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Seahawks 22, Ravens 17
2. At some point, we may have to concede that Cam Cameron's philosophies are a reflection of John Harbaugh's philosophies. Harbaugh is the head coach. He can tell his offensive coordinator he wants to run the ball more, and Cameron has to listen. No one disputes that. So maybe it's time we stop blaming Cameron for Ray Rice's lack of rushes, and start asking a broader, more pointed question: Does Cameron abandon the run early in games because Harbaugh has no issue with abandoning the run early in games?
A lot of Ravens fans are angry about the fact that Rice carried the ball only five times against the Seahawks, and since Rice said he was too emotional to speak with reporters after the game, I'll bet you he's not thrilled about it either. David Reed's turnovers on special teams made it difficult to run the ball, but the turnovers didn't make it impossible. After the Ravens fell behind 10-0, they threw the ball 11 consecutive times before they called another running play. Cameron called for a handoff to Ricky Williams to end the streak, but he followed that up with five consecutive passes -- although to be fair, the last of those five was a pass by Ray Rice to Ed Dickson for a touchdown.
But here is why I'm not comfortable with blaming Cameron in full, and why I don't think anything will change unless Harbaugh demands a philosophical change. There were a number of throws that were wide open. Joe Flacco wasn't under a ton of duress. But they didn't work because Flacco made some poor throws, and even when he was on the mark, his receivers had a few glaring drops. If I were Cameron, I'd look at the film and say: You know, I called a lot of good plays. My quarterback just didn't throw the ball all that accurately, and when he did, the receivers didn't catch it particularly well.
And you know what? He'd be right.
But here is what's problematic: It isn't a surprise to see Joe Flacco make inaccurate throws this year. For whatever reason, this is kind of who he is right now. He's a streaky quarterback capable of greatness as well as mediocrity. I said last week it's impossible to predict how he's going to play, and I stand by that. His receivers only further complicate things by their inability to hold on to some of his best throws. But as far as the Ravens passing game is concerned, I don't see Flacco and Co. turning the proverbial corner, at least not this year.
This is who Flacco is right now. He's a pretty good quarterback. Some of the time. I sort of chuckle every time he plays a great game, because he inevitably gets a question from the media that I'll paraphrase, but it goes something like this: Got anything you want to say to your haters, Joe?
Flacco tends to roll his eyes whenever this comes up, which I appreciate, because even he seems to understand it's an absurd premise. Speaking on behalf of the so-called "haters," I guess I'll just say I'd like to see a little more consistency. I suspect Flacco would, too.
Cameron actually has a lot more faith in Flacco than he gets credit for. It's funny that Cameron is so often accused by fans of holding Flacco back because then you watch games like this, where he puts the entire offense on Flacco's shoulders, and that couldn't be further from the truth. A lot of times, however, he has too much faith in his quarterback. He calls games like he has Aaron Rodgers back there.
And that's where Harbaugh needs to step in. Just because you have a match-up advantage on a play doesn't mean it's the right play to call every time. If there is one criticism of Cameron I think is legitimate, I think it's that he often out-thinks situations. He believes his players are capable of perfect execution, and the reality is often messy. Sometimes football needs to be about strength and brutality, not tactics. That's why play-calling is a delicate balancing act.
The Ravens aren't going to improve their running game unless they actually start running the ball more. It's obvious they have a hard time running against 4-3 defenses, but they need to find ways to keep trying, otherwise the problem is just going to get worse. I still think you can win a championship with Flacco as your quarterback and working with this receiving corps, especially if Lee Evans ever gets healthy. I really do. But you can't win relying on them alone.
September 18, 2011