Ravens' offense on frustrating cold streak

Frustrated, angry and at a loss to explain the root of the problems plaguing a slumping offense, fullback Le'Ron McClain's pride was stinging as much as a painful elbow injury. Seated in front of his locker inside the Baltimore Ravens' locker room Sunday, McClain was spitting fire about an ineffectual offense

that generated its fewest yards of the season during a 13-7 win over the downtrodden Cincinnati Bengals.

"I'm beyond just frustrated with what we've been doing on offense," McClain said. "We got so many weapons on offense. We got to use our players more. It's just frustrating for me. I'm glad we got the victory, but it ain't good enough to go to Dallas. "That's a fact. It's not. As an offense, we've got to see our mistakes and correct them and win our one-on-one matchups and get going. We ain't going to get out of the wild-card game playing like this." McClain had plenty of reasons to be upset. Although the Ravens (12-4) are squaring off with the Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) in an AFC wild-card playoff Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, questions persist about an offense not living up to its potential. The Ravens generated a season-low 199 yards of total offense against the Bengals. They converted only 2 of 11 third downs, an 18-percent success rate. The running game didn't gain much traction, averaging 2.9 yards per carry. Quarterback Joe Flacco was intercepted once and threw no touchdowns, producing just 125 passing yards.

And the offensive line allowed four sacks and seven quarterback hits. "When you watch that game, there are a lot of little things," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "You can't really boil it down to anything other than execution. There are some things you want to do better. There are some things that you want to call better. "There's blocking schemes that can be executed better. There are throws that can be seen better. There are routes that can be run better. The good news after watching it, because I was disappointed, I really think we are really close." Despite an offense dotted with former Pro Bowl selections at every skill position except for quarterback, the Ravens finished the season ranked 22nd in total offense (322.9), 14th in rushing (114.4) and 20th in passing (208.4). The Ravens rank 16th in scoring offense and 28th in average per rush, gaining 3.8 yards per carry. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has been a popular target for his conservative play-calling and game plans all season.

Nonetheless, Harbaugh remains convinced that the offense is on the verge of breaking through at the most pivotal point of the season. "I watch our offense every single day in practice and I know how good we are, can be, and how close we are to being really good," he said. "We have really talented players and really talented coaches who are working real hard to be really good. And they've won 12 games playing complementary football. "We can be a much more potent offense. Friday's practice was as good a practice as you're ever going to see. I want it to translate to Sunday. How do we get it to translate to Sunday? That's what we're working on as coaches to do. I know that's a big roundabout answer, but it's the most honest one I can give you." The Ravens have outscored opponents 357-270, but haven't sustained consistency throughout games.

There was a lengthy stretch where they failed to score a second-half offensive touchdown.

"I think it's been displayed at times," Harbaugh said. "I don't know if we've had four quarters of it, but there's been times where we scored over 30 points, where we've scored three times in a row. There's been stretches where we've been unstoppable. "So, yeah, I'm looking for that game where we play the whole game that way. If we want to win a championship and I think the offensive guys are saying, they feel like they need to play that way. And we support that." What bothers McClain and fellow offensive players is the regression and the fact that they aren't holding up their end of the bargain while the defense is playing well.

"We've been doing good the past two weeks, then we come out and play like this," McClain said. "We need more plays. Man, that's crazy.

"Our defense is playing lights out. They're playing at a championship level, the defense and the special teams. We've got to do better, man, point blank." McClain said that former Pro Bowl running back Willis McGahee needs to be utilized more. McGahee rushed for five yards on two carries and caught one pass for eight yards. "Willis only got five plays," McClain said. "They're not using him like we need to." Against the Bengals, the offense rarely got into any sustainable rhythm. They were derailed by penalties and breakdowns in pass protection. The Ravens were penalized seven times for 45 yards. Offensive tackle Michael Oher was flagged once for unnecessary roughness, and offensive tackle Marshal Yanda was penalized for holding and a false start.

"The defense did a hell of a job and bailed our asses out," Yanda said. "I think we need to play better. I need to play better. That's ridiculous. I point the finger at myself right now.

"That's not me. I'm pissed. I'm happy we won, but we all want to do better as an offense. We want to help the defense out. They're playing awesome. I think we need to step it up, and that starts with me and that starts with us." Not offering specifics, Harbaugh said the offense will keep working hard to improve.

"You keep chopping wood, you keep coaching, you keep practicing hard, we'll break out and play good offense," he said. "That's a certainty."

Ravens Insider Top Stories