Ravens head coach John Harbaugh came to the defense of quarterback Joe Flacco at his news conference Nov. 29, calling Flacco the team's "best offensive player," and brushed aside criticism of Flacco aired nationally by ESPN's Sean McDonough during the telecast of the Ravens' 23-16 win against the Houston Texans.
Through 11 games, the Ravens' offense is on pace for one its worst seasons ever statistically. The Ravens (6-5) rank 31st in total offense, averaging 281.1 yards a game, and rank last in the league in both passing offense (164.3 yards per game) and passing yards per play (4.61). Flacco's 74.2 passer rating ranks 30th.
The Ravens also rank last in the league in pass plays of 20 yards or more with 15. After a 3-yard throw on third-and-13 on Monday night, McDonough, a close friend of Harbaugh's, said on the ESPN telecast, "When you talk to the coaches, they think that Joe has had opportunities this year to throw it down the field and just hasn't spent enough time and energy trying to throw it down there."
When asked about McDonough's comments, Harbaugh said, "I didn't hear that quote," and had no further comment on it.
Harbaugh, though, did come to the defense of Flacco, who has faced scrutiny for the Ravens' dismal offensive production all season, dating to when he missed training camp with a back injury. Flacco is on pace for the fewest yards of his career -- even less than in 2015, when he missed the final six games with a knee injury.
"I believe in Joe," Harbaugh said. "I think he's our best offensive player. He's the guy that puts it all together for us. We have to build around him, for sure, and that's what we try to do."
After the win against the Texans, Flacco implied that the Ravens' offense was not playing at a level capable of a deep playoff run, and he said the Ravens would need to "let it loose" at some point. He modified that stance Nov. 29 at his weekly news conference, saying the Ravens' offense "may not always look pretty moving forward, but we're going to do what we have to do to win football games."
Harbaugh said the Ravens' offense is trying to be "as good as we can be … to play the winningest football that we can play, with our offense, defense and special teams. We want to produce in all three phases. We want to get more out of our offense and that's an ongoing process."
KOCH IS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Punter Sam Koch has been named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time in his career and the first time since 2008. Koch averaged 51.3 yards on six punts, with five of them going inside the 20-yard line, and he also threw a 22-yard pass on a fake punt that set up the Ravens' first touchdown during their win against the Texans. This year Koch is averaging 46.1 yards on 61 punts and leads the league with 29 punts inside the 20-yard line. He is also the holder on kicks and is 2-for-2 as a passer; in addition to the Texans game, Koch completed a pass on a fake punt against the Tennessee Titans.
COLLINS MISSES PRACTICE: Running back Alex Collins missed the team's Nov. 29 workout with a calf injury. He and offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor (shoulder) were the only absences in a light workout two days after the team played on "Monday Night Football." Cornerback Marlon Humphrey (thigh), linebacker C.J. Mosley (ankle), cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles) and tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) were limited in practice.