Harbaugh and Flacco admit, “got to be way better” at moving quickly
I wrote a few weeks back about the complications in the Ravens offense. The constant subbing in and out of players, even when time isn’t a factor. I asked the questions: Are the Ravens play callers focused on the right things? Are they too worried about getting the preferred personnel out on the field for a specific play rather than execution of the play itself?
Now I find myself asking another question to the fans. Have you ever seen a no huddle offense move so slow?
How about another question. How has moving quickly in a two-minute scenario become something a nine-year veteran quarterback and head coach have to worry about working on? It should be like riding a bike. You just do it, right?
Discuss your thouhgts on this topic on our message board.
Here is the situation. The Ravens trail 30-20 with 6:15 to play in the 4th quarter on the road in New England. The Patriots just burned the defense on a 79-yard touchdown to take the ten-point lead. The Ravens are actually lucky in a way it they gave up the score in that fashion. if they were going to give up a touchdown and need two scores to have a shot to win, they would want as much time remaining to make their comeback.
But here we go again with the complications. It isn’t going unnoticed by the folks that matter, namely John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco. I’ll get to their comments on the issue of moving too slow in a moment. Let’s first revisit the drive in question.
6:15, Play 1 – 1st and 10 from the BAL 19. Joe Flacco throws short to the left to Kamar Aiken incomplete. The out route if caught could have taken Aiken out of bounds and temporarily stopped the clock until the ball is reset. Not picking up these couple yards are the least of their problems on this drive.
6:10, Play 2 – 2nd and 10 from the BAL 19. The clock was stopped, make whatever substitutions you want, huddle up. Television broadcast tells us the Patriots rush three-or fewer pass rushers 22% of the time. The NFL average is 8%. The Ravens telling us after the fact that they saw things on the Patriots defense they weren’t expecting, like dropping seven or eight in coverage, means they get a grade of “F” for game planning. Back to the game… 11 personnel with Kenneth Dixon, Dennis Pitta, Steve Smith, Mike Wallace, Kamar Aiken. Flacco throws a quick two yard pass to Pitta where he is immediately taken down. Clock is ticking.
5:28, Play 3 – 3rd and 8 from the BAL 22. The Ravens used 36 seconds of clock between the end of play 2 and the snap of play 3. They subbed in new personnel. Kyle Juzczyk enters for Dennis Pitta. Breshad Perriman enters for Steve Smith. Perriman runs deep, Wallace runs a 15-yard post, catching it about 20 yards down field. Pretty. But did it need the substitutions and the extra time? Smith can run deep, or Wallace run deep and Smith run the post. Juszczyk chipped the defensive end on his way out in a pass route. Pitta can’t block well, but anyone can chip. Anyway, 1st down up to about the 40.
4:55, Play 4 – 1st and 10 from the BAL 41. Wallace had just limped off the field, clock temporarily stopped, restarted when the referees were set. Perriman takes his spot, Pitta replaces Juszczyk. Smith, Dixon, Aiken still on the field. Flacco tosses a swing pass out to Dixon four yards behind the line of scrimmage with no blocking help out there and the Patriots in range to tackle him for loss. He eludes Malcom Butler then shoves Chris Long along for six yards and gets out of bounds going forward to stop the clock at 4:48. It was the most impressive individual effort I saw all night on the Ravens offense.
4:48, Play 5 – 2nd and 5 from the BAL 46. Juszczyk comes in to give Dixon a breather after the previous effort. Patriots rush four, but two come from the nickel and safety spots. Flacco dumps off to Juszczyk for no gain and not close to the sideline. Clock is ticking.
4:10, Play 6 – 3rd and 5 from the BAL 46. No subs, yet the Ravens let 32 seconds run off the clock. Did they not have two plays called in the huddle before when they had the clock stopped? How are they not ready to run a play much sooner? Steve Smith has one-on-one man coverage and Flacco looks for him on a “fly-stop”, not a hitch or curl per say. Smith grabs it for a first down and steps out after a 24 yard gain and stops the clock.
4:04, Play 7 – 1st and 10 from the NE 29. With the clock stopped and having moved into FG range, the groups of plays to choose from can be slightly different. Less “9” routes in this area with only 39 yards of space to run to. The Ravens have 20 personnel with Dixon back in, Juszczyk, Smith, Perriman, and Chris Moore in the slot to give Aiken a breather. Flacco snaps the ball, dangerously close to a delay of game. He dumps off to Dixon underneath who gains two. Clock runs.
3:29, Play 8 – 2nd and 8 from the NE 27. Dixon comes back off the field and Pitta enters. Flacco finds Chris Moore for four yards over the middle but is immediately stopped. No one is really moving with a sense of urgency after the play while the clock is ticking. The play clock went all they way down to :07 before the next snap.
2:48, Play 9 – 3rd and 4 from the NE 22. No subs at all. Offense in formation. Flacco taking a long time to analyze what is in front of him. The first time the broadcast team points out the the Ravens are taking way too much time. Flacco hits Pitta on an out route but he isn’t able to catch and run out of bound to stop the clock. He also showed poor field awareness breaking off the route a couple feet shy of the markers. Clock ticks.
2:07, Play 10 – 4th and inches from the NE 19. Tucker comes on for a FG attempt of 37-yards. Once again, 34 seconds ran off the clock between Pitta being tackled and the snap for the FG. They don’t need to break out the play where you sprint everyone out there like you have 5 seconds and no time outs. But there has to be a sense of urgency. Tucker almost missed, clipping the flag atop the left upright it was so close.
Ravens trail 30-23 with 2:03 to play. What are the options?
A) Kick the ball deep and if returned, you don’t get use the two-minute warning to stop the clock. Kicking it deep means you have to get it out of the endzone if you want the get the two-minute warning to help you stop the clock and buy 38 seconds. Something Tucker is capable of. Some of his kicks were downed in the endzone, some were fielded inside the 5-yard line. We’re the Ravens trying to drop in for returns on purpose? We don’t know. We do know Tucker has the leg to probably kick any ball he wants out of the endzone barring some strong wind in his face. Not a factor in this case.
B) Onside kick and hope to recover it around midfield. Tucker had not attempted an onside kick this year yet. The recovery rate for the NFL is 7 of 48 (14.6%). Tucker had attempted one in 2015 and was not successful. Two in 2014, one in 2013, three in 2012, no successes. After a failed recovery on Monday night, Tucker is now 0 for 8 in his career. In fact, Billy Cundiff didn’t convert two attempts in 2011, the Ravens didn’t even attempt an onside kick in 2010, 2009, 2008…
Stat of the day: The Ravens haven’t recovered an onside kick since October 14, 2001. They have attempted 16 onside kicks since without a recovery.
Clearly you want to select option “A”. But option “A” would look a heck of lot sweeter if there was more time on the clock. I’m going to be generous and estimate that the Ravens wasted one minute of clock. It maybe closer to one minute thirty seconds in making needless subs, taking too long to get set up, too long for Flacco to read the defense, to long to get special teams in place for the field goal try.
The only reason they were left with 2:03 was because Pitta ran a terrible route. What if he got the first down and the drive kept going? How much more time would they waste on the next three plays? Do they score a TD with under one-minute left? Do they settle for the same field goal after gaining a couple yards but burning another minute off the clock? Do they burn their timeouts in the red zone and then have to recover the onside?
It’s almost better to throw incomplete medium range passes that you catch one of three for a first down, and stop the clock with the misses. It’s better than completing all short passes in bounds and the clock ticks. Might as well be running the ball.
As I mentioned before, John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco sounded off on this very topic. Here’s what they had to say starting with the head coach.
“…I don’t know if it was the environment, it was part of it probably. Communication wasn’t as good as it needed to be. We just didn’t move as quickly as we needed to in the end. We were slow on every single play in that drive. And even when we got the ball down in, when it really wasn’t about getting a first down it’s about getting a touchdown right there. I mean heck, if we’re not going to get a touchdown right there then we might as well kick the field goal with four minutes left, and we have four minutes to get the ball back. So that was disappointing. That was something we did not do a good job of, we’ve got to be way better in that situation, in terms of moving quickly. Really we need to do that in all of our two minute situations. That’s something we need to improve on.”
I’m not buying the environment excuse. It’s not easy to go on the road and win, especially there. Not sure how it hinders your ability to move with a sense of urgency though.
Communication! Still! Really!?! It’s almost Christmas! Are we not calling two plays at a time when they do get a huddle from clock stoppage, or is he waiting on plays to come from the sideline when most of the up tempo work should be in his hands, and practiced ad nauseam so everyone is on the same page. This is Pop Warner level stuff.
Am a little refreshed to hear the coach understands it’s a problem. Glad to hear he understands that you want to give yourself four minutes to get the ball back instead of two in that situation. I don’t want to twist what he’s saying, but I hope he’s not thinking that if they scored a touchdown on that drive that all is well. Scoring a touchdown versus the field goal makes no difference except you have to go 35 less yards on the next drive. But if you don’t give your self the time, you don’t get the next drive which is what happened.
Time will tell if improvement will come or if this is more fodder. Like saying you want to run the ball more, then come out with 54 dropbacks and just 13 designed rushes. 80/20 pass/run ratio where 60/40, 55/45 is more ideal. Even 65/35 is ok depending on game flow.
Now from the quarterback, Joe Flacco
“…You don’t want to get the ball with six minutes and the give it back to them with 2:01. You want to get down there and at least, if you are going to settle for the field goal, do it in two minutes, do it in a minute and a half. And it’s a collective effort. Coaches, offensive lineman, receivers, myself. Sometimes the circumstances are difficult. Guys are running from all over the place. Their defense is walking around, things like that. But it’s a collective effort that starts with me.”
Both Harbaugh and Flacco mentioned that if they were going to settle for the field goal to get it within two minutes. Problem is you don’t approach that drive like the field goal is the goal! If you want to approach it that way, you say get to field goal range in two minutes, then take three shots at the endzone using about 15 seconds instead of another two minutes, then kick it. That’s not realistic either. The Ravens did the first part. Got into field goal range from their own 19 to the Patriots 29 in 2:11. The part from the first down snap in scoring range, to the time Tuckers kick split the uprights, was another 2:01.
Six plays, 52 yards in 2:11. Followed by three plays, nine yards in 2:01. Something is seriously flawed there.
The goal was to score a touchdown. If Pitta runs his route an extra half yard and converts on the 3rd down instead of leading to a Tucker field goal try, maybe time actually expires before the Ravens reach the endzone at the pace they were going once they got into scoring range.
Fine, take a short shot and hope and a guy has room to run after. But when he doesn’t, run up and spike the ball. Could have spiked it after 2nd or 3rd down, and ended up kicking a field goal with 3:30-ish left. Plenty of time to put it on your defense to get a three and out rather than rely on an onside kick.
Flacco also mentioned difficult circumstances. Guys running from all over. Does he mean his guys, with the subs, making sure everyone gets the play call? That will definitely slow you down. Defense walking around. I get that it’s tougher to read where the blitz comes from with some of the Patriots defensive fronts. Not afraid to drop D-lineman in coverage and blitz with safeties and corners. Not exactly sure where the rush is coming from. Also when you sub, they do to, and the Patriots got the guys in the wanted plenty on that last drive. Hard to find a mismatch that way. But for every defense there is some form of offense to beat it. It is a collective effort to figure that out. Figure that out on Thursday. By Sunday or Monday, it’s too late.
I akin Joe Flacco to Tom Cruise in the film “Days of Thunder”. He can drive the wheels off a race car. Extremely talented. But when it comes to the little things like drafting, driving under control to keep his tires fresh for a whole race, being calm behind the wheel after having a bad accident, that’s where he struggles. That’s Joe Flacco through and through. Can win games, make all the throws, biggest arm in the league. But looks easily confused and not at all comfortable at times. Feeling phantom pass rushes almost. Gary Kubiak was the closest thing to Robert Duvall in that movie that Joe has had. Able to find a way to simplify everything and get the most out of him.
Maybe Joe Flacco needs a new Robert Duvall because I’m pretty sold that Marty Mornhinweg is not him. I begin to wonder after nine years if John Harbaugh is that guy anymore either.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]