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Eisenberg: Boring Is Beautiful in Baltimore


For the record, Joe Flacco was being lighthearted Sunday when he said it "wasn't that fun" to win a game in which he passed for just 121 yards and the Ravens literally ran to victory behind their ground game.

"Let's be honest, I'd rather throw for 350 yards and win, 42-0," Flacco said after Baltimore's 20-0 win over Cincinnati.

It was a comment that could be taken the wrong way out of context, but again, Flacco was smiling broadly and completed the thought by saying, "It's fun to win and that's the most important thing."

No one should doubt Flacco's priorities. He's 32, a veteran leader with a Super Bowl ring. After watching the Ravens miss the playoffs three times in the past four seasons, he knows as well as anyone that winning is all that matters, no matter how much he contributes.

In case there's any doubt, though, the Ravens' coaches might want to take him aside this week and explain that, well, cough, Joe, you know, we love you, but we also love the way things unfolded Sunday and wouldn't mind seeing more of that.

Because Flacco, like every NFL quarterback, does love to throw the ball.

But the Ravens are better off with the different offensive approach they're taking in 2017.

It was their plan all along, of course. After their offense set franchise records for most pass attempts and fewest rushing attempts last season, they admitted their balance was out of whack and said they wanted to get their ground game back on track.

New coaches were hired, new schemes installed, a re-commitment pledged. GM Ozzie Newsome said he wanted bigger dudes up front. Those bigger dudes are now in place.

But the ground game was so off track before, with a No. 28 league ranking in 2016, that no one was going to believe things were better until they saw improvement on the field.

Well, that improvement was as palpable Sunday as a punch to the gut, which, I'm guessing, approximates what the Bengals felt as the Ravens rolled them for 157 rushing yards on 42 attempts.

If ever a performance illuminated the path an offense should take, this was it.

Not fun? Boring?

Well, boring is beautiful for the Ravens in 2017.

They dominated time of possession. They won the turnover battle. When Flacco tossed an interception to start the third quarter, they just shut their passing game down entirely, and that was fine. With their defense dominating and their offensive line opening holes, their lead was safe.

Admittedly, the conditions were rare because Flacco had missed training camp and the preseason with a bad back, so Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg wanted to scale back his load and was able to do so after Baltimore had the lead.

That won't always be possible. You can be sure there will still be many days when the Ravens need to move the ball in chunks and light up the scoreboard. Flacco will eventually need to get in sync with Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and his other receivers. They aren't there for grins. This is the pass-happy NFL. Even with a strong defense, you need plenty of points.

I don't think the Ravens are going to win many more games with Flacco completing just nine passes, none in the second half.

"We're going to have to be able to – and we're fully capable with the players we have, including Joe and the wide receivers – of throwing the ball all over the place if we have to do that to win the games," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday.

The goal is balance and versatility, with the run taking precedent on some days and the pass on other days.

Big picture, though, the days of setting records for being pass-happy are over, or should be.

If I had to use one adjective to describe the running game the Ravens unveiled Sunday, it was "fresh." Fans have long complained about the offense being predictable, but these were new looks, new plays. And the line? "Those guys stepped up and played really good football," Harbaugh said.

It wasn't the bells-and-whistles passing attack that fans supposedly love, but it was brutally effective in conjunction with a defense that's going to keep the Ravens in most if not all games. Control the ball. Don't turn it over. Wear the other team down.


Not if it works.

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