Ravens on quest for points

OWINGS MILLS -- In the midst of another identity crisis, the Baltimore Ravens have embarked on a quest for increased scoring. Whether it's through a hard-nosed running game or adjusting a passing game that rarely challenges defenses vertically, something has to be done to resuscitate a drowning offense that ranks second-to-last in the NFL in scoring.

Baltimore (1-2) is averaging 10 points per contest on three touchdowns and three field goals following a 13-3, grind-it-out win over the New York Jets. Oft-criticized, the offensive leaders are making their own blunt assessments of the situation.

"In this league, you can't live on scoring 13 points a game," said wide receiver Derrick Mason, one of the few bright spots with a team-high 21 receptions. "The defense did a great job this weekend, but there has to be a time as an offense where you have to pick it up.

"You're not going to run into too many teams that are down to their third-string quarterback. I feel that we have the talent to put up a lot of points."

Subtle signs of improvement for an offense that ranks 26th in the NFL were evident against the Jets.

There were no sacks allowed for the first time this season. Quarterback Anthony Wright completed 71 percent of his attempts, although he only generated 144 yards and no touchdowns. And the Ravens committed just three penalties after being flagged 18 times in consecutive losses.

"We are not horrible," Wright said. "One of the things that [offensive coordinator Jim] Fassel told us is that the NFL is all about who can get better the fastest. It's not about how you start out, it's about how you end up."

Baltimore rarely attempts many downfield passes with long completions of 32 and 24 yards for an average of 9.6 yards per completion.

Wright is managing the game in terms of handing off and making safe throws for the most part, but has only two touchdowns and four interceptions.

He's been fairly effective on third downs where he ranks fourth in the AFC. Wright has completed 21 of 31 passes on third downs (67.7 percent) for 182 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a 91.1 passer rating.

Overall, Wright has a 70.5 passer rating to rank 26th in the NFL.

"I can't ask more from my quarterback than what we did the other day in terms of his efficiency," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Now, we need to have more productivity when we commit to the run that way and we've got to have more explosive plays down the field.

"The profile we showed is very good, but there's got to be a great deal more if we expect to get where we want to go."

The running game produced 115 yards against the Jets. On 45 carries, though, Baltimore averaged only 2.5 yards per attempt. The Ravens' running game ranks 29th in the NFL, up from last after two games.

Former Pro Bowl runner Jamal Lewis is trying to regain his stride and timing after an offseason of legal turmoil and rehabilitating his surgically repaired right ankle.

Lewis rushed for 57 yards in the first two games, struggling to get back to the line of scrimmage because of poor blocking. He rushed for a season-high 81 yards on 29 carries against the Jets, but could have gained a lot more.

"I feel like I left some yards on the field, but that game wasn't about getting Jamal Lewis 200 yards, it was about trying to get a win," Lewis said. "That was my main focus, trying to get the ball downhill past the line of scrimmage."

Meanwhile, Wright would love it if coaching staff removed the training wheels and let him air it out to Mason, tight end Todd Heap and rookie Mark Clayton. But he understands the priorities.

"Obviously, we'd like to put up more points on the board, but right now the bottom line is winning games," Mason said. "It's still early. We are not 1-9 or whatever. We have time to get all of the crinkles out of the system and get things exactly where we want to have them."
Ideally, the Ravens will get to a point where Lewis approaches his 2003 NFL Offensive Player of the Year level and the passing game improves from 17th in the league.

"Right now, we are just trying to get the identity of this offense," Wright said. "The profile that we want is a running attack. That is not saying that we can't throw the ball because we can, but the profile of this offense is to be able to run.

"We are just going to do whatever it takes to win. If we have to throw the ball, then we will. If not, then we don't have to. As a quarterback, you want to wing it every time, but it doesn't work that way."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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