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Harbaugh Identifies List Of Problems To Fix This Offseason


Head Coach John Harbaugh opened his season-ending press conference with an apology.

"I apologize for the fact that we're even having this press conference, for the fact that we have to sit here and talk about the fact that we're wrapping up the season and the playoffs haven't even started yet," he said.

The Ravens' five-year stretch of consecutive playoff appearances ended not because of one problem this year. It was a collection of issues.

And on Tuesday, Harbaugh went through the main points that the team will address this offseason.

"[These] are things that would have made a difference in games that probably would have gotten us in the playoffs," he said. "Coaches are working on this."

Run The Ball Better

Harbaugh said not running the ball effectively was "probably our biggest disappointment."

The Ravens finished with a franchise-low 3.1 yards per carry, which ranked last in the NFL. Baltimore's 83 rushing yards per game were third worst in the league. Pro Bowler Ray Rice put up just 660 rushing yards after topping 1,100 each of the past four years.

There are a number of factors that go into why the run game flopped, and eventually had to be largely abandoned due to lack of effectiveness.

"You've got to be able to throw the ball well to protect the running game," Harbaugh said. "You've got to be able to block people, and move people and knock people around in order to run the ball. You've got to create some angles to create situations where there are mismatches. And you've got to be able to make some plays out there when plays aren't there and create some yards."

Rice's leg injuries (hip then thigh) made it more difficult. The offensive line struggled to pick up the necessary blocks, especially early in the year, and then simply didn't execute well enough when they did. Fullback Vonta Leach was rarely used as the team shifted away from the run.

Protect Flacco Better

Joe Flacco is the franchise quarterback, and thus there's a high priority on keeping him healthy, something that didn't happen this season.

Flacco was sacked a career-high 48 times. He took the second most sacks of any quarterback in the league this year, trailing only Miami's Ryan Tannehill (58 sacks).

Flacco played the final two games of the regular season, both losses that knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs, with a hobbled left knee as a result of a helmet hit by Lions outside linebacker DeAndre Levy. Flacco was sacked six times in those two games.

Hit Big Plays

The Ravens were among the best in big plays in 2012, logging 72 over the course of the year to finish third in the NFL.

They thought they would have even more potential for big plays this offseason when they welcomed in more speed to the offense with Deonte Thompson, Tandon Doss, gave Jacoby Jones the No. 2 spot and made Torrey Smith the lead receiver.

But that didn't happen. The Ravens had just 50 big plays, tied for 29th in the league.

Without chain-moving wide receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Dennis Pitta for most of the year, the Ravens needed to at least get big chunks to move the ball.

Defense Needs To Finish

In many categories, the Ravens defense improved this season when compared to the Super Bowl-winning unit.

They were 12th in the league in points scored per game (22), compared to 17th a year ago (21.5). The Ravens ranked 12th in yards allowed per game (335.5), an improvement from 17th and an average of 350.9 last season. The Ravens were 12th against the pass and 11th against the run.

"You look at it statistically, you look at the numbers – that's what you do at the end of the year – you've got to say we were a good defense. We were a really good defense," Harbaugh said.

"But, our defensive coaches and our defensive players are going to tell you that that's not good enough. They want to be a top defense – one, maybe two, maybe three when it's all said and done. That is the standard for the Ravens defense, and that's what we're going to chase."

But one area where Baltimore's defense struggled was in the final quarter and minutes of games. It too frequently allowed long scoring drives at the most inopportune times.

The Ravens couldn't get off the field against Green Bay, versus the Steelers at home, Cleveland on the road, in Chicago in overtime, against the Vikings in a back-and-forth game at home, then late against the Bengals after rallying to tie the game at 17.

"We need to be better in the fourth quarter, and we need to be better at protecting leads at the end of the game," Harbaugh said.

Although the Ravens' postseason is starting earlier than usual, Harbaugh is approaching it with "an enthusiasm unknown to mankind," citing his family motto.

"We will work like crazy to improve and become better. But, this is going to be sticking in our craw for quite a long time – I can tell you that," Harbaugh said.

The Ravens will have several months to think about their issues before getting back on the field.

"I'm sorry that we didn't live up to that standard this year, but we will be back," Harbaugh said to end his press conference.

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