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2013 Ravens Found Offensive Identity

Posted Nov 4, 2013

The Ravens will continue to go with more three-wide, spread shotgun formations.

A day after suffering a 24-18 loss in Cleveland, Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens’ shotgun, spread offense is here to stay.

The offense will continue to run through the brain and right arm of franchise quarterback Joe Flacco, the orchestrator at the line of scrimmage.

“I think you’re seeing a direction offensively,” Harbaugh told reporters Monday.

“You saw more three-wide, you saw it spread out a little more. More of that offense goes into your quarterback’s hands, obviously.”

The Ravens began using more shotgun, hurry-up offense in Pittsburgh before the bye. They did that and more in Cleveland.

The Ravens used three wide receivers on all but four offensive plays in Cleveland. On two, they used four wide receivers. On the other two, they brought in fullback Vonta Leach in short-yardage running situations. Flacco was in the shotgun on all but 10 offensive snaps.

Baltimore, which ranks last in the NFL in average rushing yards per attempt (2.8) and 29th in average rushing yards per game (71.6), will continue to go the aerial route.

Flacco hasn’t had his strongest season thus far. He’s completing 59.4 percent of his passes, pretty much on pace with last year. But he’s thrown nine interceptions (all on the road), and just one short of last season’s total. His quarterback rating of 79.3 is a career-low at this point.

But with the running game struggling, Flacco has looked like the Ravens’ best chance at winning. And he’s had gutsy performances, including a strong second half in Cleveland.

Harbaugh talked about putting Flacco in more situations to make more checks at the line of scrimmage to get the Ravens in the right play according to what the defense shows.

“That’s ultimately where you go with a quarterback like Joe,” Harbaugh said. “I know Joe wants to do that and the players want to do that. And that’s the direction we’re heading.”

The Ravens are also seeing results from their young group of wide receivers. Torrey Smith is having a breakout season and rookie Marlon Brown, Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson are stepping up too.

Brown has a team-high five touchdowns, including two in Cleveland. Thompson had a much bigger role after seeing just one snap in the previous two games. Doss continues to see targets in key third-down situations. As far as the snap count, Smith was in the game for 71 of 73 offensive plays. Brown came in second with 56 snaps, followed by Jacoby Jones (41), Thompson (32) and Doss (17).

Moving forward, Baltimore will rely on the passing game to get the job done. It has done well in spurts, but not well enough to win. Despite the spread formation, the Browns remained in a run defense almost the entire game.

“We’ve got to get them out of that run defense,” Harbaugh said. “That’s our job. And to do that, we’ve got to be good and precise in the pass game. We’ve got to open up that coverage a little bit and force them to back off. We did that at times and other times we didn’t.”

Harbaugh said the Ravens still will look for times to get in “regular” offensive formations with two tight ends, one running back and two wide receivers. He said they want to get in those groupings and “get after people, run and pass.”

Even other teams that use spread offensive formations relying on their quarterback in the shotgun also want to be versatile and sometimes pound the football.

But that’s not going to be the norm anymore, at least not this season.

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