For the second week in a row, Joe Flacco set a Ravens franchise record for receptions on Monday night.
But Flacco’s 37 receptions – on 52 attempts – yielded just 324 yards, as he often relied on dumpoffs and checkdowns to running backs in a 30-23 loss to the Patriots that, for now at least, leaves the Ravens (7-6) on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs.
The Ravens aggressive offensive approach in the win over the Dolphins last week was nowhere to be found Monday night, as Flacco routinely made a quick read and a dumpoff, regardless of whether he was under pressure.
Flacco targeted his running backs 18 times, including 11 throws to rookie running back Kenneth Dixon, who finished with a team-high eight receptions for 42 yards.
In other words, Flacco threw as many passes to the running backs as he did to his top three receivers; Mike Wallace (8), Steve Smith (6) and Breshad Perriman (4) also totaled 18 targets, and many of those were short-yardage dumpoffs as well.
The Ravens simply can’t go toe-to-toe with elite offenses that way.
Flacco’s record-setting night aside, the Ravens offense looked far from elite for much of the game. The Ravens were greatly helped by two huge special teams errors by the Patriots, who fumbled two returns inside their own 25-yard line – one inside the 5 – to set up the Ravens two touchdowns.
“They were dropping a lot of guys it seemed like most of the game in the middle of the field,” Flacco said, acknowledging that the Patriots took away much of what he had so much success with last week against Miami.
“Took a couple of shots downfield,” Flacco said. “We were hoping to be able to take a couple more.”
Instead, the Ravens relied far more often on 2- or 4-yard dumpoffs, even in third-and-long situations.
That has been a recurring problem this season. The Ravens, who entered the game ranked 30th in the league in third-down conversions, were 6-for-16 on third-down conversions against the Patriots.
Coming into the season, the Ravens boasted the makings of a high-powered offense, with one of the strongest-armed quarterbacks in the league and receivers such as Wallace and Perriman who could stretch the field.
Yet the season hasn’t played out that way. The Ravens rank 25th in yards per pass play and rarely take deep shots downfield.
Now the Ravens are in a three-week sprint to the finish with little margin for error. They need to be aggressive, bold and get their big playmakers involved.
Two-yard dumpoffs are not the answer.