A staple of the Ravens' struggles on the road last season was slow starts by the offense. But the Ravens have managed to flip the script this year, possibly because of changes they've made in how they practice.
Coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday that the Ravens have put an emphasis on "situational football" in practice; one of those situations is the start of games.
"That has been something we've done through training camp, and we do it usually about once a week," Harbaugh said. "We have a first drive of the game. It's nothing elaborate. It's just a drill."
The Ravens have scored touchdowns on their first drive in back-to-back weeks, totaling 35 first-quarter points against the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This season, they are outscoring their opponents 45-16 in the first quarter and 99-38 in the first half.
Last year, the Ravens were outscored 63-59 in the first quarter and scored just 138 total first-half points. Only two other teams had fewer.
"One of the first things we do once we get done [with warmups] is we’ll do some kind of situation that’s usually the first drive of a game against our defense — competitive,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, who has six first-quarter touchdown passes, after throwing four all last season. “And we always do red zone competitively with those guys on Wednesday’s practice. I don’t know if that’s what’s helped us, but it’s something that we try to focus on. It’s good to see that it’s kind of carried over a little bit.”
The Ravens' slowest start came in Week 1, against the Bengals, whom they trailed 15-0 at halftime.
Flacco said offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak scripts the first 15 plays the team will run before the game, and the offense has mostly stuck to the plan on first and second downs.
"I think it's worked well for us, and guys are ready to go, and it helps everybody play with confidence," Flacco said.