The Baltimore Ravens offense will have to do it now. A unit that for years was not counted on to win games will have to carry them to a championship.
Since linebacker Ray Lewis joined the team in 1996, Baltimore has been about defense. They won a Super Bowl in 2000 while setting records. Since the turn of the century very few teams have played defense better than the Ravens.
This season Baltimore’s defense has struggled. In their last two contests the Ravens have given up over 200 yards rushing to the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys. Baltimore was fortunate to walk away with close victories in each.
On Sunday, the Ravens lost cornerback Lardarius Webb and Lewis for the remainder of the season due to injuries. Webb tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Lewis suffered a torn triceps muscle. Nose tackle Haloti Ngata suffered a sprained knee as well. Baltimore was already without linebacker Terrell Suggs lost in the off season to an Achilles tear.
With all of the injuries to the defense quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense will have to get it done. They have been saying that they are capable of doing it. Now they must prove it.
Flacco has been calling himself an elite quarterback. He has gone as far as to say that he is a top five signal caller. Flacco is a good quarterback who has won a lot of games. Not too many would put him in the class of elite. An elite quarterback carries his team when they need him most. Right now, Baltimore has never needed Flacco more.
It is up to him to get the ball to wide receivers Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones. It is up to him to find tight end Dennis Pitta on third down. It is Flacco’s job to take the pressure off of halfback Ray Rice so that the latter can have room to run.
For years, the Ravens played a waiting game. They would keep the offense conservative and wait for the defense to make the big play. Sometimes that big play would be an Ed Reed interception and return for a touchdown. Sometimes it would be a fumble caused by Suggs or Lewis. Sometimes it would be a punt or kick return for six.
The offense was asked to take care of the ball until they crossed midfield. Once they got into enemy territory the Ravens would take their chances offensively. They knew that the defense would bail them out if they turned it over. Now, Baltimore’s offense must put together sustained drives and keep the defense off of the field.
Besides Reed, the big names that made the big plays are not available.
The Ravens say that they have been preparing Flacco and the offense for this moment. Baltimore has felt for some time that their defense would eventually take a step back. It has and now injuries will speed up the process.
The Ravens offense has to do it now. If Baltimore is to have any chance at getting to the Super Bowl Flacco and his mates will have to lead them.