Ravens sloppy passing attack suffering from Tim Tebow-like regression

The Ravens are passing for a staggering 96.6 fewer yards per game than they did last season. Rob Carr/Getty Images

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The regression in the Baltimore Ravens' passing game from last season to this year hasn't yet reached a historic level.

The decline in production with Joe Flacco and his receivers has been Tim Tebow-like, a label that's equally unflattering.

Baltimore has gone from averaging 256.3 yards passing per game in 2016 to 159.7 yards passing through six games this season -- a staggering decrease of 96.6 yards per game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the last time a team had that big of a negative difference from one year to another came six years ago, when the Indianapolis Colts were without injured Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos were in the midst of "Tebow-mania," relying on a telegenic passer who struggled with accuracy and reading defenses.

The Ravens' problems -- which has caused the passing game to go from No. 12 in the NFL last season to No. 31 right now -- has spanned from Flacco's poor decisions, dropped passes by the receivers, shoddy protection at times from a makeshift offensive line and an overall lack of cohesion.

"When you put those things together, and they are clicking and the quarterback is playing, the passing game can look great," coach John Harbaugh said. "When one or two things are off and you don't have separation like you said or you don't quite get protection, that is when things don't look good at all. When you have those things happening sporadically over the course of the whole game -- different things and different plays -- then it can look bad."

It's difficult for any passing attack to get going when it can't perform the simplest of tasks. Baltimore struggles to complete screen passes because the timing is off. Flacco has trouble connecting on back-shoulder throws because the chemistry isn't there. And last Sunday, the receivers repeatedly failed to get open in the red zone, which caused Flacco to scramble and then inexplicably throw the ball after being 2 yards past the line of scrimmage.

This is how disjointed the Ravens have become in the passing game, and it's reflected in the numbers. Flacco's passer rating of 66.1 is only better than Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who was benched for last Sunday's game. His eight interceptions are tied for the second-most in the league. The Ravens' nine drops are tied for seventh in the NFL.

"We have good players, we have good coaches," Harbaugh said. "We are capable of putting together a good passing attack. We will go to work on doing it. It is a week-to-week game. We need to find a passing game for Minnesota."

Baltimore wasn't a prolific passing team last season. Flacco did do enough to produce the first 4,000-yard passing season by hitting tight end Dennis Pitta underneath, throwing to Steve Smith Sr. along the sideline and getting a big play from Mike Wallace.

This offseason, Smith retired and Pitta suffered a season-ending hip injury that presumably will end his career. Since the start of training camp, injuries have hit the offensive line so hard that left tackle Ronnie Stanley is the only returning starter. Flacco also missed the entire training camp and preseason because of a lower back injury.

How can the Ravens get this passing attack back on track?

"We just have to get the playmakers the ball and let them make plays," Wallace said. "We have to make those plays. For one reason or another, we're just not making enough plays. Big plays – we need those, just to give our defense some rest and get them hyped and the fans on their feet. We need to do that just to give ourselves a spark. For one reason or another, we are not doing that right now."

The inability to go over the top of the defense accounts for big chunk of yardage that's missing from Baltimore's offense. Flacco threw a 52-yard pass to Wallace on the first play from scrimmage in Oakland two games ago, but that's mostly been an aberration this year.

He's only completed 5 of 23 passes (21.7 percent) that went at least 15 yards in the air. There have been 34 quarterbacks who've connected on more of those deep throws than Flacco.

"It is one thing to take the punches; it is another thing to land the punches," Harbaugh said. "You have to land some punches, and we have to find a way to do that."