Ravens Waiting For Deep Play-Action Passing To Click


The way Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak's offense is drawn up, the running and short-passing game is supposed to lead to the bomb.

Pound the ball, suck the defenders up, run a play-action fake and throw it over their heads.

The first two parts of that equation have worked out beautifully.

The Ravens are moving the ball and they're scoring, which is most important. The Ravens are ninth in yards (375.5) and seventh in points (27.1) per game in the NFL. Despite a loss in Cincinnati last week, Baltimore punted just once. Sam Koch is 31st in the league in punts with just 22 in eight games.

But the last part of the equation has yet to come to fruition, and the Ravens will become even more offensively explosive when it does.

"You're always looking for big plays offensively as a team. [In] this league, it's very difficult to peck away, so to speak, and I think that's something we do well," Kubiak said of the deep passing game.

"It's one thing to call them, but you have to find a way to make them. So, hopefully there's more to come."

Part of the problem thus far is that the Ravens' regular deep-ball receivers – Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones – haven't been producing.

The Ravens have three catches of 50 or more yards this season and they're all in the back pocket of 35-year-old Steve Smith Sr., who was supposed to primarily be a chain-mover. Smith Sr. also leads the team with catches of 20 or more yards (10), three ahead of Torrey Smith.

Midway through the year, Baltimore has yet to get any catches of 50 or more yards from either of their vertical receivers. Both Torrey Smith and Jones have had down statistical drop-offs so far.

Torrey Smith has 18 catches for 308 yards and four touchdowns. He's generally been the Ravens' chief deep threat over the years, but Torrey Smith's only home run so far was a late 39-yard touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons.

"Just make the play," Smith said. "It's the toughest play in football to make offensively, because the percentages are obviously lower the further you go down field. But it's something that we've been good at in the past, and there's no reason why we shouldn't get back on track."

It doesn't seem like too long ago that Jones was hitting home runs in Super Bowl XLVII, both on special teams and offense. He has just four catches for 50 yards so far this season.

Jones started the season as the Ravens' No. 3 receiver, but has fallen behind Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown on the depth chart. Rookie seventh-round pick Michael Campanaro got significantly more snaps recently too before suffering a hamstring injury. Jones had just 12 offensive snaps the past two games.

The Ravens tried to hit Jones on a long bomb in the third quarter of Sunday's game in Cincinnati, but the pass was a bit too deep and Jones couldn't pull away from cornerback Terence Newman. Baltimore also tried to hit Aiken on a deep throw that was too long.

Both plays came off a play-action fake. The receivers were one-on-one deep, but the connection fell incomplete. Play-action passing hasn't been as generous to the Ravens as they would probably like.

Quarterback Joe Flacco is ranked 22nd among NFL quarterbacks when using play action – a staple of Kubiak's offense – with a quarterback rating of 84.8, per Pro Football Focus (PFF). He has a 59.2 completion percentage in those situations.

"I think there are times where we've left a couple of plays out there, and there are times when we've hit some," Flacco said. "I think we are going to get better and better at taking advantage of some of those play actions. … I think it's something that we're definitely going to be able to rely on and we're going to run effectively as the year goes on."

The Ravens are hoping they can get the deep game going in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers have allowed the second-most plays of 20 or more yards in the league (40). Of those 40, 33 have come through the air.

Pittsburgh may be without cornerback Ike Taylor, who has often done a good job containing Smith. William Gay would start in his place. Just so happens, Gay is the cornerback Smith beat for his game-winning 26-yard touchdown in 2011.

"Sometimes [big plays] come in bunches," Smith said. "All it takes is one, and we're just waiting on that opportunity."

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