Flacco: Of­fen­sive woes start with me

Har­baugh de­fends his QB; Hester says groin in­jury has slowed him

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS & NFL - By Jeff Zre­biec and Edward Lee jeff.zre­biec@balt­sun.com edward.lee@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/jef­fzre­biec­sun twit­ter.com/Ed­wardLeeSun

Just as he did af­ter the fir­ing of of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Marc Trest­man ear­lier this month, quar­ter­back Joe Flacco took ac­count­abil­ity for the strug­gles of the Ravens of­fense.

“I’m ob­vi­ously not play­ing good enough,” Flacco said Wed­nes­day. “We’re not a good of­fense and it starts with the quar­ter­back. I’ve got to be bet­ter. We’ve got to be more pre­cise, and that starts with me.”

Flacco spent about 15 min­utes af­ter prac­tice — the team’s fi­nal one be­fore get­ting four con­sec­u­tive days off dur­ing its bye week — work­ing on goal-line pass­ing drills.

He down­played the need to get away from foot­ball this week, even as crit­i­cism of his play has mounted in re­cent weeks while the of­fense has fallen into a deep slump. The Ravens are tied for 25th in the NFL in scor­ing, and their 10 of­fen­sive touch­downs through seven weeks are the sec­ond fewest in the NFL.

Flacco has just two touch­down passes and four in­ter­cep­tions over the past five games, and his 75.4 quar­ter­back rat­ing is the third worst among cur­rent NFL starters.

Ravens coach John Har­baugh de­fended his starter and said it’s up to the team to give him more help.

“We need to all do ev­ery­thing in our power that all the things are fall­ing in place for him,” Har­baugh said. “He can play. He can throw it. He can make de­ci­sions. He can score touch­downs for us. He can do all the things we need to do. We need to make sure that we give him a chance to do that.

“I’m not wor­ried about Joe tak­ing care of what he needs to do. Joe works on it harder than any­body. He cares about it more than any­body. We need to pro­tect him. We need to run routes. We need to cre­ate con­fi­dence in our Ravens quar­ter­back Joe Flacco is sacked by the Jets’ Leonard Wil­liams, top, and Shel­don Richard­son in the fourth quar­ter of Sun­day’s game. pass­ing game. We need to run the ball well. We need to do the things we need to do to make the of­fense work, and Joe will make the of­fense work.”

Flacco, who said he feels good phys­i­cally af­ter tear­ing the ACL and MCL in his left knee in Novem­ber, be­lieves the team is get­ting closer to hav­ing a good of­fense. He said the week­end off will al­low new of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Marty Morn­hin­weg and the rest of the of­fen­sive coaches to step back and in­te­grate a few more things into the game plan.

The quar­ter­back’s as­sess­ment is that a “bunch of lit­tle things” are hold­ing the Ravens back, and if they got a lit­tle bet­ter in ev­ery area, the of­fense “can be cleaned up pretty quickly.”

“Right now, we have one guy here and there do­ing some­thing that’s a lit­tle bit off, my­self [in­cluded], and it halts a whole drive and when that hap­pens through- out the course of a whole game and you have a good amount of those, it leads to what we’ve been deal­ing with, which is not putting up any points on the board and not giv­ing our­selves re­ally any op­por­tu­nity to put points on the board,” Flacco said. “I don’t think we had any red-zone op­por­tu­ni­ties this last week. You’re ob­vi­ously not go­ing to score any points when that hap­pens.” Hester is hurt­ing: In seven games thus far, Ravens re­turn spe­cial­ist Devin Hester Sr. has fum­bled four times and lost one. Hester said Wed­nes­day that a pulled groin mus­cle — not a thigh in­jury, as ini­tially listed by the team — is mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for him to get into po­si­tion to field punts and kicks.

“It’s just mov­ing lat­eral,” said Hester, 33, who did not par­tic­i­pate in two bye-week prac­tices this week. “I don’t know where the

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thigh came up in this sit­u­a­tion. It’s more my groin. So try­ing to move lat­eral and get in front of the ball has been a lit­tle trou­ble. But at the end of the day, I don’t blame the in­jury for the mis­takes that I’ve made. I’ve just got to get healthy.”

Hester, who ranks third in the NFL with a 28.8-yard kick-re­turn av­er­age, said he ini­tially felt an ir­ri­ta­tion with his left groin mus­cle dur­ing the team’s 25-20 vic­tory over the Cleve­land Browns on Sept. 18. Then he over­com­pen­sated and pulled his right mus­cle.

Hester fum­bled on two punt re­turns but did not lose the ball ei­ther time in Sun­day’s 24-16 loss to the New York Jets. Spe­cial teams co­or­di­na­tor Jerry Ros­burg ac­knowl­edged that Hester’s abil­ity to make a clean catch and main­tain ball se­cu­rity is a con­cern.

“I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to hav­ing a healthy Devin Hester up there,” Ros­burg said Tues­day. “It’s af­fect­ing him in two ways. One is just his abil­ity to move, and the other is his abil­ity to prac­tice. It’s a tough skill, and he needs to prac­tice. The prac­tice he’s been get­ting is in pregame warmup, and that’s not enough.” The run­ning back ro­ta­tion: With start­ing run­ning back Ter­rance West (Tow­son Univer­sity, North­west­ern High) miss­ing prac­tice this week be­cause of an an­kle in­jury, rookie fourth-round draft pick Ken­neth Dixon got more op­por­tu­ni­ties and Har­baugh liked what he saw.

“He looked a lit­tle more juiced up to­day,” Har­baugh said. “He’s start­ing to get health­ier and looked more 100 per­cent maybe than he has in the last cou­ple of weeks.”

Dixon missed the first four games with a strained MCL in his left knee. In three games since his re­turn, he has six car­ries for 10 yards and three re­cep­tions for 6 yards.

Har­baugh men­tioned ear­lier the week that he wants to get Dixon more in­volved.

“If he wants me to get a bet­ter work­load, I’m def­i­nitely pre­pared for it,” Dixon said. “The old say­ing is, ‘Stay ready so that you don’t have to get ready.’ That’s kind of what I’ve been do­ing, just stay­ing with my work­load and just keep grind­ing, and when the team calls on me, I’ll be ready to an­swer the bell.” End zone: The Ravens had 11 play­ers not prac­tic­ing Wed­nes­day: West (an­kle); wide re­ceivers Hester, Steve Smith Sr. (an­kle) and Mike Wal­lace; tight end Dennis Pitta; lineback­ers C.J. Mosley (ham­string), Elvis Dumervil (foot), Al­bert McClel­lan and Ka­malei Cor­rea; and de­fen­sive backs Lar­dar­ius Webb (ham­string) and Sha­reece Wright (ham­string). Har­baugh said he ex­pects the ma­jor­ity of his in­jured play­ers to be back in time for the Nov. 6 game against the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers. … Although the play­ers are now off un­til Mon­day, Har­baugh said the coach­ing staff will work the next two days on self­s­cout­ing and game plan­ning. … Har­baugh will spend the week­end watch­ing his daugh­ter, Alison, play lacrosse. “I’m look­ing for­ward to that,” he said. … Upon league re­view, the Jets were awarded an­other sack against the Ravens, which added 5 more rush­ing yards to the Ravens’ to­tal. The Ravens fin­ished with­11rushes for 11 yards, still a fran­chise low.

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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