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Commentary: Passing attack didn't let up

Tight End Dennis Pitta makes a touchdown reception in the third quarter of the Ravens' Monday night game home opener against the Cincinnati Bengals in Baltimore Sept. 10, 2012.
Tight End Dennis Pitta makes a touchdown reception in the third quarter of the Ravens' Monday night game home opener against the Cincinnati Bengals in Baltimore Sept. 10, 2012. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

By the time the Ravens took over for their first possession of the second half, they hadn't been on the field in nearly 12 minutes of game time, more like 45 minutes of real time. Their lead had been shaved from 14 points to 4. They got the ball at their own 11 and a false start immediately sent them back to their 6.

If there was ever a time to abandon the relentlessly attacking, no-huddle offense that the Ravens were breaking out in their 2012 opener, this was it.

But instead of a safe handoff, quarterback Joe Flacco dropped back, rolled out to the right in his own end zone, and threw over the top to tight end Dennis Pitta for 23 yards. The Ravens ran eight more plays on the drive, six of them passes, capped by Flacco's lob to Pitta for a 10-yard touchdown, with only 3:41 elapsed.

Momentum had shifted and 6 minutes later Baltimore had a four-touchdown lead.

"That completion to Dennis was big," Flacco said. "It got us going. It got us not really not thinking about anything anymore.

"We went down there, put points on the board ... from then on, it was our game."

The 44-13 win gave a national Monday night audience a good look at the revamped Ravens' offense under coordinator Cam Cameron and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell.

And at Flacco, who was on the money all night and stands to make a ton of money on his next contract, particularly given the type of statistics he should be able to put up with this system.

"Pay him whatever he asks. Pay the man," said a smiling coach John Harbaugh at a postgame news conference with Flacco nearby.

Moments later, Flacco was speaking. Just as he had been all night on the field, he was a picture of relaxed confidence.

"I think I play good every year, I think I play good every game," he said, noting that the contract "stuff" will take care of itself."

He may not know exactly when he'll get his big deal or for how much, but he has a good idea of what the Ravens are going to look like offensively all year. And he clearly loves it.

"Overall, going at that tempo really helped us out," he said. "It creates matchups for us that are really good."

Flacco spent the entire evening throwing accurate, sharp passes, looking comfortable as could be running the no-huddle offense.

He finished 21-for-29 for 299 yards and two touchdowns.

Eight different Ravens caught passes, spread out nicely with wide receivers getting 10 receptions, tight ends catching seven and running backs hauling in six.

Flacco has more weapons than ever and the green light to use them and to do a lot of his own play-calling.

This is more than just a new offensive philosophy, it's an entirely new mindset for a team that has been defined by its defense since Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was coordinating the Ravens' Super Bowl champion defense 12 years ago.

The change was apparent from the moment the Ravens won the coin flip and Ray Lewis yelled "We want the ball!" Traditionally, the Ravens have opted to put their defense on the field first to set the tone. But there's a new tone to be set now, illustrated by the first play call of the season, when Flacco hit Torrey Smith on a bomb for 52 yards.

This is exactly what is needed to win in the NFL in 2012. The league has been tailoring the rules to make passing more friendly for years and teams are taking advantage. A year after three different quarterbacks passed for more than 5,000 yards, a record five teams scored at least 40 points in their openers (going into the late-night Raiders-Chargers game on Monday).

The Ravens play Pro Bowl quarterback after Pro Bowl quarterback this season, going from Michael Vick next week to Tom Brady the following week with Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger (twice) and both Mannings down the line. It will take points to be where they want to be at season's end. Lots of points.

Cameron recognizes that. And Flacco, heroic in the team's AFC Championship loss at New England to end last season, seems capable.

This fast-paced, no-huddle attack is not without risk. It puts pressure on the defense, but it can also put pressure on your own defense when a three-and-out drive is done in less than a minute. And there's the danger of under-utilizing Ray Rice, one of the most dangerous playmakers in the game who had only 10 rushing attempts on Monday.

But one week into this new era, it was hard to find fault with anything about the offense, including the stewardship of Cameron, who has endured his share of criticism during his tenure in Baltimore.

"Cam will be the first one to take the blame and the last one to take credit," Harbaugh said."I thought he did a great job with the play-calling."

Especially on that first drive of the second half.

Reach staff writer Bob Blubaugh at 410-857-7895 or bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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