Held to fewer than 20 points in four straight games, the Ravens are looking for offensive answers.
Going up-tempo more often is a possibility. The Ravens are obviously considering many options, and they're not going to tip their hand heading into Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns.
However, Baltimore's final drive during Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was crisp and impressive when the Ravens went to a hurry-up offense. Completing six-of-seven passes, Lamar Jackson led a 60-yard, eight-play march, capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins. On that drive, which took just one minute, 36 seconds, the passing game clicked more consistently than at any point during the entire game.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said that picking up the tempo offensively on a more regular basis is being discussed.
"It's definitely an option," Harbaugh said. "It's definitely something that we've done before. Among other things, it's something that is on the table, for sure."
Jackson sounded very much in favor of the idea.
"It's pretty cool, yes," Jackson said. "It helps us flex out the defense. It lets us do our thing a little faster."
Going more up-tempo could possibly put more pressure on the defense, particularly if the Ravens go three-and-out and put the defense right back on to the field. But from an offensive perspective, Jackson doesn't see much downside.
"Right now, I don't know what the challenge is for us, because we've been having success when we did it," Jackson said. "I don't really know what the challenges may be. It may come up in a game or something, then I might have an answer for you. But we haven't had any problems with it, so we've been good."
Ravens Aren't Worried About Scheduling Quirk With Browns
Baltimore will face Cleveland for the second time in three weeks on Sunday, but the schedule is more strange for the Browns, who had a bye in Week 13. That means the Browns are playing the Ravens in back-to-back games – something that rarely happens in the NFL during the regular season.
When the Ravens watch videotape of Cleveland's most recent game, they'll be looking at the Ravens' 16-10 victory at M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 28. However, Harbaugh doesn't think the scheduling quirk is a big deal, and he knows there is nothing he can do about it.
"It's not something that I'm really thinking about," Harbaugh said. "There's always challenges and difficulties that you have to deal with, whether it's schedule or whatever it is. So, we just deal with it and play the game. That's all we're thinking about."
Baltimore held Cleveland to just 40 yards rushing in Week 12, and Jackson was sacked just twice. The Browns will be looking for more production from running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and to put more heat on Jackson. The Browns (6-6) enter the game well-rested and will undoubtedly have some new wrinkles for the Ravens. But who wins the game will come down to execution, regardless of how recently they last met.
"Toward the end of the season, teams are pretty much established in who they are, what they do [and] how they do it," Harbaugh said. "Then [it's] what are the wrinkles going to be? How are they going to attack your team? That's really what we're looking at. We're just trying to figure that out and be prepared to play these guys this week."
Fixing Pre-Snap Penalties Is a Priority
The Ravens were flagged for eight pre-snap penalties against Pittsburgh, further undermining their chances to win. Cleaning that up in practice will be a priority this week, and in Cleveland, the Ravens will play in one of the league's loudest venues for the second consecutive week.
"You have to handle noise, but to me, it was just our execution – communication in and out of the huddle and just handling the situation and not making those mistakes," Harbaugh said. "We do not want to be behind the chains because of pre-snap penalties. That's not really acceptable."
Starting center Bradley Bozeman said there's a fine line between coming off the ball quickly and moving too early.
"Whether it was the defensive line shifting and calling out the shift, when you're ready to go, you're all tensed up, you're ready to come off the ball, sometimes it gets you," Bozeman said. "We just have to clean things up this week in practice, and we'll get back after it."
Ravens Need to Capitalize on Chances for Picks
Baltimore has gone five straight games without an interception, and several chances to make picks have simply been dropped. Failing to capitalize on those opportunities has made it harder for Baltimore's defense to get off the field, and has robbed the offense of chances to start drives on a short field.
Anthony Averett leads the team with two interceptions in his first year as a starter. But the Ravens have just five interceptions in 12 games, tied for second-fewest in the NFL, beating out the Jets who have just four interceptions. The Ravens have 10 total takeaways, which is third worst in the league.
Averett said the defense would spend more time this week on ball-catching and takeaway drills.
"I think we're just going to do a little bit more with practice – just getting the hands on the ball, strip the ball out a little bit more, JUGS (machine)," Averett said. "[There are] things to do and extra things, so we can start making the extra plays and more turnovers."
With Marlon Humphrey now out for the season along with Marcus Peters, Averett expects opposing quarterbacks to challenge Baltimore's corners even more, meaning there will be opportunities for Baltimore's interception total to rise.
"We know what's coming, so we definitely will prepare for it," Averett said.