OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP)The Baltimore Ravens had their problems offensively even before Lamar Jackson’s injury, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the bottom finally fell out with the star quarterback sidelined.
The Ravens dropped a game out of first place in the AFC North last weekend thanks to a 13-3 loss at Cleveland, and although there’s always the hope that Jackson’s return can give the team a boost, it’s clear Baltimore has issues that go beyond whoever is doing the passing.
On Monday, coach John Harbaugh didn’t give much of an update on Jackson, who has missed the past two games with a knee injury.
”I think I’m just going to climb behind the barricade of, it’s probably not the time to put a lot of information out there on our injuries, just for competitive purposes,” he said. ”We’re just going to let that develop and see where we go with it.”
The Ravens did manage to win two weekends ago at Pittsburgh with backup quarterback Tyler Huntley – and No. 3 option Anthony Brown playing a bit when Huntley was injured. Then Huntley returned to face Cleveland, but had only 138 yards passing with an interception.
After trading Marquise Brown in the offseason, Baltimore did little to improve its receiving group, hoping that Rashod Bateman was ready to take a big step in his second season. Instead Bateman caught 15 passes and then went on injured reserve because of foot problems.
There’s not much the Ravens can do at this point to improve their personnel at receiver, and that puts the staff under even more pressure to figure out how to coax more from the passing game.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman is a target of Baltimore fans after the Ravens wasted a 198-yard day on the ground.
”All of our coaches, including Greg and everybody else, are fully capable of understanding the pass game and what we’ve got to do to get it done,” Harbaugh said. ”We can do things a lot better.”
The Ravens (9-5) are still a near-lock to make the playoffs, but it looks increasingly likely that they’ll have to win at Cincinnati in the regular-season finale to win the division.
”Weirdly we are in a good spot I think,” cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. ”Everything is kind of still in front of us. I felt we had a strong week of preparation coming into this game. I think we all felt like we left one out there.”
It was another strong effort from the Baltimore defense, which has held five of its past six opponents to 14 points or fewer.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Ravens have been run-oriented for a while, but they seemed oddly hesitant to lean on that too much Saturday. J.K. Dobbins broke a 37-yard run near the end of the third quarter. Down by 10, Baltimore then passed on three of its next four plays and settled for a field-goal attempt that was blocked.
After that the Ravens stopped running the ball completely. At a certain point, time becomes a factor when you’re losing by multiple scores in the fourth quarter, but Baltimore may have missed a chance to impose its will more on the ground.
”It wasn’t that we were opposed to running the ball, but when you run the ball the clock runs,” Harbaugh said. ”We were hitting them with some good runs, and maybe we would have popped a few runs because we were doing well. That conversation’s one that we had yesterday, but by the same token, you’re down two scores.”
Dobbins and Gus Edwards combined for 180 yards rushing on 20 carries, and the running game looks as good as it has all season. Add Jackson to that mix, and the offense should certainly look a bit more functional.
Even Baltimore’s often-excellent special teams had a rough day. Justin Tucker missed a 48-yard kick and had a 50-yarder blocked. Of course, he also made a 53-yarder.
In addition to Jackson, the Ravens have some new injury concerns on defense. DT Calais Campbell (knee) and CB Marcus Peters (calf) were hurt Saturday.
Baltimore averaged 7.1 yards per rush and only 3.8 per pass play – including sacks. But Huntley attempted 30 passes and was sacked three times, while the team had only 28 rushes.
Baltimore plays its final two home games of the regular season – Saturday against the Atlanta Falcons and the following weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
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