Ravens need to reconnect deep downfield

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
11:00
AM ET
The biggest disappointment in Joe Flacco's game has been his lack of success throwing deep.

The Baltimore Ravens relied heavily on Flacco's big arm to win the Super Bowl. In four playoff games last season, he threw four touchdown passes on throws that traveled at least 21 yards in the air.

In seven regular-season games this year, Flacco has yet to throw a touchdown on a pass that has gone at least 21 yards in the air. Only two quarterbacks have thrown at least 15 such passes without a touchdown: Flacco and Tom Brady.

Even Flacco's accuracy hasn't been the same. In last season's postseason, he completed half of his 26 deep passes. This year, he is 9-of-33 on such throws (27.3 percent), a completion rate that ranks 23rd in the NFL.

Flacco's biggest miss came in his last game, when he underthrew a wide-open Jacoby Jones in Pittsburgh.

"Making plays down the field in the pass game is something that we did last year, especially when we got really rolling," coach John Harbaugh said. "It opens everything up for you. We've got speed to do it. We've got a quarterback who can throw it. It's something that we feel confident that we can do and we need to do."

Throwing deep should be a strength of the Ravens. Baltimore has the receivers -- Jones and Deonte Thompson -- who can get behind defenses. Injuries kept Jones and Thompson out for a large chunk of the season, but both are healthy now.

The other factor is the Ravens' problems in the run game. Defenses don't have to drop a safety in the box when the Ravens are only averaging 2.8 yards per carry. When teams can play both safeties deep, it's tougher for the Ravens to throw downfield.

Asked about the lack of production throwing deep, Flacco said, “I’m not really too frustrated. It’s just some little things that we have to clean up here and there. We’ll get everything going.”

The Ravens could find difficulty throwing deep Sunday at Cleveland. The Browns have given up 21 pass plays over 20 yards. Only five defenses have allowed fewer this year.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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