Ravens offense clicking on all cylinders

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, left, talks with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak during the game against the New Orleans Saints last month.

Nearly a month ago, the Ravens held a series of meetings to simplify and re-direct their offense.

Those must have been some great meetings.


In the last three games, the Ravens have averaged 174 rushing, 242.6 passing yards and nearly 32 points a game. After the Ravens beat Miami Sunday, 28-13, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin praised the Ravens and he meant every word of it.

"They kept us off-balance, they were managing down and distance and we had a hard job getting them third and long," Philbin said. "I thought Baltimore deserved to win the game. I thought they coached better."


Now into the stretch run of the regular season, the offense is the key if the Ravens get into the playoffs. If an opposing team can protect the quarterback and throw deep with some accuracy, the Ravens' secondary will struggle and probably give up a lot of points.

So possibly having to face quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, it's safe to assume the Ravens will have to score at least 28 points.

What has been the key in simplifying the offense?

"I think the biggest thing that he was saying was those guys [coaches] get a good look to see what we do well, what we don't do well and why we're doing certain things well," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "I think that's the biggest thing with all offenses is that you want to do things that your players do well.

"You want to run the routes that your receivers run well. You want to block the run game the way your offensive line does well. You want to let me drop back and do the best things that I do. You just look at what the statistics are over the first handful of games and see what we can do better to improve."

Some things are clearly noticeable. Earlier in the season, opposing teams were successful in press coverage and not allowing the Ravens to get off the line of scrimmage.

In that last two weeks, the Ravens have run more bunch sets where three receivers are close together. It makes it hard for defensive backs to jam them on the snap of the ball.

The Ravens appear to be using receiver Steve Smith more in motion, which helps him get off the line of scrimmage and forces a delay as far as double teams.


Smith is the receiver who now runs the comeback routes, which offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak used to do a lot with Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson in Houston. Ravens second-year receivers Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown don't run those routes well, and neither does veteran Torrey Smith.

But Torrey Smith, a speedster, does run routes well where he can catch the ball in stride like slants and skinny posts.

Brown and Aiken run a lot of clearing routes underneath coverages or coming off picks and rubs, which the Ravens used successfully downfield against Miami.

And then there is Flacco. Before the bye week on Nov. 16, Flacco had struggled in the previous three games with four interceptions.

In the last three games, he has one. The Ravens appear to have cut down on his options under duress because Flacco is getting rid of the ball quickly. Against Miami, he finally started scrambling for yards instead of drifting, and not making a decision.

Two other things for Flacco: He now gets yardage on quarterback sneaks, and he worked the clock to perfection Sunday with a substantial lead against the Dolphins.


They shouldn't be a big deal for a quarterback in his seventh year, but Flacco didn't do them before. He does now.

"I think we've known our identity," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We're trying to get good at knowing our identity and we've found some things that we're doing really well. These guys are great coaches. It's an excellent system, it fits our personality as a football team. And they just keep coaching every single day."

It's a balanced system, not geared toward one or two superstars. The Ravens' No. 1 priority is to run the football, and the running game is built around smart linemen who need to be engaged at certain times and at certain points.

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The Ravens don't have a lot of maulers, but it helps to have two dominating guards like Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda.

The Ravens don't have a great running back, but one good one in Justin Justin Forsett and two other solid ones in Lorenzo Taliaferro and Bernard Pierce. Flacco isn't elite, but he's at least in the top 10.

It's Kubiak's system, one that worked for him in Denver and later Houston. Now, it's working here in Baltimore.


It just took about a month or two to work out some bugs. Now, the Ravens are in a groove.

And getting better.