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Offense leaves defense stranded on the road


Offense leaves defense stranded on the road

With the surprising return of Terrell Suggs giving the Ravens' struggling defense a momentary lift, it didn't matter in Sunday's 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans.

It hardly looked like a meeting between the two best teams in the AFC with both entering 5-1. The Ravens allowed the most points under coach John Harbaugh since he arrived in 2008 and the hurry-up offense disappeared yet again.

As much as the Ravens have tried to deny it, something about the offense and the road doesn't mix. When quarterback Joe Flacco hit Tandon Doss in the third quarter for a 15-yard touchdown, it represented the Ravens' only trip to the end zone away from home in 10 quarters.

Flacco finished 21-for-43 for 147 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Combined with his last road performance at the Kansas City Chiefs, he's just 34-for-70 passing.

The Ravens got out to a quick start as they drove into Texans territory but stalled and settled for a 51-yard field goal from Justin Tucker. The rookie also converted one from 54 yards and is 14-for-15 for the season. From 50-plus yards, Tucker is 4-for-4.

"We had a good first drive," said Flacco, who threw a pass that was deflected by J.J. Watt and returned by Johnathan Joseph 52 yards for a touchdown to break the game open in the second quarter at 16-3. "But we went against a good defense today. We all could've done things better, starting with myself. I don't really have an answer for you. It's just the way it works out."

Running back Ray Rice opened with 30 yards on four carries, but he only ran the ball five times after that and finished with a season-low 42.

Houston dominated the ball for 38 minutes in time of possession compared with 22 for Baltimore.

Flacco was sacked twice in the first quarter, leading to a safety in the end zone by Connor Barwin and it was all downhill from there.

Suggs made his presence felt early by stuffing runs from Arian Foster on Houston's first series, and he sacked quarterback Matt Schaub at 7:46 of the first quarter.

But the Ravens needed much more than Suggs, who was playing his first game of the season as he surprisingly came off the physically-unable-to-perform list just five days ago. He tore his Achilles during the offseason and was activated to the 53-man roster on Saturday.  

"It's not the start I wanted. I wanted to come back with a win but I felt if it was good on Saturday that I would go," said Suggs who had three tackles and one assisted. "I had to come back this game against a good team because we all know how important November and December is and I didn't want to be still knocking the rust off when it comes down the stretch to those big games."

Suggs was projected to be on the field for about 15-20 plays but far exceeded that. After giving up 200-plus rushing yards in the last two games, the Ravens allowed the Texans to compile 181.

Until the second half, they'd kept Foster, who had 98 yards on 19 carries in all, relatively in check.  But they failed to get the Texans off the field or create any turnovers to change the momentum.

Schaub led a balanced attack for Houston with 23-for-37 passing for 256 yards and two touchdowns.

The only good news for the Ravens is they have a bye week and certainly can use it. Right tackle Kelechi Osemele left the game with what he thought was a broken right ankle, but he returned in the third quarter after X-Rays were negative and he received painkilling shots.

Safety Ed Reed hurt his ribs on a tackle in the fourth quarter but said he was OK afterwards. They didn't have starting nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu because of an injured knee. 

Baltimore literally was beaten up.

"There's no sugar-coating it. Call a spade a spade," Suggs said. "They whipped our ass."

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."


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Ravens D-coordinator Don Martindale puts personal stamp on unit

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Ravens D-coordinator Don Martindale puts personal stamp on unit

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There are no dreary work days for Don Martindale, who has overwhelmingly embraced his new role as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.

After serving for five seasons as the team's linebackers coach, Martindale was promoted to coordinator in January after Dean Pees left the post.

Enthusiastic doesn't even begin to describe Martindale's attitude about being in charge of the defense.

"Ever since we've made this transition, it's been a joy to just come through those gates every day. I love it," Martindale said after Wednesday's mandatory minicamp practice.

This isn't the first time Martindale has been put in charge of molding a defense. In 2010, he watched over a unit in Denver that was the worst in the NFL in both yards and points allowed per game.

Given a second chance, the 55-year-old Martindale is putting together a defense that will rely heavily on the instinct of several of its most proven players, most notably safety Eric Weddle and linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley.

"He's just putting his personal fix on our defense and expanding it, giving the guys confidence to play fast," Weddle said. "The idea is to do what's best for the defense, not what's best the individual."

Martindale called Mosley "the quarterback" of a fluid unit that can make a snap-change from drop-back coverage to an all-out blitz. In that regard, Mosley believes this defense is superior to the one that in 2017 yielded 18.9 points per game, sixth-best in the NFL.

"The way we're able to use our core guys, put them in different spots and do some of the same things just from different positions, it's more creative, I would say, than where we were last year," Mosley said.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh promoted Martindale rather than go outside the organization because he wanted to extend his vision of a defense that has evolved since his arrival in 2008.

"All we're doing is forwarding John's plan," Martindale said. "We're remodeling the package. It's still Ravens football, it's still Ravens defense, but we've streamlined it. It's the elegant simplicity. Guys are playing really fast."

Asked for his take on Martindale's defense, Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg replied, "They're fast and they're furious."

Sure, things might be different once the pads go on at training camp, but at this point, Martindale's boss likes what he sees.

"We're doing a lot of neat things on defense, things that are really good," Harbaugh said. "More than ever, we're putting it on our players to make decisions in real time."

Martindale has a new title, but old habits die hard.

"For the most part, it's been the same," Mosley said. "He always comes in and says, `I have to lead the linebacker room,' and sits down and gets to talking like he's back at linebacker coach."

Told of Mosley's disclosure, Martindale smiled and said, "I've been trying to stay out of there, but you can't help but go in. That's home. I have a good time in the secondary room as well."

And just about everywhere else.

"Where we're going with this thing is really exciting to me," Martindale said, "and I know it's exciting to the players."

In other training camp news, cornerback Jimmy Smith was a surprise participant at practice, going through a light regimen of individual drills just six months after tearing his left Achilles tendon.

"I don't know if Jimmy's like half Wolverine, but he's healed up in half the time of regular human beings," Weddle said, referring to the amazing recuperative powers of the Marvel super hero.