Ravens coach John Harbaugh has, in the past, made it clear the Ravens are a running football team. Sunday against the Bengals, the Ravens played the part of a pass-first team.
Including the game-ending kneeldown, the team tallied 24 rush attempts and threw 37 passes. They tallied 180 yards through the air and 161 yards on the ground.
Still, in three of the first five games of the season, the Ravens have run the ball more times than they’ve passed it. And so far this season, they’ve been remarkably even with their offensive play-calling. They’ve attempted 138 passes and 144 run plays, meaning they’ve run the ball on 51 percent of offensive plays this season.
A year ago, they attempted 440 passes and ran 596 run plays, a 57.5 percent run-rate. This year, it’s been far more balanced — even lending itself to pass-heavy games like Sunday.
Sometimes the numbers, however, can be a bit leading.
“There were 11 passes in two-minute at the end of the half,” Harbaugh said Monday. “11 of those passes came in two-minute, and we had two, two-minute drives at the end of the half. Those were pretty much all passes. Those 11 passes are what they are, they’re situational.”
Harbaugh came prepared to his weekly press conference with detailed breakdowns of play-calling, not just for the game, but for by-down play-calling as well.
“On first and second down throughout the course of the game, we had 20 runs and 13 passes,” he continued. “So that’s a high number in the NFL. It’s even high for us.”
The Ravens’ unique offense has led to unique defensive looks from their opponents throughout the season, something quarterback Lamar Jackson has mentioned before.
Last week reigning MVP said the Bengals ran a single-high type of look, but he didn’t put too much stock in that because of the varying looks opposing defenses showed the Ravens’ offense. He turned out to be correct.
“They did do something completely different, they were in a true college 4-3 type of a look,” Harbaugh said. “Playing quarters with the safeties low. They played that in the past but they hadn’t played it yet this year, so it was a new defense we thought we might get, but we didn’t get a chance to rep it out very much because they hadn’t done it yet this year.”
Jackson, who threw for 180 yards on 19-of-37 passing, added just two attempts in the run game, another factor in the heavy pass attempts.
Harbaugh detailed the Ravens’ two-minute offense, a stretch at the end of the second half that included 10 dropbacks and one run play as a reason for the disparity. Then in the fourth quarter when the Ravens would’ve been running out the clock with a bevy of run attempts, the Bengals methodically moved down the field to attempt a field goal.
The numbers were a bit skewed Sunday, but make no mistake, the Ravens are trying to become a better and more efficient passing team. That doesn’t come by running the football more than 55 percent of the time.
“They kinda chewed the clock up for us,” Harbaugh said. “I would’ve loved to have forced a punt, got them off the field and gotten the ball back and had the chance to run the ball some more at the end of the fourth quarter. I think the basic, raw numbers are more indicative of the situations that we were in than they were any design or anything play-calling wise.”