Commentary

Ravens going back to basics

Originally Published: December 4, 2009
By Ron Jaworski | ESPN.com

"Monday Night Football" analyst Ron Jaworski breaks down the matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers:

At this point in the season, coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens have gone back to what worked for them last season -- the power run game. It will be what takes them as far as they go this season.

Last season, the Ravens' offense was a steady balance of run and pass. They asked their rookie quarterback, Joe Flacco, to manage the game and make a few throws under good passing conditions, and that got the Ravens to the AFC title game. At the start of this season, though, the Ravens were more aggressive in the passing game, and the results were mixed. Flacco is a good young quarterback, but he is not quite ready to lead a heavy passing attack. He's not able to decipher all the various schemes and coverages he is seeing, so limiting his throws right now is a good decision.

The Ravens' move to focusing on a downhill running attack is evident by their consistent use of a heavy, unbalanced offensive-line set. They can pass out of this formation, but it is primarily for the run. Last week against the Steelers, they ran out of it 15 times. Their backs are also part of why this move makes sense. Ray Rice is having a great season running and catching the ball. And when Rice takes a breather, the Ravens continue to pound you with Le'Ron McClain.

This move to more running also happens to match up well with the Ravens' opponent Monday night. The Packers favor a 2-4-5 formation, and Baltimore can exploit physical mismatches there. It's a good defense to run on.

At this time of the season, there are a lot of must-wins for teams trying to make the playoffs. The Packers and Ravens both need this game, so I expect a gritty, hard-fought contest.

Ron Jaworski

NFL analyst / writer
Ron Jaworski is one of the most popular and knowledgeable analysts covering the NFL today. Since joining ESPN in 1990, the former standout NFL quarterback has covered the league from virtually every angle -- sideline reporter, game-site reporter, host and both studio and game analyst. From 2007-11, Jaworski occupied one of the most coveted positions in sports as a Monday Night Football analyst.