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Passing Game Was 'Off' All Season


For as much attention as the Ravens' struggles in the running game received this season, that was hardly the offense's only issue.

Problems in the passing game also plagued the Ravens, as quarterback Joe Flacco and Head Coach John Harbaugh both said that the aerial attack never seemed to get in sync.

"We're just a little off, too often," Harbaugh said. "That probably is a good way to describe it without getting into every single detail of every single route."

The final numbers for the passing game were the worst of Flacco's six-year career. He finished the season with 19 touchdowns and a franchise-record 23 interceptions. The Ravens ranked 18th in the NFL in passing yards per game and 31st in yards per passing attempt (6.3).

Flacco never threw for more than two touchdowns a game and did not top 300 passing yards after Week 6.

Flacco said that being just a little bit off with his receivers hurt the passing game, and it added up over the season.

"When you're that much off throughout the course of the game, over the course of 16 games, you're not going to be special enough to win football games," Flacco said Sunday after the loss to Cincinnati.

The problems for the passing attack started early for the Ravens, as Flacco lost two of his favorite targets before the season even started. The Ravens traded Anquan Boldin to San Francisco during the offseason, and then tight end Dennis Pitta went down with a hip injury early in training camp.

Losing those two players took away sure-handed targets who could work the middle of the field and move the chains.  The Ravens struggled all year to replace them.

"You better understand that injuries are going to happen, but I don't know that we necessarily had a go-to guy in the slot that was really a good answer to replace Dennis when he got hurt," Harbaugh said.

Pitta and Boldin weren't the only losses, as No. 2 receiver Jacoby Jones went down with a knee injury the opening game and then missed the next month of the season. Once he did return, he took some time to get re-acclimated in the offense.

The Ravens also cycled in some new targets, including receivers Marlon Brown, Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, Brandon Stokley and tight end Dallas Clark. Brown was the only receiver out of that group who stuck, as the undrafted rookie was a bright spot in the passing game by finishing the year with seven receiving touchdowns.

Third-year receiver Torrey Smith also had an impressive season, finishing with a career-high 1,128 receiving yards.

With Flacco as the franchise quarterback in the prime of his career, the Ravens have high expectations for the passing game. He is the centerpiece of the offense and the Ravens build around him.

To make the necessary improvements in the passing game, Harbaugh said that it starts with chemistry Flacco and the targets have with each other.

"It's got to start with the way we build the system, what we give to our guys, and what they work on in the offseason together," Harbaugh said. "We've got to build in chemistry, precision, those kinds of things that you're talking about.

"We've got to build those things in right out of the gates if we're going to be a good passing team. And a good passing team doesn't turn the ball over that many times. So, not just getting back to not turning the ball over, but even move forward and be more effective in what we're doing."

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