OWINGS MILLS – Ray Rice was sitting on the bench Monday night, shaking his head after losing his grip on the football in the first quarter. It wasn't a good night for the Pro Bowl running back or the Baltimore Ravens' beleaguered offense that practically dug up the ground to discover a new franchise low with zero first downs in the first half of a shocking 12-7 road loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Nothing worked.
Definitely not quarterback Joe Flacco, who was erratic in his accuracy and under siege from Jaguars pass rushers as the offensive line failed to protect him adequately. And his wide receivers were nearly as bad, unable to shake press coverage to get open downfield.
Now, oft-criticized offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is under scrutiny for not involving Rice more often.
That strategy was called out by never bashful outside linebacker Terrell Suggs after Rice rushed for only 28 yards on eight carries with five receptions for 35 yards. Following Rice's first fumble in 522 touches, he spent over 10 minutes on the sidelines before handling the football again.
"It baffles me that Ray Rice only had six carries, I don't really know what the game plan was," Suggs said. "When I have a Pro Bowl running back and he's not getting his touches, I'm going to feel some kind of way about it. He wants the ball and I think we should feed him. They feed their horse. We have to feed our horse.
"I have to question how many catches Anquan had. Ray Rice is a phenomenal player. You have to use your phenomenal players. We've got guys on this team that can do some great things. We have to use those guys. It's that simple."
Actually, Suggs and coach John Harbaugh are in lockstep when it comes to utilizing Rice more.
It didn't make sense to Harbaugh to not get the Ravens' most explosive offensive weapon more involved.
"He's got to get more than eight carries," Harbaugh said. "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. We were looking for some things that we can do, searching a little bit for a way to get a first down.
" It wasn't so much about, 'Hey, you know what? Let's get so many carries to Ray Rice.' We were just trying to find a way to beat the defense and get a first down and get going. Because when you do that, that's when those carries start adding up. By the same token, eight carries is never going to be a winning formula for Ray Rice. There's no doubt about it."
While Rice averaged only 3.5 yards per carry, it was an identical success rate for Jaguars star running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
The Jaguars stuck with Jones-Drew despite three fumbles and he pounded out 105 yards on 30 carries.
Harbaugh said he doesn't have an issue with Suggs for sounding off, and expressing what many other players in the locker room were wondering.
"I've got a lot of respect for Terrell Suggs," Harbaugh said. "Terrell Suggs' heart is always in the right place. He's a leader on our football team. I listen to all of our guys, and definitely I listen to Terrell Suggs. It's not like we're not trying to do the things he's talking about doing."
And Cameron acknowledged afterward that Rice needs the ball more.
"Hey, I agree with him wholeheartedly," Cameron said. "In every game, we have to make sure Ray Rice is involved."
Harbaugh denied that Rice was benched or that there was a problem between the former Rutgers All-American and running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery.
"Absolutely not, he wasn't benched," Harbaugh said. "Those two guy have an amazing relationship. That is an honest relationship, too."
The Ravens gained just 16 yards of total offense by halftime, a franchise record for a half.
The Ravens converted just 2 of 12 third downs, a 17-percent clip.
They finished with 146 yards of total offense, 42 shy of the worst showing in franchise history.
And they averaged only 2.8 yards on their 53 offensive plays.
Flacco completed 6 of 16 passes for 8 yards in the first half, finishing just 21 of 38 for 137 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Flacco has completed 52.1 percent of his throws for 1,415 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions for a 76.2 passer rating.
He ranks 32nd out of 34 quarterbacks in completion percentage, and 26th in quarterback rating.
Not surprisingly, Cameron and Flacco are catching most of the flak for the offensive struggles.
"That's part of our deal, heat on me, heat on Joe," Cameron said. "We can all do better. That goes with the territory. We've got to execute better. We need more consistency.
"You have to be fundamentally sound. We have some new moving parts. That's not an excuse. That's something we're working through."
As good as Flacco was against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the St. Louis Rams and the Houston Texans, he struggled against the Tennessee Titans when he completed under 50 percent of his throws and tossed an interception.
And Flacco hit only 10 of 31 throws for 163 yards against the New York Jets and had an interception returned for a touchdown as he was incomplete for 12 consecutive throws with no completions in the second and third quarter.
Since the Ravens cut tight end Todd Heap and wide receiver Derrick Mason before training camp, Flacco has been getting acclimated to new personnel. That includes tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta and rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith with Lee Evans still sidelined with a left ankle injury.
"We're a young football team," Flacco said. "We're switching guys out and in up front. We need some time. We got to win while we start gelling and we're really inconsistent right now. That's part of what's good about this.
"You'd like to learn while you're winning football games and thus far, we've done that. As the year goes on, we're going to get better and better. That's one of the upsides of this football team."
Heading into Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals (1-5), the Ravens (4-2) now rank 20th in total offense, 19th in rushing and 17th in passing
Cameron was retained after last season, and owner Steve Bisciotti said he looked forward to seeing how he would coach under fire.
Is the criticism deserved for Cameron?
"It's warranted for all of us," said Harbaugh, adding that he's more heavily involved with the offense this year. "I think we all deserve to have the finger pointed at us when the offense plays like that. It's just a bad performance, and everybody knows it. Cam's got broad shoulders. He's a tough guy, and he's been doing this for a long time.
"And everybody in the building respects him. 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've all got to go to work."
.Notebook: Ravens' Ed Reed, Terrence Cody regarded as OK
OWINGS MILLS -- The physical toll exacted on the Baltimore Ravens didn't equal the mental hurt stemming from their embarrassing loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Ravens free safety Ed Reed and nose guard Terrence Cody's neck stinger injuries aren't regarded as serious, according to coach John Harbaugh.
Both players returned to play in the Ravens' 12-7 defeat after being down on the ground for several minutes.
Harbaugh pointed out that Reed's stinger was on the other side of his neck, not the same nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder that has affected him for the past few seasons.
"Cody seems OK, Ed, I think he's OK," Harbaugh said Monday. "I think he had a burner, and it was in the other side from where his other issues were, but we'll see. Those things are a little bit unpredictable.
"So, I don't want to speak for Ed on that because that's his, he owns that. We'll see how he does. He's a pretty tough guy. He came back in the game."
Following the game, Reed downplayed the injury.
"It's good," Reed said. "It's sore right now. It was just one of those moments you can't do anything about. I'll get it looked it. It feels great. They just wanted me to come out. I had to come out for one play, just testing my strength.
"If you've ever had a stinger, it's a bad feeling. I could have moved my arm. It just felt so bad. I wanted to make sure nothing else was going on. The guy got me pretty good, hit me from the left side. I don't know where it happened."
Harbaugh was noncommittal on whether offensive guard Ben Grubbs (right turf toe) and wide receiver Lee Evans (left ankle) will return this week against the Arizona Cardinals.
"As far as Lee and Ben, we'll just have to see as the week goes on," Harbaugh said. "I'm at the point now where I'm not even thinking about it until they come back because I think you give those guys a chance to heal fully where they're not going to be re-injured again. That's been such a mystery, and it's still got to heal."
Rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith only played on special teams in his first game back after incurring a high left ankle sprain against the Pittsburgh Steelers to start the season due to recurring soreness in his ankle.
"He was gimping around there a little bit in the second half, also went by how the game went," Harbaugh said. "Ankle's a little sore, hasn't had a lot of reps, hadn't been in on defense that much, tight football game, that probably limited his reps the whole day."
UNDER REVIEW: On a night where there were several incorrect calls, Ravens strong safety Bernard Pollard was flagged for a debatable personal foul in the third quarter.
Pollard crushed Jaguars running back Deji Karim, but was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless player.
However, television replays clearly showed that Pollard used his shoulder to deliver the blow.
Now, the Ravens are seeking answers from the league office. They have submitted that play and other ones to the NFL for review.
"We'll definitely send it in," Harbaugh said. "There will be some other ones that we send in, and we'll just see what they say and what they tell us. I don't know what other way to coach him. But if they give us some insight into that, that would help us."
Pollard didn't agree with the call, but took the high road after the game.
"That's football," Pollard said. "As defensive backs, we're taught to break on the ball, go get it. But the ref thought it was a foul. So, he called the play.
"It don't matter what I thought it was. The call's been made, so it's just one of them things where you have to chalk it up, you've got to fight. You've got to do whatever you can do."
Pollard said that he didn't plead his case to the referee.
"I didn't talk to the ref afterwards," Pollard said. "Obviously, he made a decision. They'll look at it, they'll review it and figure out how to make the right calls."
Pollard's teammates disagreed with the call.
"If I'm Bernard, I'm hitting him the same way," outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "I'm not backing off. I understand that's the call they're going to make, but he can't change the way he plays, the way he hit that guy."
Heavily fined in the past when he played for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans for hits regarded as outside the rules, Pollard said he's not concerned about the potential financial ramifications of this penalty.
"I'm not worried about getting a fine," Pollard said. "We always have the power to appeal it and hopefully they see what was right."
AYANBADEJO EJECTED: Pro Bowl special-teams ace and reserve linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo was ejected in the third quarter for hitting Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Guy Whimper in the facemask.
The ejection is the first of his NFL career and will likely trigger a hefty fine from the NFL.
Ayanbadejo retaliated against Whimper, and he got caught.
"Simple case of that," Ayanbadejo said following the Ravens' 12-7 loss Monday night. "So, the play is over and the guy is still touching me. I want to get away from the guy and get his hands off of me and just finish the play. He has his hands on me. Then, he grabs me around the waist, spins me around and then he pushes me and hits me in the face. I get in the guy's face and he punches me in the face.
"You could only take so much and I hit him back in the face. I would like a little protection out there, too. You can only let so many things slide. I punched him back in classic retaliation, but it wasn't the first, it wasn't the second, it was the third time he touches me and then I retaliated. I let one, two and three go. It's not like I'm a dirty player, but a guy could only take so much."
Harbaugh said Ayanbadejo normally plays with great composure.
"From the standpoint of our own players, you can't retaliate to the face," Harbaugh said. "That's what they're going to look for. You would love to see them get the whole thing. You would love to see, you know, what you might perceive as being fairness in that situation.
"Brendon Ayanbadejo is a really smart player, and he usually has great control of his emotions. That didn't end up hurting us because our defense got them stopped, but it cost us time. So, it hurt us in that sense. You can only take so much, but you have to know how to protect yourself out there without getting a personal foul."
Ayanbadejo was fined $15,000 earlier this season for a horse-collar tackle.
Now, he's hoping to avoid being punished harshly by the league office for this altercation.
"We'll put a presentation together," Ayanbadejo said. "It's an automatic, considerably large fine. We'll put a presentation together and I think the best thing is show the way I play football. Prior to my ejection, I helped Jaguars up during the game, guys I don't even know, two different guys. A coach gets knocked down on the sideline and I want to help him up, and then something like this happened.
"Hopefully, the NFL will be lenient with this fine just like when I had my horse-collar. The crazy thing is I've never had one fine in a year, let alone two fines. And I've never won a Super Bowl. Maybe there's a correlation there. I've never been ejected, I've never been fined. Some weird things have happened this year."
NOT CHANGING HIS MIND: Harbaugh's decision to try an onside kick in the final minutes Monday night has been second-guessed quite a bit.
Following a touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Anquan Boldin, Harbaugh had Billy Cundiff try for the onside kick.
However, it didn't travel 10 yards before winding up in the hands of safety Haruki Nakamura.
The mistake led to a 51-yard field goal by Josh Scobee, his fourth of the game.
Harbaugh stood firm behind his decision.
"Now, that I've had some time to think about it, I'm even more sure that it was the right thing," Harbaugh said. "And I think you can go both ways on it, but we had a chance to do a probability study, and that's another thing that Matt Weiss does, and the probabilities are for kicking the onsides kick. And that's giving a 21-percent onside kick recovery rate, and that's assuming that that's a touchback, so that they get the two-minute warning – which to me, if I'm them, I'm bringing the ball out, unless it's kicked out of the back of the end zone. So, you know what? I think it's fair to say you can do it either way.
"I felt strongly about the onside kick, and the main reason was because I thought we were going to get it. So, you can take that 21-percent and make it 50-percent-plus in my mind, because I liked our scheme on that play. And if you look at the way, we had them outnumbered at the point of attack. If that ball goes 10 yards, which is not asking too much, then we're going to recover that ball. Now we've got the ball with two minutes, plus two timeouts, plus the two-minute warning, to go from the 45- to 50 into close field goal range and give us the best chance to make a kick and win the game. I felt strongly about it then, and I feel even more strongly about it now that it gave us the best chance to win. But, I also acknowledge you can definitely make the case the other way. If everything works out perfectly the other way, you have a chance to win the other way, too."
CUNDIFF MISSES AGAIN: All three of Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff's three missed field goal tries this year have sailed wide right.
His latest miss was a 52-yard attempt against the Jaguars after misfiring on two 51-yarders against the St. Louis Rams.
"We thought we had that corrected," Harbaugh said. "We had two of them, I think in the same game, that got pushed to the right that were the same problem that we worked really hard on that over the last four weeks. And for him to come out and push that ball the way he did, and it looked the same way, that's a bad miss, and that's a disappointing thing for him. And I know that he's more mad about it than anybody. That's not something that he's done in his career, he's not been a guy that's pushed balls. If anything, he's pulled balls.
"I'd rather see the ball get pulled on a long field goal, because that means you're attacking it a little bit more. So, hey, man, it's the same swing as you'd use on a 25, 35 or a 45, it's all the same swing. You might drive the ball a little bit more on a longer one, but it's still going to be a straight.. And he's capable of doing that, and I think over the course of time he's going to make a lot more of those than he misses. But that was a tough miss. You know, they made three 50-yard-plus field goals, and we missed our one, and that was probably the difference in the game. So, that's something that we're going to be good at as we go forward."
STRATEGY: How did the Jaguars limit running back Ray Rice to 28 yards on eight carries and 35 yards on five receptions?
It wasn't always with a spy shadowing his every movement, but they did clamp down on Rice out of the backfield.
"No, I don't think it was a spy," Harbaugh said. "Their defensive end, one time, and a nose guard another time, did a great job of recognizing the screen. There are certain screen tips, and those guys did a great job of recognizing the screen and just running right up there to it. They did a great job defending screens. That hurt us, because if those guys don't make the play, those are both huge plays."
The Jaguars sacked quarterback Joe Flacco three times and pressured him relentlessly.
"They stunted a little bit in pass protection," Harbaugh said. "I thought we did a pretty good job of picking up the stunt, the twists and those kinds of things. We did a pretty good job, especially as the game wore on. They blitzed us a little bit early with the Sam ‘backer and the Will ‘backer; they got us a couple of times there.
"The Will ‘backer timed a couple up and got us
one time in the seven-man protection. And the Sam ‘backer got us once or twice over the right side running back. But, it wasn't anything we haven't seen before, and I don't think those were the determining things. It really wasn't that much pressure. It wasn't exotic pressure at all."
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