The Baltimore Ravens’ defense sealed the 23-16 win against the Houston Texans on Monday night by forcing two turnovers in the fourth quarter. The Ravens’ special teams produced three Justin Tucker field goals and a fake punt.
The biggest contribution from the Baltimore offense: no turnovers. When quarterback Joe Flacco is on the field, it’s all about not losing the game.
This is why Flacco’s biggest play came with his legs (25-yard run) instead of with his arm (longest completion was 24 yards). This is why the Ravens ran the ball on 14 of 19 plays in the fourth quarter, including a third-and-8 (which they converted), in a one-score game.
It’s a mindset that has put Baltimore (6-5) in the driver’s seat for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. It’s just not a mentality that will put the Ravens where they ultimately want to be, at least by Flacco’s thinking.
“If we believe we can win the Super Bowl with how we’re playing right now, I’m all for it. I really am,” Flacco said. “[But] we can all take a look at that and say it’s probably not super-realistic. We need to go out there, we need to go get it and we need to be better on our side of the ball.”
The Ravens looked every bit like the 31st-ranked offense in the NFL. Flacco’s 141 yards passing were the fewest for a winning quarterback in Week 12. In fact, punter Sam Koch had as many completions as Flacco on throws over 15 yards.
Coach John Harbaugh believes Flacco was “exactly spot on” in saying the offense needs to take it to another level in order to succeed in the playoffs.
“We’re just like everyone else in this league, we’re trying to win the whole thing,” Harbaugh said. “We’re not there yet, but they don’t play that game yet. So, the first step is the next step, and the next step is our next game. We have to be good enough to figure out how to win the next game and keep building off of that.”
The Ravens’ defense isn’t asking the offense to be like Tom Brady or Carson Wentz. The way this Baltimore defense is keeping teams out of the end zone, it’s only seeking a capable offense.
The Ravens really only need more than 20 points from Flacco and the offense, which is more than reasonable. Baltimore is 4-1 this season when eclipsing that mark and 2-4 when held to 20 points or fewer.
“It’s never going to be: We’re going to point the finger. It’s human nature,” safety Eric Weddle said. “Yeah, we want [the Ravens’ offense] to do more, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to worry about our job.”
This isn’t the first time Flacco has been candid about the offensive struggles. He emphasized how Baltimore needed to be more aggressive coming out of the bye. Flacco, though, has only attempted nine passes over 15 yards (which ranks No. 25 in the NFL) in two games since those comments.
“There’s a couple of shots for us to have out there and maybe make the game [go] our way,” said Flacco, who was 0-for-3 on passes over 20 yards Monday night. “If you give yourself two shots, and you rely on hitting only those two, there’s going to be games when you don’t hit them.”
Flacco then added, “By the end of the season, you don’t want to have to just turn it on when you have to; you want to be doing it all the time.”
Flacco is the only quarterback this season with more than 200 pass attempts who has thrown more interceptions (11) than touchdown passes (nine). His 5.3 yards per attempt is worst in the NFL. His passer rating of 74.2 is No. 31 in the league.
Some of the blame belongs to Flacco, who repeatedly threw behind and over receivers. Other problems were poor pass protection and receivers letting the ball go through their hands (like Wallace on that deep throw).
“We’re not just trying to get in the playoffs. We want to get to the big game,” said Flacco, who was the Super Bowl MVP five years ago. “You want to have all cylinders clicking — special teams, offense and defense. You don’t want to just go in with one or two of them. You want to have all of them, and you usually need all of them.”