If Ravens Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis had a day and a parade in Baltimore on Saturday, then Sunday was Marty Mornhinweg Day.
Every offensive coordinator with the exception of Gary Kubiak has taken abuse in this town, and Mornhinweg has received his share since he started calling plays in 2016.
But in a 27-14 win against the Denver Broncos on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, Mornhinweg might have called one of his best games with the Ravens. In the words of Mornhinweg, “man alive,” he was good. To borrow another Martyism, “holy geez,” he was in a zone.
What is it like when Mornhinweg is feeling it?
“His personality doesn’t change. He might get a couple of inches taller,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Mornhinweg. “But he’s enthusiastic, positive — an upbeat guy. What you see is what you get with Marty. That personality is pretty much the way he always is. He likes to win. He likes to score points. He likes to be aggressive. You just have to keep going for it. Just let Marty be Marty. Let it rip.”
But that’s the point. Mornhinweg didn’t let it rip Sunday. The previous week he did as quarterback Joe Flacco threw 55 times in a 34-23 Thursday night loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Apparently, Mornhinweg calmed down and came to his senses. The Ravens were more balanced against Denver.
They threw 40 passes and ran 28 times. When a team has those types of numbers, it usually wins because it is unpredictable and difficult to stop.
“It always feels good when you are an offensive lineman to get some runs in,” Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley said. “It helps with the play-action and all the other things you like to do. You can make all your calls at any time.”
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco completed 25 of 40 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown. He might have had one, maybe two, bad attempts all game. Running back Alex Collins rushed 18 times for 68 yards, far from overwhelming, but complementary, especially considering that he averaged only eight carries in the first two games. Collins set the tone with seven carries in the first quarter.
He got Denver’s attention and the Broncos’ respect.
“You can see what it can do,” said Buck Allen, the Ravens’ third-down running back. “You never know who’s getting the ball, where it’s going — run, pass — we do it all.”
The Ravens did almost everything they wanted to against Denver. Unlike the previous game, in which the Bengals harassed Flacco constantly in the pocket, the Ravens rolled him out several times against the Broncos. If Denver was thinking about bringing a lot of pressure, it had to hesitate because not only did the Broncos have to respect the run, but the Ravens also ran a draw.
They even ran a screen. A screen? That play hasn’t been called since last season. And better yet, it was an inside screen, not outside with a tight end.
And it gets better.
The Ravens worked the game plan to perfection. Denver has one of the better pass-rushing units in the NFL. To compensate, Mornhinweg had Flacco throwing slant-ins to wide receiver Michael Crabtree and short passes over the middle to Willie Snead IV in the slot position. When Denver crowded the line of scrimmage and dropped into those short passing lanes, Flacco went to his outside receivers, who were matched up one-on-one.
Denver didn’t have much of a clue. When the Broncos did, the Ravens won a lot of one-on-one matchups. Crabtree had seven catches for 61 yards, and fellow wide receiver John Brown had five for 86. Rookie tight end Mark Andrews had two receptions for 59 yards, including one of 30 yards down the middle on which Flacco threw a perfect pass over two Broncos.
The Ravens have scored 12 touchdowns on 12 trips inside the red zone.
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“We’ve run the ball down there very well. It doesn’t always show up on the stats, but you have to be able to run the ball in the red zone. I think guys have made catches,” Harbaugh said. “Guys have made some really great catches. Without short-changing the players in any way, I thought some of the plays have been really brilliant. We’ve had some play-action plays where some guys have been wide open, some easy throws, stuff like that.”
The Ravens also did a nice job of slowing Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, perhaps the best defensive player in the NFL. Any game plan starts and stops with Miller, but he had only two tackles Sunday. He didn’t have a sack. He didn’t have one hit on the quarterback.
“We knew he was an elite pass rusher, one of the best in the league,” Stanley said. “A lot of it was from our tackles working hard on technique, using good pass sets and we did scheme some things up for him.”
Said Flacco: “That was the biggest thing, just not letting him be a factor. We had a plan for that obviously, but at the end of the day, it’s really just up to those guys up front.”
In the second half the Ravens stayed with the run and that’s the sign of a team knowing how to finish an opponent, especially with a comfortable lead. The Ravens still need to improve in the running game, but at least they made a significant step in that direction Sunday.
But for the first time this season they played a complete game on offense. Not only was there a good mixture of run and pass, but also an assortment of passing plays from crossing routes to rubs to back-shoulder fades down the sideline. When it was over, a lot of credit was given out but the man who deserved the most was Mornhinweg.
Man alive, he was good.