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News & Notes 10/8: John Harbaugh Discusses Offensive Woes in Cleveland

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Coming off the Ravens’ worst offensive showing of the season, Head Coach John Harbaugh addressed some of the issues during his Monday press conference.

The Ravens scored just nine points and did not reach the end zone Sunday during a frustrating 12-9 overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns.

After starting the season 13-of-13 in the red zone, the Ravens haven’t scored a touchdown since the first quarter in Pittsburgh (123 minutes), which is the NFL’s longest active streak.

Here are some of the main offensive topics, before getting into some other items:

Harbaugh Likes Alex Collins, Javorius Allen Sharing Workload at Running Back

The Ravens have been a two-back team this season, with Alex Collins and Javorius Allen sharing the workload. Collins (167 snaps) is the starter, but Allen (194 snaps) has been on the field more, as he was Sunday against the Browns.

Collins had 27 snaps in Cleveland to Allen’s 50. Collins did head to the sideline for an extended period in the third quarter as he was seen by trainers.

Harbaugh said both backs would continue to split the running back duties, with the goal being not to overwork either back. Collins gained 59 yards on 12 carries Sunday while Allen ran eight times for 34 yards and caught six passes (eight targets) for 44 yards.

“That’s just the way the game went,” Harbaugh said. “I’d like to get De’Lance [Turner] out there a little more. A fresh running back is a good thing. I think running backs taking 40, 50 snaps is not necessarily a good thing. You talk about the balance … you put the ball in one guy’s hand for 35 plays, I don’t know if that’s balance. We need to spread the load, and you want fresh guys out there playing hard.”

Harbaugh Doesn’t Buy Into Run-Pass Ratio Chatter

The Ravens’ run-pass ratio has become a topic of discussion, one that Harbaugh is not buying into. Joe Flacco attempted a season-high 56 passes (29 completions, 298 yards), although the Ravens never trailed by more than six points.

However, Harbaugh said the Ravens needed better execution against Cleveland, regardless of whether they ran or threw. Only six NFL teams have more rushing attempts this season than the Ravens.

“We ran 28 times,” Harbaugh said. “That’s a lot of times to run it in this league. We just need to put more points on the board. Nine points – three, three and three – it’s tough to win games like that. But this run-pass balance thing, I don’t understand why it’s a topic.”

The question is less about the number of runs and doing more with them. Only two teams have averaged less than the Ravens’ 3.4 yards per carry this season. Asked if the run game is headed in the right direction, Harbaugh said it’s week to week.

“You just keep working. You keep grinding. When we come out and run for 200 yards – which we will – it’s not going to be ‘fixed.’ The next game is going to be a new game,” Harbaugh said.

“I don’t think it’s as much of a trend as everybody wants to look at it. … But yes, we’re concerned. We want to run the ball well. We’re working as hard as we can to do it. If the question is: Are you working hard at the run game? Yes! We’re working really hard at it. We want to be a really good running team, just like we want to be a great passing team and great at everything else.”

Browns Deserve Credit for Pass Coverage

The Ravens squandered several golden opportunities on offense throughout the game. In the second quarter, on second-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Flacco threw a costly interception on a tipped pass that probably cost the Ravens at least three points, if not seven. Had the Ravens capped that drive with a touchdown, they would have taken a 10-0 lead, and perhaps taken control of the game.

Flacco’s longest completion Sunday was for 28 yards to John Brown, and the Ravens never established offensive consistency. Harbaugh said it was not just the Ravens failing to execute. It was the Browns playing solid defense.

“I feel like their coverage was pretty good,” Harbaugh said. “They just did a good job of covering us, and we didn’t do a great job of executing in the passing game. We’ve just got to be more precise, do a better job of putting our guys in a better position with our game plan. We threw for some yards, but there’s a lot more left out there if we had executed better.”

Willie Henry Impresses, Michael Pierce Could Return This Week

Defensive tackle Willie Henry played 39 snaps Sunday in his season debut following hernia surgery, and Harbaugh was pleased with what he saw.

Henry had one sack and two tackles in his first game back. The Ravens mostly bottled up Cleveland’s powerful rushing attack, which was especially noteworthy with defensive tackle Michael Pierce (foot) unable to play.

“I was really pleasantly surprised by how well he played,” Harbaugh said of Henry. “He had a good game, and we didn’t expect him to play that many snaps. It kind of just turned out that way. It looks like he’s back, and he didn’t miss stride.”

Meanwhile, veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs (66 snaps) was on the field more than the Ravens wanted, at age 36. The plan is to limit Suggs’ snaps, hoping it will keep him fresh as the season progresses. But Sunday, that did not go as planned.

“It’s a little bit Timmy Williams being hurt, and a little bit just how many snaps we had in the game,” Harbaugh said. “But yes, we’d like not to have him out there for 65 snaps. We’d like not to be out there for 65 snaps on defense, total.”

Pierce could return this week, which would give Baltimore its strongest defensive front of the year against the Titans’ run-heavy offense (second-most attempts in the NFL).

“That’s a firm ‘maybe,’” Harbaugh said on Pierce’s status. “I’m very hopeful. We’ll find out, but we could use him. He’s a factor inside. He’s a big difference. And those other guys, ‘Worm’ [Chris Wormley] played well. ‘Worm’ is a little more of a five-technique than a three-technique, but he did a good job. But Michael Pierce is a dominating factor inside.”

Harbaugh Explains Special Teams Miscues

The Ravens had a field goal blocked and fumbled a punt return Sunday, continuing special teams play this season that has not been up to their usual high standards.

Harbaugh credited Browns rookie cornerback Denzel Ward for getting an excellent jump off the line of scrimmage on Justin Tucker’s blocked 48-yard field goal attempt.

“You’d like to get a hand on that, guy but he did a great job on a get-off,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been good at that all year. We’re probably going to have to get two hands on those guys at all times. That’s something we need to do on the edge.”

But White’s fumble was a different matter. The Ravens were fortunate that linebacker Kenny Young alertly recovered White’s fumble, but the Ravens are still looking for consistency in their punt returner. White took over for Janarion Grant, who has been demoted to the practice squad after winning the job during the preseason.

"I saw loose ball security, and not just on that one, there was another one too,” Harbaugh said. “It’s the tale of two Tims. The ball security is not where it needs to be – he knows that – yet he made some really good decisions.”

It now appears the Ravens will give Cyrus Jones, who they claimed off waivers after his release from the New England Patriots, the next shot at the returner job. Baltimore released White to make room for Jones.

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