BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens have long relied on their defense to win, and it appears that might be the case again this season.
Not if Joe Flacco has anything to do with it.
Flacco spent much of Sunday afternoon frantically running from the pocket, and he had only one touchdown to show for it in a 16-10 loss to the Washington Redskins.
The Ravens went three-and-out on four occasions, gained only 125 yards after halftime and were so ineffective offensively that even the home fans felt compelled to boo.
“It’s frustrating. I’m not happy,” Flacco said. “When you play like that, it’s embarrassing to run off the field in front of your home fans, in front of your teammates.”
In this wide open, pass-happy NFL, holding the opposition to 16 points usually results in a victory. The Ravens defense did its part; the offense did not, scoring its lone TD on the game’s first drive.
“Our defense is putting up awesome plays week after week and we’re just running off the field,” Flacco said. “It doesn’t feel good as a quarterback, the leader of this offense, to do that.”
Even though the offense sputtered, the Ravens (3-2) nearly won anyway. Flacco drove them downfield in the final minute and would have pulled out a stunning comeback victory if Breshad Perriman had found a way to get his left foot in bounds on his potential touchdown reception with 30 seconds remaining.
And so, the fifth straight game involving the Ravens to be decided by no more than six points went the way of the Redskins.
“Right now, we’re playing to win on the last drive or have our defense hold them on the last drive, and it’s not a good formula,” Flacco said.
Flacco began the game operating behind a makeshift offensive line that was without injured left tackle Ronnie Stanley and lost tackle Rick Wagner to injury in the third quarter. In addition, receiver Steve Smith left with a sprained ankle in the first quarter.
Under duress for much of the day, Flacco essentially abandoned his trademark deep throw downfield for short flips to tight ends Dennis Pitta and Crockett Gillmore.
“It’s definitely tough when you’re hitting Dennis in a flat route on third down. You’re not giving yourself a chance,” Flacco acknowledged. “You call plays, and when they’re not open downfield you have to take what you have. When it’s not working, it doesn’t look good.”
Coach John Harbaugh would not accept the depleted offense line and the loss of Smith as excuses for an offense that has thus far proven to be a burden to a defense that started the weekend ranked No. 1 in the NFL.
“We have to find our offense. That’s the story of the season,” Harbaugh said. “We didn’t protect the quarterback particularly well. The running game was pretty good for the most part. But you can’t just run the ball. You’ve got to make some plays in the passing game.”
Terrance West rushed for 95 yards and the Ravens averaged a robust 6.2 yards per carry. But Flacco managed only 210 yards passing and was sacked three times.
“Everybody sees what we can be,” West said. “We have great players on this team. We just have to put it all together.”