The Ravens had one of the NFL’s fastest offenses last season when it came to rushing up to the line of scrimmage and running plays while the play clock was still in the double digits. Only the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, coincidentally two teams they beat in the playoffs, operated more quickly.
This season, the Ravens are moving milliseconds faster even though their ineffective running game and inability to sustain drives have probably limited their ability to go no-huddle as much as they would like.
A season ago, they averaged 27.54 seconds between offensive plays in neutral situations, which Football Outsiders computed by excluding drives that start in the fourth quarter or the final five minutes of the first half and only included drives that occurred when the score was within six points or less. They do this to eliminate two-minute situations and the times when teams hurry up while playing from behind to give a truer representation of which teams are trying to operate the quickest when all things are equal.
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So far this season, the Ravens are averaging 27.47 seconds between situation-neutral played and 24.61 seconds between plays overall, according to Football Outsiders.
Only five teams have had a quicker offensive pace in neutral situations. Those teams are the Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Patriots, Broncos and Green Bay Packers.
“I think it can be faster, but our pace has been good,” offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. “We’ve certainly been able to substitute along with getting plays off very quickly at the line of scrimmage and making the necessary adjustments we need to make, as well. Yeah, I think our pace has been good but our pace can get better.”
Caldwell said that starts with executing better. It’s a lot easier to get into rhythm in the no-huddle and keep opponents on their heels when they are generating solid gains on the ground and completing passes down the field. Three-and-outs will slow the offense down as the key to kick-starting any drive is getting that initial first down.
As Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning put it before the season opener, if you aren't executing the plays, it doesn't really matter how fast your offense is going.
“We have to be more effective in our running game, as everybody knows, and in our pass game, just being more consistent, as well,” Caldwell said.
Once the Ravens do that, they will be able to go even faster on offense. But as it stands right now, the Ravens are again one of the NFL’s fastest in terms of pre-snap pace.