With 27 seconds remaining in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 22, the Baltimore Ravens were a finishing play in the end zone away from going to the Super Bowl in their beloved city of Indianapolis. Until then-Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans was stripped at the last minute by New England Patriots backup cornerback Sterling Moore.
The lack of concentration displayed by Evans haunted the Ravens during the offseason, and it haunted the fans, too. Although that was the past and the team has moved on from “The Drop,” the drops did not move on from the Ravens.
Baltimore’s first unit went three-and-out on its first three series in the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons on Aug. 9.
The Ravens (1-1) finally put together a solid drive on their first possession of the second quarter, as quarterback Joe Flacco connected with tight end Ed Dickson for a nine-yard touchdown pass, but by then they had played longer than they intended.
The Ravens offense was a little better in their preseason home opener against the Detroit Lions Friday, but they killed themselves on drops that should have been completions in critical situations.
Wide receiver Jacoby Jones dropped a catchable pass on 3rd-and-6 which would have given the Ravens a first down in Lions territory. What was tough to swallow were the three dropped passes by wide receiver LaQuan Williams, two inside the 10 and one in the end zone.
“I think he did a good job of getting open,” said Flacco. “I think, like I said, I think we can finish a couple things off there. Torrey [Smith] wasn’t able to play, and he stepped up and did a good job.”
Williams is a second-year man, but he and the other Raven pass-catchers must be ready at all times to make plays when balls hit their hands—and not their facemasks—in pressure and scoring situations, whether designed or not.
“No, that was just more of the progression that took him there,” said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh when asked if the would-be touchdown pass was designed for Williams. “We were in three- or four-wide receiver packages, and we are in one-back- and no-back-type things where we spread them out. The coverage pretty much dictates where you’re going.
“It seemed to me that Joe [Flacco] did a really good job of reading it out and taking it where the coverage told him to take it. He was quick with the ball, decisive, very accurate, and LaQuan [Williams] looked pretty good.”
Since the arrival of Flacco, the Ravens have not displayed major issues with moving the ball between the 20s.
In addition, Baltimore has not been automatic in the red zone, but has seen improvement. Flacco threw 22 touchdowns with no interceptions in the red zone last season. If the team’s pass-catchers carry on to the regular season dropping passes, Flacco will be enemy No. 1, which would be totally unjust.
Honestly, for the past two seasons, the receivers have done the Ravens in during critical situations in the playoffs when Flacco has delivered the ball on the money.
Clearly, it is early, and it is the preseason. No team is perfect.
However, habits are difficult to break.
In order for the Ravens to click early and often, their pass-catchers must catch catchable balls to finish plays in critical times.
If not, the Ravens will not have an opportunity to exercise the demons of The Drop in a title game, because they will not be there.