because we've all seen that thing run right out of the stadium. It's just a little bit of a mindset. "I really kind of understand it. Passing is aggressive and running is conservative. But in reality, depending on your personnel, it's really not the case. So, we don't want to be conservative, but we want to be smart aggressive. I think that's what we want to be. We want to be aggressive and smart and then execute at the same time."

In hindsight, Cameron did acknowledge that he would change some things. He didn't specify what, though.

"I think anytime in critical situations, when things don't work out the way you want them to, you always evaluate," he said. "And if you had a crystal ball, you might do some things differently, and at the same time, there are things that you wouldn't do differently. I'd say in that game, it was probably somewhere in between. We just need to make sure we continue to grow and execute in critical situations." Following a 25-yard field goal from kicker Billy Cundiff to stake the Ravens to a 20-10 lead seconds into the fourth quarter, the Ravens manufactured only three first downs combined in the final quarter of regulation and overtime. They ran the football nine times, gaining only 22 yards. They passed the ball 11 times, gaining just 59 yards. According to the official book, Flacco only passed twice deep.

He dumped it off short mostly to Rice or wide receivers Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin. The Patriots went with a Cover 2 scheme with the middle linebacker dropping deep down the middle and another linebacker shadowing Rice out of the backfield to cut off the screen play that the Ravens like.

"What really got us and allowed them to play that coverage is I think we had eight or nine 3rd-and-9-plusses," Cameron said. "So, think about it: You're playing defense. It's 3rd-and-9-plus. Probably, most teams aren't running the ball on 3rd-and-9-plus.

"They're spying the screens, which everyone's doing to us the entire year. And so it's really something we've seen throughout the year. They had an opportunity to play it, and a lot of that was due to some things that we need to improve on first and second down. So, the best answer for that coverage, number one, is to not be in 3rd-and-long that many times." There were several third-and-long situations, but not late in the game.

The Ravens were stuffed on 3rd-and-1 on a quarterback sneak where Flacco failed to audible out with three big defensive linemen hunched over the nose of the ball and pinching inside. The Ravens failed to convert a 3rd-and-6 in the fourth quarter.

In overtime, the Ravens didn't convert a 3rd-and-5 and a 3rd-and-19 with the latter one created by fullback Le'Ron McClain's costly personal foul for retaliating against outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham. In the first half, Flacco converted half of his six third-and-long situations.

Meanwhile, Cameron denied having a clear-the-air meeting with Flacco to iron out differences of opinion about the play-calling. "There was no big meeting with me and Joe," Cameron said today. "There was a conversation between me and Joe after every game like there always is. And that's exactly what I said, because I believe it. I said, ‘Joe, I could have helped you better. I could have helped you better at times in that game.' That's my job. "My job is to help the quarterback as much as I can to help this offense. And Joe said to me, ‘No, I could have done a better job.' And that's the relationship that you have with your quarterback. The coordinator feels like he can do a better job, and the quarterback thinks he can do a better job. And that's how you become a great offense. That's what's going to make us special."

Cameron also shot down rumors that he's telling Flacco where to throw the football. "That has not been done," Cameron said. "We don't do that. Joe knows how to read defenses. He knows he has multiple options. To my knowledge, it's inaccurate because it didn't come from me. I know it didn't come from Jim [Zorn, quarterbacks coach]. In no way shape or form, I don't think anybody is doing that."

Cameron denied a rumor that Houshmandzadeh complained to him about his play-calling late in the game.

Supposedly, an animated Houshmandzadeh confronted Cameron on the sideline and asked him to call some downfield throws using a few choice expletives to amplify his opinion.

Cameron told the Carroll County Times that didn't happen, though, and said he has no problem with Houshmandzadeh's attitude.

"He's a competitor, you would think he's been a Raven all his life," Cameron said. "He's just a competitor, he's great. His attitude has been nothing short of great. No, he was good. "One thing, we've got an agreement: We're going to communicate with him and our guys and they can come to us if they've got anything they want to talk about."

A former Pro Bowl selection, Houshamandzadeh has complained previously about his lack of involvement in the offense. He has caught nine passes for 128 yards and one touchdown, a game-winner against the Pittsburgh Steeelers. "It doesn't matter what I think," Houshmandzadeh said. "It's what Cam wants to do. Regardless if I think if it's right or it's wrong, it doesn't matter.

"It's whatever Cam and the coaches on offense want to do. If they call a play, we got to execute it. If it's not executed, it's our fault."

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