Stalling Ravens Offense Looks for Jolt

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After starting out the season moving the ball down the field like a sleek roadster, the Ravens' offense seems to be in need of a jump start.

In the past two games, the unit has found the end zone only one time. Quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens' passing attack did not have much success against the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, who at the time had the NFL's 30th- and 22nd-rated pass defenses.

An aerial assault that had been burning up the opposition suddenly seems cold.

Solving the offensive struggles is not easy. A matchup here, a penalty there, a missed assignment from a single player can derail a play, which can in turn run a drive off the tracks.

"It always comes down to execution," said center Matt Birk, a six-time Pro Bowler. "Great teams are consistent, and we're trying to find that balance to run and throw the ball. Sometimes teams are going to try to make you one-dimensional, but you have to be balanced. That's what good offenses have.

"But that's easier said than done. There is no magic formula or anything like that. You just have to execute. All the guys have to do their jobs in order for a play to be successful."

The Ravens began the season lighting up rival defenses. Take out a 17-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5, and Baltimore averaged 30.5 points and an impressive 399 yards in six of their first seven games with a creative mix of passing and running the ball.

In the Ravens' previous two games, however, it was an average of 244 total yards and only 11.2 points.

"We know as an offense that [with] the teams we have coming up, we've got to help our defense out," Derrick Mason said earlier this week. "We have to score points, we've got to start off fast and end fast. We've got to figure that one out. We can't allow ourselves to get in a situation where we're only scoring seven points as an offense. We have to be able to at least score three or four times on offense."

Getting hot out of the gate will be imperative this weekend against the Indianapolis Colts, who feature quarterback Peyton Manning and a high-powered offense capable of burying teams early.

"They're a point-a-minute offense," running back Ray Rice stated. "They're trying to score every time they get the ball. But as far as our offense, we need to do a great job of putting up points to help our defense out, and that offsets each other.

The Ravens have a history of success when scoring first.

Baltimore is 4-1 this year and 57-18 in franchise history when it has posted the game's first points.

That can be facilitated by a few simple factors: avoiding penalties and converting third downs.

The Ravens are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles as the fourth-most penalized team in the league with 67 this season.

"I guess it's an old cliché, you shoot yourself in the foot, but we done shot ourselves in the foot a bunch of times," Mason explained. "I'm surprised we still have got one. Those are things that are correctible, and we've got to make up our mind to correct them. We can't continue to say, 'They're correctible, they're correctible,' and not correct them.

"We've got a good record when we score on our first drive. So, we've got to make sure we buckle down and pay attention to the little things and make sure we get off on a good start, especially this week."

As for third downs, it has been tough going lately. Against the Browns, Baltimore converted only one third down in the first half. Against the Bengals, it was only one all game.

On the season, Baltimore is far more efficient, as they are boast the NFL's seventh-best conversion percentage (42.9).

"We pride ourselves on converting third downs, and that's what we stress in the offseason, two-a-days, and all that other stuff," said Mason. "We know what we have to do on first and second down, but the critical down is third down to keep the drive going – and to keep our defense off the field.

"If you look at the stats and whatnot throughout the NFL, if you convert at least two or three third downs, you put your team in the position to score points. So, that's what we have to do. We've got to get back to getting it to third-and-manageable and converting on third down."

The Ravens believe they can get the offense looking like that sports car again. Still, considering they won in Cleveland where the yards seemed to come at a premium, the Ravens will take a victory over anything.

"I don't think we did too bad [last] week; we just didn't throw for a great amount of yards or anything like that," said Flacco. "We just need to continue to grow as an offense and continue to get better each week. And I think there are going to be some weeks where you have a couple of yards and there are going to be some weeks where you have big games, and we just need to go out there and do whatever we can to win."

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