Familiar Problems Resurface In Ravens' Loss To Patriots

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The Ravens offense exploded against the Miami Dolphins last week.

It came back to Earth versus the New England Patriots a week later.

The Ravens offense scored touchdowns on two special teams turnovers, but was largely held in check for much of Monday Night's 30-23 loss in New England.

"The game looked closer because of a couple turnovers that we capitalized on, but we didn't play our best football and we all know that," tight end Dennis Pitta said.

The Ravens offense posted 38 points and a whopping 496 yards on the Dolphins a week ago. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns, giving hope that he could catch fire and lead the unit down the final stretch of the regular season.

But the same problems that plagued Baltimore's offense earlier in the season resurfaced in hostile Gillette Stadium.

The Ravens posted 348 yards of total offense. They had 13 rushing attempts by the running backs for just 41 yards. They punted six times.

The Ravens came out chucking the ball once again, letting Flacco take the reins in a stadium where he's had much success over the years. The Ravens threw five straight times on their first drive. Their first run was stuffed in the end zone for a safety.

In the first half, the Ravens ran the ball just four times for 7 yards. Flacco had already attempted 26 passes, completing 16 for 145 yards and an interception.

Though Flacco finished the game with 52 attempts and a franchise-record 37 completions – one more than he had in his big game against the Dolphins – many of his throws were dump-offs to the tailbacks.

Running back Kenneth Dixon was targeted a team-high 11 times and caught eight passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. Terrance West caught four passes for 24 yards and fullback Kyle Juszczyk had three grabs for 46 yards.

Flacco said the Ravens were expecting to get more man-to-man coverage, but the Patriots used more zone and dropped linebackers into coverage to clog up the middle of the field.

"Took a couple shots down the field. We were hoping to take a couple more," Flacco said. "You have to be ready for everything with these guys. They're very game specific with their game plan."

Flacco hit big plays to wide receiver Breshad Perriman (47 yards), wide receiver Mike Wallace (20 yards) and wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. (25 yards) in the fourth quarter, but by that point they were in a furious game of catch-up.

Tight end Dennis Pitta, meanwhile, was held to just four catches for 18 yards as the Patriots took away one of Flacco's favorite targets. Pitta said New England's defensive ends hit him off the line of scrimmage to try to take him out of his routes and rhythm.

"There weren't many free releases out there," Pitta said. "That's what I was expecting going in. We just didn't play at the level we needed to play at."

Flacco also wasn't as sharp as he was against the Dolphins. He misfired on a couple of early short throws. He threw his interception deep into double coverage intended for Wallace.

In other instances, his receivers let him down. Dixon dropped a couple short throws, Wallace had a drop on a deep pass down the middle and Perriman had a ball hit him before he turned his head.

Penalties also cropped up once again. The Ravens were flagged for three false start penalties in the second quarter, an illegal motion and had one holding penalty. They once lined up to go for it on fourth-and-2 in the first half, but had to punt after a false start.

Flacco was sacked at the most key juncture for the offense, after it had its best drive of the night in the fourth quarter. The Ravens faced a third-and-4 from New England's 12-yard line when Flacco couldn't find anyone open and was dropped by defensive end Rob Ninkovich.

Baltimore settled for a 38-yard field goal to make the score, 23-20, with under seven minutes left to play, and the Patriots scored a 79-yard touchdown on the next series. After another Tucker field goal to make it 23-30, New England then ran out the clock after a failed onside kick.

The Ravens' best drives of the game came in the fourth quarter on eight- and nine-play drives. Both ended with field goals, however.

"We made too many mistakes and they didn't, and you can't do that when you play in this environment," Pitta said. "You've got to be at the top of your game or it's going to get out of hand quickly."

So how do the Ravens balance what they saw from their offense in New England versus the potential it showed against Miami?

"You have to compartmentalize everything in this league," Pitta said.

"They want to praise you probably more than you deserve when things are going well and criticize you more than you deserve when things aren't going well. We understand the offense we can be and we've shown it. You're going to have these kind of games in the NFL."

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