Ravens Running on Empty

Did anybody check their milk cartons to see if Jamal Lewis' picture was plastered on the back after the first half of Sunday's game against the Titans?

Somebody, anybody, needed to find out what happened to Lewis, as he was clearly missing from the offense and the field against Tennessee. When the Ravens finally found their franchise running back sitting on the bench, they decided that it might have been a good idea to start giving him the ball in the fourth quarter.


The result: Lewis gained 62 yards in final quarter of the game, and reenergized an offense that worked its hardest to create a follies tape for fans to pick up from Blockbuster.


It took way too long to get Lewis involved in the offense, that's for sure.


There were many instances in the first half of the game against Tennessee where the Ravens opted to use Chester Taylor, spread the field and pass the ball against the Titans.


It seemed like a decent idea, especially when you consider that the Titans consistently stacked the box with 8-9 defenders to support the run. And hey, it's not as if the Ravens' offense is such a powerhouse that they can't be a little unconventional and shouldn't take chances.

However, once Travis Taylor dropped his first pass and Ron Johnson dropped his next three, you had the sense that the air attack wasn't going to work out too well for the Ravens. But the coaching staff didn't adjust coming out of halftime, still insisting on throwing the ball around the field.

They threw the ball on third-and-short consistently, when they could have rode Lewis, one of the best short-yardage backs in the league, to pick up the easy first down.

As a result, the Ravens produced yet another poor completion percentage on third downs against the Titans, converting just 2 out of their 13 attempts.   

Yes, it's true that using play-action on third-and-short isn't a bad idea at all. But the Ravens didn't even use a play-fake to freeze the safeties in the back field in third-and-short situations.


They did however, decide to spread the field and throw the ball to keep the chains moving, and not surprisingly, the Titans weren't fooled.


At some point, you just have to go back to your bread and butter to sustain whatever offensive production you are having. For the Ravens, that's running the ball with Lewis, pounding it off the left side and up the middle, and to work the intermediate passing game into their game plan.  


The bottom line is the Ravens are just not built to pass the football without the support of a strong rushing attack. Sorry Brian Billick, it's the truth and you know it.

Some teams can get by without a substantial rushing attack as their base on offense.
Oakland can, Tennessee can, and Buffalo can for example.


But those teams also have better lines, better receivers and quarterbacks to help execute their pass happy attacks.


The Ravens' biggest weaknesses fall at all three of those positions.

In fact, the receiver spot was worse than it's ever been without Brandon Stokley in the lineup. Yeah, things were that bad for the passing game.


Their best weapon is Todd Heap, but as a tight end, he can only do so much. And without Stokley on the field, the Titans just rolled their coverage over to the dynamic tight end, placed Samari Rolle to shadow Travis Taylor all over the field, and dared the Ravens to throw to their other receivers.


Every team in the league will keep utilizing the same defensive game plan because nobody respects the Ravens' passing attack.


So it's time to get Lewis the ball once more, and this time, the Ravens need to stick with the plan. It's a proven fact that when Lewis carries the ball 20 times a game, Baltimore has only lost once. It's also proven without a shadow of a doubt that Lewis is 100% back from his ACL injury, which is commendable to say the least.

Usually, it takes two full seasons for tailbacks to regain the form they had before suffering one of the most devastating injuries in all of sports. Just look at how Edgerrin James is performing in
Indianapolis. James is finally starting to break tackles and make defenders miss in the open field like he once did before, but it took a half of a season for the Colts' tailback to come full circle.

Look at how the injury slowed down Terrell Davis and Jamal Anderson, two backs who were the best at their position in 1998.


Lewis has defied all of the odds by coming back strong so quickly, and then some, considering that Terry Allen is the only other player in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards on two reconstructed knees. Lewis is on pace to rush for 1,300 yards, so technically, he's making history.


He shows the same speed he displayed before suffering the tear, the same power and the same ferocity.   


Just give him the damn ball. Let Ogden and Mulitalo lead the way off of the left side, and don't expect too much resistance from defenses, at least not for the rest of this season.


The Ravens are facing Cincinnati, New Orleans, Houston and Cleveland, four of the more porous run defenses in the NFL. If the Ravens can't run all over these four teams, then the laws of logic must be flawed.

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