Another week, another reason to put offensive coordinator Greg Roman on the hot seat. The Baltimore Ravens’ offense needs a makeover, and it needs one fast.
One thought continued to cross Ravens’ fans minds as they watched Saturday’s cringe-inducing game: “Why aren’t they running the ball more?”
Baltimore only scored one field goal in the whole game, turning over the ball twice near the end zone. The team’s offense hasn’t looked dominant since before the bye week partly due to Lamar Jackson’s absence and partly due to persistent, unresolved issues with clock management, and Week 15 put the Raven’s fatal flaw on display: their ineffectual passing game.
Quarterback Tyler Huntley threw for just 138 yards and failed to record a passing touchdown; the Ravens’ top receiver was Mark Andrews and even he only posted three catches for 31 yards.
Heading into this matchup, the game plan seemed obvious enough. Cleveland owned one of the worst run defenses in the league, ranking 32nd overall in EPA/rush and 31st in yards before contact per rush.
Baltimore was missing its star quarterback and had two talented and proven running backs in J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards to serve as the engine on the ground.
With those factors in mind, the Ravens could feasibly run the Browns’ defense into the ground to win the game assuming their own defense did their part.
At the beginning of the game, the running plan seemed to work fairly well — the Ravens handed the pigskin off the Dobbins and Edwards 19 times through three quarters, generating 176 rushing yards.
Why did the Ravens lean on their biggest weakness to win Week 15’s game vs. Browns?
Then, for some unknown reason, Baltimore just…. stopped running the ball. In the fourth quarter, the Ravens were down 13-3 in a still winnable game, yet Dobbins had zero carries and Edwards had just one carry for four yards.
Given how feeble the pass attack was for the majority of the game, why draw up more plays in the air in the final quarter?
If Dobbins and Edwards had been struggling to make headway on the ground, transitioning to a more pass-heavy game plan would have made sense.
This also marked Dobbins’ second game back from surgery, so the Ravens probably didn’t want to risk an aggravated injury by giving him an uber-heavy workload. Dobbins and Edwards nonetheless made up a very effective one-two punch in the backfield, and the Ravens should have leaned on their greatest strength rather than their most glaring weakness in the clutch moments of the game.
Greg Roman was under heavy fire for his questionable play-calling this season, and looking at the recent stats, it’s hard to argue in favor of his tactics. Baltimore has scored just two touchdowns in the last three games, arguably the lowest point of its red zone efficiency so far this year.
Roman has at times succeeded at getting the best out of his quarterbacks, as he has made a career out of designing an offense tailored for Lamar Jackson, but with Huntley under center, Roman and the Ravens couldn’t make anything happen. There was no downfield threat. There was no cohesion or rhythm in the passing game.
The only thing that was working on Saturday was the run game, and Baltimore abandoned it in the most decisive and pivotal moments of the match.
Why? That’s a question for John Harbaugh, Greg Roman, and the rest of the Ravens to figure out.