NFL Nation: Matt Williamsons
January, 6, 2011
By James Walker | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Nick WassRavens quarterback Joe Flacco has never thrown for more than 189 yards in five playoff games.Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron didn't have to look too far back for playoff inspiration.
Cameron, despite an inconsistent offense, believes Baltimore is capable of putting together a playoff run comparable to the one put together by the 2007 New York Giants, who were the last wild-card team to win a Super Bowl.
"I went back and looked at the Giants' offensive stats when they won on the road, went all the way and won the thing," Cameron told the AFC North blog. "They were really struggling on offense." New York finished 16th overall in offense that season, and its passing game ranked 21st.
The Ravens -- and Cameron in particular -- have little interest in reflecting on the regular season. Baltimore was just one of four teams to win 12 games, but it wasn't always pretty. On Sunday, the Ravens will take a four-game winning streak into Arrowhead Stadium to face the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) in the wild-card round.
Baltimore's offense has been quite an experiment. With so many new additions, Cameron experienced plenty of trial and error. Sometimes there were successes, and sometimes things blew up in Cameron's face.
With new receivers Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte' Stallworth, Baltimore entered the season with perhaps the highest expectations offensively in franchise history. Yet the Ravens finished ranked 22nd in total offense. Things sometimes became heated on the sideline when players were unhappy with the offense.
But all of that can be erased if Baltimore's offense proves to be playoff-ready. The defense, as usual, has held up its end. But great play on both sides of the ball is the Ravens' best chance of making a Super Bowl run.
"We have to find more ways to score points," Cameron said. "We may have 17 points here and 13 points there, and we win those games. But you make it a little more difficult. With our defense, if we can get 24 points plus on the board, we're going to be tough to beat."
The success of Baltimore's offense will largely hinge on quarterback Joe Flacco, who set career marks for passing yards (3,622), touchdowns (25) and fewest interceptions (10) this season. Flacco has a solid 3-2 playoff record but has never thrown for more than 189 yards in five games. He has 660 yards passing, one touchdown and six interceptions in the postseason.
In my conversation with Cameron, I asked if the playoff criticism of Flacco is fair.
"Well, it depends on how you measure things," Cameron said. "If you measure winning and losing, it's pretty good. ... So it's always easy to pick at a guy. But the bottom line is he's a winner."
Kansas City seems to be a good matchup for Baltimore's offense. The Chiefs are average defensively and not particularly special at anything. Kansas City is ranked No. 17 against the pass and No. 14 against the run. The Chiefs' high-powered rushing attack has helped keep their defense off the field.
Baltimore must decide how it wants to attack Kansas City, whether it's on the ground or through the air. Despite solid personnel, that's been a question for the Ravens all season.
"I don't think they have a persona or a true identity," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said of Baltimore's offense. "Do they run first or do they throw first? I think they're at their best when [tailback] Ray Rice is the focal point of the offense, and they tend to get away from it. But Kansas City's run defense is starting to wear down and they're questionable up front."
The Ravens knew entering the season that it would be a challenge keeping everyone happy. Former Pro Bowl players such as Derrick Mason, Boldin and Houshmandzadeh have sacrificed personal statistics in favor of more victories and a chance to win the Super Bowl.
There have been times when Baltimore's best players have disappeared in the offense. But Cameron doesn't expect that to happen in the postseason.
"This time of year, you can't afford to come out of a playoff game without your top five or six players touching the ball -- period," Cameron said. "It just can't happen. So we're going to do everything we can to make sure our playmakers touch the ball going into the playoffs."
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