Play callers are often second-guessed after losses. Welcome to Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman's world this week.
Coming off the Ravens' Week 3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, a talking point was that the Ravens "abandoned" the running game to too soon, which contributed to them falling behind 27-10 before halftime.
After running the ball deep into Chiefs territory on their opening drive, the Ravens threw on second- and third-and-3, and settled for a field goal. A tripping penalty negated a 14-yard run to start the next drive, which brought on three straight passes and a punt. Baltimore passed three more times on the next drive in a three-and-out.
Roman was asked questions about that on Thursday, and after reviewing the film, he said Baltimore's offensive identity had not changed.
"Anytime you lose you're going to have laments," Roman said. "I always look at myself first.
"We're going to be who we are. We're going to run it. We're going to throw it. We've got to make plays and execute. Really focus on where we can improve. It was one of those disjointed type of games where we just didn't make any plays."
Just three games into the season, the Ravens have run the ball well, but not up to last year's standards when they averaged 206.0 yards rushing per game and set the NFL team record for rushing yards in a season. This season, the Ravens rank fifth in rushing, averaging 166.3 yards.
As the Ravens look forward to Sunday's game against Washington, they would love for their running game to be productive week after week. Head Coach John Harbaugh reiterated that the team had not strayed from the offensive identity that has led to success.
"Nobody looks at the play-calling more than Greg Roman, who in my opinion, is one of the best play callers in the National Football League and has proven that," Harbaugh said. "So, he looks at it really hard, and we try to study that and try to do the best we can with it going forward. We're a running team. We want to run the ball as much as we can. We also want to be productive in the passing game and complete passes and keep drives alive.
"It's the same thing you always bring up every single week – every time that we don't win and many times when we do win – about whether we ran the ball too much, or we threw the ball too much, and what's wrong with the passing game, or what's wrong with the running game. Every game is going to be a little bit different. We're not going to get away from being a running team. That's something that we think is very important."
Roman Likes Idea of Riding "The Bus" Late
Gus "The Bus" Edwards leads Baltimore's running backs in yards (129) while averaging 7.2 yards per carry. Mark Ingram II (114 yards, 4.4 yards per carry) and J.K. Dobbins (76 yards, 7.6 yards per carry) have given the Ravens a three-headed running back attack, and there is no hesitation to use any of them at any time.
However, Roman hinted that Edwards' powerful running style could be particularly effective in the later portion of games when he's even more likely to break tackles. Roman compared Edwards to a relief pitcher coming out of the bullpen.
"Every week is going to be a little bit different," Roman said. "We really like all of our backs. We believe in them. There's nothing wrong with having a closer, either, like they do in baseball, where a guy's fresh out of the bullpen throwing 102 miles per hour when everybody else has kind of worn the defense down. That could be a factor."
Wink Martindale Says Pass Rush Is Still Evolving
The Ravens didn't sack Patrick Mahomes on Monday night, partly because Mahomes is a special talent who managed to escape when the Ravens applied the heat. However, Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale wants Baltimore's pass rush to become more consistent.
The Ravens have six sacks through three games, led by Tyus Bowser (2.0), but last year's team leader, Matthew Judon, is still hunting for his first. Martindale hopes the pass rush will improve as the season progresses. That happened last year when Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson both finished the season strong.
"I think it's a work in progress," Martindale said. "The way that Patrick got rid of the ball, faster than I've ever seen him do it, that was something they did different. Also, our execution needs to be better and our pass rush, whether it's a defensive lineman, safety, linebacker, whatever. We need to execute better."
Ravens Will Look for Three-And-Outs vs. Washington
Kansas City was 10-of-13 on third down conversions against the Ravens, a ratio that is unacceptable for the Ravens defense. Martindale took it as a painful learning experience.
"When you're going against a great offense like that, they bring out some details you need to focus on, what direction you need to go with your own package," Martindale said. "One of the things that stood out to me was third down. We've got to get off the field on third down. They exploited some of those things."
Baltimore hopes to have better success Sunday against Washington second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who is completing just 56.4 percent of his passes. Martindale isn't worried about the defense being able to bounce back quickly during a short week.
"This isn't the first time we've had a game like that in the three years that we've been here," Martindale said. "We've got eyes forward to Washington."