Ravens searching for answers, points

OWINGS MILLS -- Psychological barriers? Lacking an accurate map to the end zone? Insufficient talent? The play-calling of offensive coordinator Jim Fassel? According to the Baltimore Ravens' beleaguered, scoring-challenged offense, it's a case of none of the above in terms of why they can't score a touchdown. In a season-long debacle where the offense ranks last in the league in scoring (11.1 points per game), the futility is growing.

It has been 11 quarters since the last-place Ravens (2-7) crossed the goal line, dating back to an Oct. 31 Chester Taylor touchdown catch in a 20-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's a stretch of 166 minutes and 54 seconds of time elapsed on the scoreboard and 30 offensive drives.

With the first-place Steelers coming to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, the Ravens' scoring drought underscores only producing seven touchdowns for the lowest output in the NFL. There are no obvious answers, just frustration and angst.

"It's not rocket science and it's not physics," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "I don't think psychologically it has gotten to us. When you don't score, everything starts to mount and mount and mount.

"You have to keep a positive attitude because if you don't you're really not going to score. What we're doing in the red zone and what coach Fassel is calling -- because he is calling some good plays -- we just have got to find a way to get in the end zone."

The offense ranks 19th in third-down efficiency, converting only 50 of 137 third downs (36.5 percent).

Because the Ravens don't throw often on first or second down and have slumped to 25th in rushing offense with 91.6 rushing yards per game, they're typically in long-yardage situations on third down.

"On long situations like that, the percentages go way down," quarterback Kyle Boller said. "You're not going to convert all of your third-and-longs, so the more we can stay out of those the easier it's going to be to keep those chains moving."

Throwing deep, though, has been a major shortcoming.

In a 30-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mason had the longest catch for 35 yards. Running backs Jamal Lewis and Musa Smith combined for eight catches for 18 yards.

"It doesn't take a genius to understand that on 3rd-and-20 you have to take away the deep pass and let them throw it underneath," Mason said. "When we call certain shots, sometimes it's not there. You can't force it if it's not there because then you'll throw an interception."

Against the Jaguars, Boller threw three interceptions with one returned for a touchdown while appearing to stare down his primary reads.

"Sure, I guess if you throw three picks it must be something," Boller said. "Hopefully, I will throw the ball to my guys and not them."

Boller was sacked four times Sunday, taking some brutal hits. Is there enough time to get something going down the field?

"I can't comment on that," Mason said. "That would be unfair of me to comment on the offensive line just like they can't comment on the guys outside or the tight ends."

Lewis has averaged only 53.3 yards and is mired in his worst season ever with 480 yards. Backup Chester Taylor is averaging 5.0 yards and has gained 241 yards on 111 less carries than Lewis. Both declined to comment Thursday.

"We've got to get more out of the whole running game," Billick said. "The lack of a substantial, consistent running game, which we've always had, is very frustrating whether it's Jamal or Chester."

Despite the horrendous output in four consecutive losses, Mason said he remains convinced that the Ravens will eventually score another touchdown.

"My belief is your actions dictate your attitude and your attitude dictates your actions," Mason said. "Maybe when we do get in the end zone -- and we are going to get in the end zone whether it's via pass or by run -- then you start building confidence."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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