Something happened to the Ravens offense in Cleveland, and it was not good.
Baltimore did not score a touchdown in Sunday’s 12-9 overtime loss to the Browns, and after the game, the Ravens’ locker room was a picture of frustration.
Wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who dropped several key passes, sat in front of his locker for some time with his head down before addressing the media. Quarterback Joe Flacco was obviously disappointed, having to answer questions about what went wrong.
The Ravens have not scored a touchdown since the first quarter of their Week 4 game against Pittsburgh – seven straight quarters, plus Sunday’s overtime. After starting the season 13-for-13 in the red zone, they have scored just one touchdown on their last seven trips.
To win consistently, the Ravens (3-2) will have to play better offensively than they have done recently.
“It was tough,” Flacco said. “They took some of the big plays away from us and made us go the long, hard way. We turned the ball over a couple times. We had them getting a little tired, we just weren’t able to keep and sustain it for anything significant.
“We came up against a team that’s playing well and feeling good, and we just weren’t able to get the ball in the end zone. There are a lot of things that go into that. We’ll have to go in and really grind to see exactly what it was.”
For much of the game, the Ravens had excellent field position and they were playing a Browns defense that had given up 45 points the week before against the Oakland Raiders. But either the Browns stopped the Ravens, or the Ravens stopped themselves.
Whenever the Ravens seemed on the verge of winning, something went wrong. A penalty called against wide receiver Chris Moore in overtime was one of the crucial turning points that went against the Ravens.
They had driven from the their own 7-yard line to a first-and-10 at their own 47. Moore’s penalty nullified a 17-yard run by Alex Collins. Had Collins’ run stood, the Ravens would have been in position for a potential Justin Tucker game-winning field goal. Instead, the Ravens were pushed back to a first-and-16 and were eventually forced to punt.
“We had the game won as far as I’m concerned if they don’t call the block in the back on Chris,” Flacco said. “I saw the replay. Chris never really touched him as far as I’m concerned.”
However, the offense never found a consistent rhythm all day. The Ravens hoped they had moved beyond a performance like this with the additions of wide receivers Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead IV, along with their deep corps of tight ends. Flacco was off to one of the hottest starts of his career.
What went wrong in this game? Give the Cleveland secondary credit for containing Flacco’s favorite weapons, particularly wide receiver Brown, who had been one of the NFL’s top deep threats during the first four weeks of the season.
Flacco completed just four of 14 targets to Brown, as he was held to 58 yards receiving. Browns first-round rookie cornerback Denzel Ward was excellent in coverage, as was the rest of Cleveland’s secondary. The Browns kept a safety in deep coverage shading toward Brown, determined not to let him make a big play.
“When you’re making plays, you’ve got to expect things like that to happen,” said Brown of Cleveland’s defensive scheme. “I knew that was going to be part of the plan, to take the deep ball away from me. They did a good job with it. Sometimes you have to accept that, and just open it up for your teammates.”
With Brown not a factor in the deep passing game, Flacco was forced to go elsewhere, and the results were not productive. Crabtree had five catches for 68 yards, but his dropped passes have become an issue. Crabtree dropped two passes in the first half that killed drives. Then, with a minute left in regulation, Crabtree could not control a pass in the end zone that would have given Baltimore a go-ahead touchdown.
It would have been a difficult catch by Crabtree on a blistering pass over the middle by Flacco. However, Crabtree managed to get both hands on the ball, and it was the kind of catch he has made before. This time, he didn’t make it, forcing the Ravens to settle for a Tucker field goal that forced overtime.
Flacco competed 29 of 56 passes for 298 yards, but he also threw an interception and the Browns sacked him twice. Flacco’s longest completion was for 28 yards, and the explosiveness the offense showed in earlier games was gone. While Collins (59 yards) and Javorius Allen (34 yards) ran effectively at times, Allen also had a costly fumble. Baltimore started the game with a 19-yard Collins run, but didn’t run the ball well in some critical situations.
The players and coaching staff have plenty to look at before their Week 6 game in Tennessee. No touchdowns in the last seven-plus quarters is an offensive trend the Ravens must change as quickly as possible.
“It’s on us,” said Moore. “We should have won this game. We just didn’t finish.”
Gameday Gallery: Ravens at Browns
Check out the best shots from Sunday’s Week 5 game in Cleveland.