Eisenberg: Ravens Need to Find Another Blueprint for Winning


The Ravens' season hasn't exactly been filled with suspense so far. In all six games, the first half has given away the ending.

In their three wins, the Ravens built leads of 17, 14 and 18 points before halftime and held on.

In their three defeats, they fell behind by 23, 19 and 14 points in the first two quarters and were unable to come back and win.

Who's writing the scripts for these games? Not Alfred Hitchcock, that's for sure.

Week after week, the first half has amounted to a spoiler alert. You could have walked the dog or read a book after the first two quarters without being surprised when you checked the final score later.

Only once, in the Ravens' loss to the Chicago Bears last Sunday, was a lopsided early deficit erased, creating a down-to-the-wire finish – an overtime session with an ending that played more like a Stephen King-style horror flick than Hitchcock in Baltimore.

That outcome was disappointing, but it didn't completely ruin the Ravens' season because they've still found a way to win three times, keeping them in the AFC playoff picture.

But what's problematic about that is they've found the same way to win three times. Score first. Build a nice lead. Run out the clock with their running game. Go home happy.

It beats not winning, no question, but I do believe the Ravens are going to have to figure out another way to win games pretty soon. The NFL is too competitive and unpredictable for a team to prosper for long with just one blueprint for success.

Sorry, but the world isn't perfect and things often don't go as you planned on Sundays. If you aren't strategically agile, resourceful, able to problem-solve on the fly, you're generally not going to get where you want to go in the end.

For me, the fact that the Ravens have only found one way to win is directly tied to their passing attack being ranked No. 31 in the league.

That low ranking signifies that the passing game hasn't been potent enough to bring the Ravens back when they fall behind early.

It certainly wasn't the engine that enabled them to overcome a big deficit Sunday. Two special teams touchdowns fueled that rally.

But the lack of a passing attack doesn't matter in games in which the Ravens get ahead early. They can just mothball it and rely on their running game, ranked No. 7 in the league, to finish off the win.

If they get their passing game going – a must, by anyone's reckoning – they can attain better offensive balance and win another way, by coming from behind or by making plays in a back-and-forth game.

Getting that passing game going looks like a challenge right now, of course. The offensive line is banged up and, so far, seemingly better at run blocking than pass protection. The receiving corps also is banged up. Joe Flacco has only had one really strong game.

But we've seen the pieces come together a couple of times, so the potential is there. The challenge is to realize that potential more consistently.

Another way for the Ravens to win would be with their defense carrying them. That's actually happened once, in the season-opening win in Cincinnati, when the defense pitched a shutout.

Perhaps not coincidentally, that's the only game defensive tackle Brandon Williams has played from start to finish. He suffered a foot injury the next week and hasn't returned. The run defense has struggled at times without him.

It appears Williams could return Sunday in Minnesota, an encouraging development. If the run defense reverts to form and becomes tougher to bend, the overall defense could indeed carry the Ravens to success.

That was actually part of the master plan coming into the season, I believe.

Another part of the master plan was relying on the best kicker in the league. Remember when Justin Tucker booted six field goals to win a Monday night game in Detroit? Talk about inventing a way to win.

Fans make fun of low-scoring, defensive-oriented contests, but a "Tucker game," where his foot leads the way, sounds pretty good right now, doesn't it?

One way or another, the Ravens need to devise a winning script other than the one they've used so far.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content