Eisenberg: Another Piece Of Advice For Caldwell


In the wake of Cam Cameron's dismissal, it seems all of Baltimore is focused on what Jim Caldwell, the Ravens' new offensive coordinator, needs to do to get his unit rolling after a pair of defeats.

Me, I'm focused on what the offense needs to avoid doing.

If Caldwell actually listened to talk radio or read Internet bulletin boards, his head would be spinning. He's being inundated with free advice. Give Ray Rice more touches. Put Joe Flacco in the shotgun. Send Torrey Smith over the middle more. Set Dennis Pitta free!

Did I mention giving Rice more touches?

It probably wouldn't hurt to try all of that against the Denver Broncos Sunday. There are plenty of stats to back up how well the Ravens fare when Rice gets his touches, and Flacco's numbers in the shotgun are markedly better.

But I'm going to spare you that blizzard of decimals and instead provide some far simpler numbers that pretty much predict whether the Ravens are going to win or lose.

It's all about how often they turn the ball over.

In their nine wins this season, they've committed a grand total of five turnovers, an average of 0.55 per game. Meanwhile, in their four defeats, they're averaging two turnovers per game.

Any math whiz can whip out an abacus and quickly calculate that the Ravens turn it over basically four times as much when they lose.

If they hold onto the ball, they win … period.

Only four teams have fewer giveaways this season than the Ravens, who have 13. The New England Patriots have lost 10, and the Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost 12 apiece.

My theory is that while the absence of turnovers is always important, it's especially crucial for the Ravens this season because their offense has been inconsistent and their defense is ranked in the bottom third of the league. Those circumstances have produced a razor-thin margin of error. The Ravens have survived a handful of blah performances strictly because they haven't given anything away.

Conversely, they've lost their last two games strictly because they're suddenly in a giving mood after going 186 minutes without a turnover at one point. Would they have succumbed to the Redskins last Sunday if Flacco hadn't lost a fumble and thrown a pick in the red zone? I think not. They would have won and Cameron would still be on the job.

The same thing goes for their home loss to Pittsburgh the week before, in which a fourth-quarter fumble by Flacco turned things around.

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh called out Flacco's propensity for fumbling when asked about it earlier this week, saying the quarterback "absolutely" has to have better awareness in the pocket. As for interceptions, with just nine this year, Flacco is one of the best at avoiding them.

For that matter, the entire offense excelled at avoiding mistakes under Cameron, losing just 99 turnovers in 77 games. That's 25 percent under the league average, a whopping figure that has been vital to the Ravens' success.

Some fans believe the switch from Cameron to Caldwell will fix the offense, the season and maybe even keep the country from going over the fiscal cliff. We'll see. There's only so much that can be changed this late in the season.

But Caldwell set hearts fluttering across Ravenstown Thursday when he promised to add "a few wrinkles." Naturally the peanut gallery went wild. What does he mean? Are we going to see Tyrod Taylor in the Wildcat?

The reality is Sunday's game probably will come down to how well the Ravens defense can limit the damage Denver's Peyton Manning inflicts. The defense sure could stand to get Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs back.

As for the offense, I would suggest copying Cameron's playbook from last week and use the run to set up the pass, as opposed to the other way around. Put Flacco in the shotgun, which he likes. A wrinkle or two might give the unit a jolt.

But mostly, don't turn the ball over. Either way, that's the clearest indicator for this team of whether it's going to be a thumbs-up or thumbs-down day.

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