A day after another dismal offensive performance in a loss to the Chicago Bears, Ravens coach John Harbaugh defended much-maligned offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, reiterating that there is plenty of blame to go around for the unit’s struggles.
“The players are in it together, the coaches are in it together, we’re fighting together to try to do it, so I think anytime you try to pin the blame on any one person in a team sport like this, that’s always going to be a mistake,” Harbaugh said at his weekly news conference Monday. “I mean, that’s nonsensical. It just doesn’t work that way. But I understand. That’s how it works. So we all understand that.”
Mornhinweg, who officially took over as the Ravens’ play-caller for a fired Marc Trestman exactly a year ago Monday, and embattled quarterback Joe Flacco have become popular targets in criticism of the offense’s weekly struggles.
The Ravens, who are 3-3 entering a road game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings (4-2), turned the ball over three times and failed to score an offensive touchdown in Sunday’s 27-24 overtime loss to the Chicago Bears at M&T Bank Stadium. It marked the third time in four games the offense has been held to one touchdown or less.
Flacco threw two interceptions against the Bears, but both resulted from deflections off a wide receiver’s hands. The veteran entered Monday ranked 30th among qualifying NFL quarterbacks in yards per attempt (5.42), 31st in quarterback rating (66.1) and tied for second in interceptions (eight).
“It is part of being an NFL player, it is part of being a leader, and it is part of being a player on this team. You have to be able to deal with the ups and downs of a season and continue to roll through,” Flacco said after Sunday’s game. “It is still early on, and we are a 3-3 football team. We have to look at ourselves hard and look at ourselves as the reason that we are 3-3 and just correct what we can and move forward. It does not feel good.”
The Ravens rank sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (129.5), but the rest of their offense sits at or near the bottom of the league in just about every category. The Ravens are 29th in yards per game (289.2), 31st in passing yards per game (159.7) and 24th in points per game (19), a number inflated by the Ravens’ one defensive touchdown and two special teams scores.
The offense’s struggles have intensified the heat on Mornhinweg, whom Harbaugh unexpectedly retained after the longtime play-caller struggled to get the team’s offense going last season following Trestman’s departure.
“I think Marty’s a great coach. There’s no question in my mind about it,” Harbaugh said Monday. “I’ve seen him over the years and I know what he can do and I know what he’s trying to do. I know what all the coaches are trying to do. You do everything you can to put your guys in position to make plays, and you’re in it together.”
The Ravens have had a revolving door at offensive coordinator since Harbaugh fired Cam Cameron in December 2012. Jim Caldwell replaced Cameron and helped Flacco play the best football of his career during the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII run. Caldwell departed to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts following the 2013 season, and his replacement, Gary Kubiak, spent one successful season with the Ravens before taking the Denver Broncos’ head coaching job.
Trestman followed Kubiak and lasted just 21 games as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator before he was fired following a Week 5 loss to the Washington Redskins.
While the team has run the ball significantly better and shown a greater commitment to the ground game this season under Mornhinweg — the addition of tight ends coach and senior offensive assistant Greg Roman certainly has helped — the Ravens’ passing game has been a mess for most of the season. Take away a Week 5 victory over the Oakland Raiders, and the Ravens haven’t been able to consistently make plays downfield.
“The big plays, that’s something we have to find,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve also got to find the chain-movers, the consistent plays underneath where we can move the chains and get first downs and create more plays. Whether it’s play-action passes, quick game, concept passes, protection goes with that — all those things go together. They all tie together.
“When you put those things together and they’re clicking and your quarterback’s playing, the passing game can look great. When one or two things are off and you don’t have separation or you don’t quite get protection, that’s when things don’t look good at all. When you have those things happening sporadically over the course of the whole game, different things in different plays, then it can look bad.”
Harbaugh said several deep shots were called Sunday, but the Ravens weren’t able to execute. A receiving corps that didn’t have Jeremy Maclin, who missed the game with a shoulder injury, and lost Breshad Perriman to a concussion in the second quarter didn’t give Flacco much help. The Ravens dropped five passes, and two of them — one by Perriman and one by Chris Moore — turned into interceptions. Tight end Maxx Williams also fumbled away another opportunity.
“We have to catch the ball better, there’s no doubt about it,” Harbaugh said. “When you’re a receiver or a tight end or a back, your job is to hold on to the football, catch the football, throw the ball well as a quarterback. All those guys, we’ve got to be more precise and we’ve got to be better in the passing game. Catching the ball to me is a prerequisite. If you’re a receiver or a tight end or a receiver by trade … your job is to catch the ball.”
Harbaugh didn’t provide any updates on the health of Maclin or Perriman, but he said he’s hopeful the Ravens’ injured players will return in time for Sunday’s game. It’s not an easy assignment for the Ravens to get their passing attack on track against the Vikings, who are giving up the fifth least points per game (17.2) in the NFL.
“We’ve got to put it together. We’ve got to keep working. There’s a lot of season left,” Harbaugh said. “Every week’s a different week, and we have good players, we have good coaches, and we’re capable of putting together a good passing attack. We’ll go to work on doing it. It’s a week-to-week game. So we need to find a passing game for Minnesota.”