BALTIMORE - The no-huddle offense was a no-show. The Baltimore Ravens reverted to a more conventional offense on Sunday night, and it ended up working in the end.
Joe Flacco had a horrid first quarter, completed three passes for just 10 yards. Ray Rice had just 11 yards.
Fortunately for the Ravens, Flacco and the offense became much more cohesive and effective as the game went on.
Did the no-huddle which befuddled Cincinnati two weeks ago disappear because it would give Tom Brady and the New England Patriots additional opportunities for easy scores?
The Patriots scored, if not quite at will, but handily in the first three quarters.
Baltimore's more diversified offense showed up in the final three quarters.
As the Ravens drove impressively early in the fourth quarter, a neat 24-yard catch by Anquan Boldin moved helped move the team closer.
Rice was a bigger part of the offense, running for 94 yards in the first 49 minutes of the game.
Then, on a fourth-and-one at the New England 33, came a curious call, a handoff to Rice's understudy, Bernard Pierce instead of to the superstar running back.
Pierce was pushed back for yard loss, and it appeared the Ravens' best hope was stymied.
After Flacco's poor first quarter, the offense accumulated some decent stats.
Torrey Smith, playing hours after he learned of the death of his 19-year-old brother in a motorcycle accident, had a terrific night. After catching four passes for 108 yards in the first two weeks, Smith had six passes for 127 yards.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Ravens got the ball on their own nine-yard line, trailing by nine points.
After a Marshal Yanda holding penalty, his second of the game, set the offense back to the 10. After a short run by Rice, a holding penalty on New England, Flacco found Smith and Dennis Pitta and the Ravens were down to the 37.
Rice caught a short pass to move 27 yards to the New England 10.
After a sack and a New England penalty for holding, Flacco's five-yard pass to Smith broke the Ravens within two.
Flacco was six-for-seven for 76 yards on the drive, but it set up the dramatic game-winning drive.
Ravens fans hoping for a duel didn't quite get that. It wasn't that every time Brady needed a key reception, he got one, but it was close.
Brady and the Ravens don't have a lengthy history, just one that's been extremely painful for the Ravens.
It was only the fifth regular season meeting between Brady's New England Patriots and the Ravens, and just the second in Baltimore.
Both have been in prime time. The first was in Dec. 2007 when the undefeated Patriots were frightened to death by the underachieving Ravens, but finally lost.
This time, it was Justin Tucker's field goal that rescued the offense
Flacco ended with 382 yards, not far from his career-high 389 yards in last season's third week against St. Louis.
Late in the game, NBC flashed a graphic showed that the Patriots were
110-5 in the regular season under coach Bill Belichick when leading by nine or more points in the fourth quarter.
Make that 110-6
Again, the replacement officials played a huge role with both Baltimore coach John Harbaugh and Belichick livid at calls.
Baltimore was penalized when Harbaugh argued vehemently with officials just before the two-minute warning. Belichick, the NFL's most successful coach of this generation, was rebuffed when he sought to talk with the officials after the controversial game ended.
The Ravens' offense was just fine after a slow start. It might have been painful to watch, but the victory was sweet for Ravens' fans in the end.