Ravens Defend Play-Calling for Wide Receivers Amid Criticism

Team's plays called too simplistic

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — NFL analyst and two-time MVP Kurt Warner has criticized the Ravens' passing attack as being too simplistic. 

One of the perceived issues is the routes-running of the wide receivers, who have struggled to get separation from opposing defensive backs. The problem was especially glaring in a 17-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. 

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh dismissed the criticism, saying the team's playbook contains every route concept in football. 

"We throw it less than most teams do because we run it so well," Harbaugh said. "I know that Kurt would probably love to see us be a drop-back passing team that gets the ball out on time in a West Coast-type style, or a ‘Greatest Show on Turf’-type style, but that’s not the offense that we run. We’re not going to change an offense because it doesn’t fit his eye. But we have all the concepts; there’s nobody that has more effective movement passes and more effective play-action passes off of a run game than we do, because we had the most complete run game and we have all the play-action and movement passes off of that. 

"We’re not going to be as complex as a Pittsburgh, or a team that throws the ball 40 to 50 times a game because we don’t throw the ball as much as they do. I think that just stands to reason."

The Ravens ranked last in the NFL for passing attempts (406) and passing yards per game (171.2). However, Baltimore had the league's top-ranked running attack for a second consecutive season and was ranked seventh with 29.3 points per game.

One year after being named NFL, MVP, quarterback Lamar Jackson had another solid season. He threw for 2,757 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions (99.3 rating). Jackson also became the first quarterback in league history to record two 1,000 yards rushing seasons.

Jackson's season came to a disappointing end with the loss to the Bills. He threw a critical interception on a third-and-goal to Buffalo cornerback Taron Johnson, who ran 101 yards for the score. Jackson struggled against Buffalo's zone defense, stared down wide receivers was later forced from the game with a concussion. 

"We’ll build a passing game around our players and our talent, and around our quarterback, and around our running backs and our offensive line to suit our players and to play winning football and score points," Harbaugh said. "I think we were the seventh or eighth highest-scoring offense in the league last year, so we can talk about the other 24 or 23 of those teams and talk about what they’re not doing to fit somebody’s eye. 

"The reason I’m strong on this is because it goes back to the same criticisms that we’ve heard for the last three years about not being the type of an offense, or the type of a quarterback, that some people want to see. They’re just going to have to live with it because Lamar Jackson has won a lot of football games here. 

In the big picture, the Ravens have won the AFC North twice in the past three years and made the playoffs for a third consecutive year. The team has a young roster and Harbaugh is confident they can reload for a deep postseason run next season. 

"Our offense has won us a lot of football games here, and we’re not apologizing for that for one second," Harbaugh said. "We are going to improve it, no question about it. We’re going to go to work to be more precise, more efficient [and] better at what we do. That’s what we have to do – be better at it. We’ll leave the criticism to the critics, and when they’re ready to coordinate their offense and put their product on the field, I’ll be looking forward to competing against it.”

Ravens 2020 Offensive Statistics

Total Offense — No. 19 (363.1 yards per game)

Rush Offense — No. 1 (191.9)

Rush Attempts — No. 1 (555)

Pass Offense — No 32 (171.2)

Pass attempts — No. 32 (406)

Points Per Game — No. 7 (29.3)