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Jim Caldwell Era Off To Rough Start

Posted Dec 16, 2012

Turnovers and third downs were once again a problem as the Ravens sputtered.

The Ravens’ first drive under Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell ended with a turnover.

That was just the start of what was a rough opening act for the Ravens’ new offensive play caller.

The Ravens had five three-and-outs to start Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos.

Then the unit saw a progression of the same problems that plagued it under Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron, who was dismissed Monday.

Quarterback Joe Flacco turned the ball over twice, including a fumble on the first drive and an interception return for a 98-yard touchdown. The Ravens struggled on third down (1-for-12) and the offensive line allowed a lot of pressure (three sacks and nine quarterback hits).

Needless to say, the Ravens didn’t get the immediate spark they were looking for under Caldwell. But the players pointed at themselves as the cause of a poor day and not their coach.

"The plays were the same," running back Ray Rice said. "Playbook was the same. Same play calls. We just didn't execute."

The Ravens finally got on track in the fourth quarter and scored a pair of touchdowns.

Still, they put up just 278 total yards of offense, 66 yards less than their average entering the game. The offense had 359 yards of offense last week in Washington.

Flacco was asked how much of the offense’s struggles can be attributed to the switch at offensive coordinator.

“I don’t think any,” he said. “I think it was a matter of us going out there and not doing some of the simple things early on, and it kind of took us a while to get into that groove that we really needed to be successful.”

The first play under the Caldwell era was an 8-yard gain to fullback Vonta Leach in the flats. Then Rice was stuffed for just a 1-yard gain. On third-and-1, Flacco snuck up the middle. He would have had a first down, but fumbled as he went to the turf.

“You can’t come out, can’t turn the ball over, can’t shoot yourself in the foot,” Boldin said. “Same old thing. We just have to cut it out.”

Caldwell tried to get the run game going, but it wasn’t finding traction early. The Ravens ran 14 times for just 41 yards (2.9 per carry) in the first half.

The passing game couldn’t find a rhythm either. Flacco had a lot of pressure in his face and was knocked twice to the turf on the Ravens’ second drive. The pressure created some inaccuracy on Flacco’s part, but he once again fired over receivers’ heads even when not hit.

The Ravens got their first first down about midway through the second quarter, but promptly committed a holding penalty that stalled the drive.

They got going on the next drive thanks to a nice catch by Jacoby Jones for a 43-yard gain. A Rice run and Torrey Smith catch over the middle put the Ravens in a first-and-goal situation from the 4-yard line. At that point, the Ravens were only trailing 10-0.

But Flacco took a quick drop and flung a pass to the sideline intended for wide recevier Anquan Boldin. It was intercepted by Chris Harris and returned 98 yards for a touchdown.

Flacco chased Harris all the way to the end zone and made a diving attempt at his ankles. He laid flat on the ground for more than five seconds as the Broncos took a 17-0 lead into halftime. The play call came in from the coaches, but Flacco put the interception on his shoulders.

“I just made a mistake, there’s no other way to put that,” Flacco said. “I made a mistake.”

Overall, the players said the offense didn’t change much under Caldwell.

The plays got in on time, guard Jah Reid said, despite it being Caldwell’s first time calling them in the NFL. Wide receiver Tandon Doss said they tried to get into a little more up-tempo early.

“You know, I felt like Jim called a great game,” said tight end Dennis Pitta, who had seven catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns.

“We as players didn’t execute it as cleanly as we would have liked, and there’s a lot of plays out there we would like to have back – myself included.”

Boldin was asked whether the unit needs more time to gel under the new coordinator.

“You don’t have that,” he said. “We’re in the heart of the season. Playoffs are right around the corner. You don’t have an adjustment period.”

Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked for his evaluation of Caldwell's first game as coordinator.

“I’m not into assessments right now," he said. "Everybody fought like crazy and did their best. We have a lot of capable people. It’s not about that, and it’s not going to be about that."

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