SAN JOSE, Calif. – Asked if he was enjoying his week in California, Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman had a clever answer.
“I haven’t had time,” Trestman said. “I’ve been locked up in a hotel trying to find ways to throw the ball down the field more.”
The comment drew laughs, but the Ravens won’t be smiling if they lose to the Raiders on Sunday and fall to 0-2. Here are five keys for the Ravens in Sunday’s matchup.
1. Protect quarterback Joe Flacco.
He was hit 17 times Week 1 against the Broncos. That’s way too much. Now the Ravens face a Raiders team that has a decent pass rush, led by linebacker Khalil Mack. It doesn’t look like Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe (concussion) will play, after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday. His replacement, James Hurst, and right tackle Rick Wagner were put on notice early in the week by head coach John Harbaugh. “Our tackles, they have to do a better job,” Harbaugh said. That needs to start Sunday.
2. The Ravens’ offensive line needs to create running room for Justin Forsett.
Justin Forsett was held to 43 yards on 14 carries in Week 1. A consistent running game Sunday will make it much easier for Trestman to setup play-action passes downfield for Flacco.
3. Flacco’s targets need to give him more help.
Steve Smith let a potential game-winning pass from Flacco slip through his hands in Denver. Ditto for tight end Crockett Gillmore. Concern about the Ravens not having enough weapons without injured wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) won’t end until wide receivers Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro, and Darren Waller start making more plays.
4. Avoid giving the Raiders gift points.
The pick-six that Flacco threw against the Broncos was devastating. We saw the Broncos steal a win Thursday night in Kansas City, returning a Jamaal Charles fumble for a touchdown in the final minute. Give the Raiders points, and give their rabid fans a reason for hope, and the Ravens could find themselves in trouble.
5. Don’t take the Raiders for granted.
The Ravens are the better team, and the Raiders looked bad Week 1 against the Bengals. However, the Ravens can’t afford to start 0-2. They lost a tough game in Denver, but after making the decision to spend the week in California before game, the Ravens need to justify that with an intense effort Sunday against a team they should beat.