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Ravens can't win with Joe Flacco being the NFL's most inefficient quarterback

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco leads the NFL in pass attempts this season. He ranks 29th in yards per attempt.

That is a formula for futility and defeats. Baltimore is 1-5 when Flacco averages less than 6.5 yards per attempt in a game, including Monday night, when 85 percent of his throws were 5 yards or shorter.

"Yards per attempt is a big correlator into winning," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "It's just that simple. That's one of the first stats I look at when you're on the bus going to the airplane. That yards per attempt is important to us."

Flacco has thrown 549 passes -- eight more than anyone else in the league. He averages 6.53 yards per attempt. Only three QBs have worse marks: Carson Wentz, Blake Bortles and Brock Osweiler.

One of the reasons coach John Harbaugh fired Marc Trestman as offensive coordinator was the inefficiency in the passing game. That dink-and-dunk scheme didn't suit a strong-armed quarterback like Flacco.

But the passing attack hasn't changed much under a coordinator whose offenses used to be nicknamed "Air Marty." In Mornhinweg's game plans, Flacco has been relegated to checking down passes more than stretching the field.

Consider this: 83 percent of Flacco's passes have been 5 yards or shorter, and 6 percent have gone beyond 15 yards in the air. By comparison, 75 percent of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's passes have been 5 yards or shorter, and 12.5 percent have gone longer than 15 yards.

“It is definitely tough," Flacco said. "But at the same time, when you are completing passes and you are getting a couple yards at a time ... I think when we were getting yards on first down, no matter how it was, we were moving the chains. You go back to that [Patriots] game, and we moved the ball a good amount, but at times in the first half, after we moved the ball the initial times, we would get stalled out for whatever reason. But yes, you have to be efficient in every way. That is obviously how you win games.”

Flacco's checkdowns were magnified in a 30-23 loss to the New England Patriots on Monday, when 15 of his 37 completions went to running backs. Part of the problem was the Patriots rushing three and dropping eight into zone coverage, which allowed New England to cover the receivers downfield.

Not blitzing Flacco seems to be the best way to attack him. When teams rush five or more, Flacco averages 8.16 yards per attempt. When teams rush four or fewer, his yards per attempt drops to 6.01.

"Anytime a team drops eight guys into coverage, they’re covering you," Harbaugh said. "We had two chances to hit passes down the middle against that coverage, and we didn’t. We would have liked to hit those two opportunities. That’s what the coverage is built for. Give them credit; they had a good game plan, and they executed it very well.”

If the Ravens are ever going to get back to throwing the ball deep, it's going to have to start against the Eagles on Sunday. Philadelphia has allowed a league-worst 20 completions on passes that travel at least 15 yards past the sticks.

"When you do have the opportunities to, you have to make the plays," Flacco said. "You might have to make one-on-one plays here and there, and pick and choose your spots. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it does not. But yes, sometimes it is more about what they do and the opportunities they are giving you.”