Rice, Flacco offer own takes on lack of offensive balance


OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Following the Ravens’ surprising 22-17 loss to Seattle on Sunday, Ray Rice declined to speak to the media in fear of saying something he might regret after the star running back was limited to just five carries and 13 overall touches.
After three days of reflecting on Baltimore’s third loss to a team with a sub-.500 record, Rice talked with reporters, speaking diplomatically but also stating his position on what the Ravens’ vision should be on offense moving forward. However, even Rice acknowledged how three turnovers led to an altered game plan that made establishing the run more difficult in a two-possession game.
It was the second time this season Rice had been limited to 13 touches in a loss after he receiver just eight carries in a 12-7 defeat to Jacksonville on Oct. 24.
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“I’m never going to be the guy who talks about touches, but obviously, we know going into a game, five carries is not going to cut it,” Rice said. “You look at it, and I know five carries is not going to do us any justice, but at the same time, we found ourselves so deep in the situation that we had to climb our way out. We were looking for answers, whether it was running, passing, you’ve got to find your way out of the situation.”
Rice’s point was clear and echoed the sentiments of coach John Harbaugh, who explained Monday that the Ravens clearly want to establish the running game, but two early turnovers limited their opportunities in the first half as they fell behind by two possessions for most of the game.
With Rice receiving only five carries, quarterback Joe Flacco threw the football a career-high 52 times for 255 yards as the Ravens relied solely on the passing game to try to erase a 22-7 deficit early in the third quarter. The ratio of 53 pass plays to 12 runs has sparked much criticism from fans and media alike, but Flacco went on the defensive when asked about the imbalance.
“What do you think’s going to happen when there’s five minutes left in the third quarter and you’re down 22-7?” Flacco said. “It happened in the Arizona Cardinals game, too — we won. Nobody was complaining about it then.”
It was rare to see the nonchalant quarterback speak with such conviction, but Flacco could easily have taken the questioning as a slight toward his play. The fourth-year quarterback averaged only 4.9 yards per attempt.
Flacco acknowledged any frustration Rice and fellow running backs Ricky Williams and Vonta Leach may have felt, but explained how misguided criticism toward the pass-run ratio has been over the last few days.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” Flacco said. “Did you watch the game or didn’t you watch the game, you know? I understand the way our running backs feel. I understand because if we were throwing the ball 10 times, I’d be a little upset that I didn’t get to put my stamp on the game, either. Did you see how the game went?
“Down by 15, you have to score pretty much every possession. You can’t assume that they’re not going to score, and you can’t assume that you have eight possessions left. You could have three possessions left in the game, and that’s the kind of game we played. We didn’t have a lot of possessions. We weren’t perfect, but we weren’t terrible either. We moved the ball all game, and things didn’t go our way.”
After both offensive leaders shared their piece in a final look back at the Seattle game, they shifted their comments to the Cincinnati Bengals and their 4-3 defense that has given the Ravens fits over the last couple seasons. After struggling to run the football effectively against four-man fronts for most of the season, Rice believes an aggressive approach is the key to establishing the ground game.
“You’ve got to attack them,” Rice said. “The problems we’ve been facing against these 4-3 teams, we have to attack them, and it starts with running the ball. The run opens up the pass. Offense has to be balanced, but you’ve got to find a way to have that balance where run sets up the pass. When you’re running the ball effectively, it sets it up for later down the field.”
Perhaps the most effective way to jump-start the running game — and the offense, in general — would simply be to take care of the football, something the Ravens failed to do in Seattle after fumbling two kickoffs and throwing an interception on the opening drive of the second half. Since a turnover-free performance in a 35-7 win over Pittsburgh to begin the season, the Ravens have turned the ball over at least once in every game and two or more times in six of the eight games since Week 1.
“We’ve got to control the game situations,” Rice said. “We can’t turn over the ball. We can’t get stupid penalties starting back from the 5-yard line. If we want to average a drive [going] 80 yards, let’s go 80 yards, but let’s not make it a situation where you get a cheap holding penalthy where you find yourself first-and-20. We want to be able to manage first and second down, so we can get manageable third downs.”
NOTES: Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is still not 100 percent after suffering a quadriceps injury in the win over the Arizona Cardinals three weeks ago. The Pro Bowl lineman finished with 11 tackles against the Seahawks despite not being fully healthy. “I’m up and down,” Ngata said. “I think the week after I actually hurt my thigh I was probably 80 percent. It was a little bit more last week. It’s getting better and better each week. I’ve just got to make sure I take care of it.” … Harbaugh said he expects cornerback Jimmy Smith to continue getting more playing time after the rookie saw time in the dime package against Seattle. “He’s going to get more and more time out there,” Harbaugh said. … The winless Indianapolis Colts signed fullback Ryan Mahaffey from the Ravens’ practice squad on Tuesday, and Baltimore signed tight end Davon Drew to fill the open spot on the practice squad. Drew was a fifth-round selection of the Ravens in the 2009 draft. … Rice sported the Orioles’ new cartoon bird cap during Wednesday’s interview session. “I am just trying to represent our other part of town — the Orioles. Let them know we are here, representing the new logo.” The running back would also like an invitation to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “I am hoping to throw out a first pitch. I proved I can throw now,” joked Rice, alluding to the touchdown pass he threw to tight end Ed Dickson on Sunday.