While everyone else is in a hurry, Ravens take it slow on offense
By By Aaron Wilson and
The Baltimore Sun|
Oct 02, 2014 | 7:47 PM
In a frenetic era of football where the hurry-up offense tends to be all the rage, the Ravens have adopted more of an old-school approach.
The Ravens haven't entirely scrapped the no-huddle offense under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, but it's definitely been reduced to something they do more out of necessity -- it's not a heavy chunk of their base offense.
That's in stark contrast to a year ago when former offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell devoted many of his game plans to the no-huddle in an effort to spark a stagnant offense that finished 29th in the NFL last season.
The Ravens' methodical approach is clicking heading into Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Ravens are ranked sixth in total offense, averaging 394.3 yards per game. And they're tied for seventh in scoring, averaging 25.8 points per game. Huddling up has become a part of the Ravens' offensive turnaround.
"It's the nature of the kind of games we've been in," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "That's the style of play we're going to be in the majority of the time. There will be times where we like to go no-huddle to put some pressure on teams, and there is going to be a time where we're going to have to go no-huddle again.
"But the goal is to be able to stay in our offense and choose when to go into that. That first game obviously, the decision was made for us, and we don't want that to happen again."
Since the Ravens' season-opening loss to the Cincinnati Bengals where they fell behind and used 15 no-huddle plays with all but two in the second half of a 23-16 defeat, the Ravens have run just four no-huddle plays during the past three games. During victories over the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens didn't run a single no-huddle play.
In a 38-10 rout of the Carolina Panthers last Sunday, the Ravens ran just four no-huddle plays. That included one that went for a 24-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to wide receiver Torrey Smith.
By huddling up, the Ravens are able to take more time between plays to gather their thoughts, rest up and execute their substitution patterns. They've also built an average time of possession advantage of 31:29 to opponents' 28:31, which has allowed the defense to get more time on the sideline.
"If you're holding on to the football and moving the ball, obviously, it keeps your defense off the field, so that's one thing," Kubiak said. "If you're pressing the issue on offense, time of possession may get skewed one way or another. But [no-huddle] is something we work on all the time. If we have to do it, we know we can go to it if we're sluggish for some reason, want to pick up the tempo of the game.
"So, I think we have the ability to do all those things, but would really like to help our defense and hold on to the football a little bit."
The Ravens have overhauled their offense since Kubiak arrived. The former Houston Texans head coach installed his version of the West Coast offense. It's been a fairly balanced scheme with 119 runs for 538 yards and four touchdowns with Flacco throwing 153 passes for 1,055 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
Last year, Flacco threw a franchise-record 22 interceptions while appearing to rush throws and stare down his primary receiver. Huddling up seems to have helped Flacco settle down this year as he's committing fewer miscues.
"Joe can do whatever; he can no-huddle or huddle up," Smith said. "If we need to change the tempo, we can. We can also sit there and huddle the whole game. We're versatile enough to do both."
Given the changes, including going with a three-headed backfield with Justin Forsett, Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro, huddling seems to be paying dividends.
"With a new scheme, there's more time to process the play and identify coverages with a slower pace," said Matt Bowen, a former NFL safety who covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. "There's no need to panic. Either be multiple on offense or use up-tempo. That's the key. The system works and they have the offensive line to run it."
By huddling up, the Ravens hope to minimize any confusion. They've committed just three turnovers this season. And the offensive line hasn't surrendered a sack in three consecutive games.
Huddling up might also suit the personalities of Flacco and Kubiak, the two key figures of the offense
"I think it's something that Joe and coach Kubiak like to do," said Forsett, who leads the Ravens with 255 rushing yards. "As far as communication, it brings everybody close together and Joe can make sure that everybody's on the same track. At the line of scrimmage, there's more of a chance for miscommunication."
When two-time Pro Bowl tight end Owen Daniels played for the Texans, he said Kubiak would occasionally use a quick huddle between plays. This season, the Ravens have primarily gone with a traditional huddle between offensive snaps.
"You get a little rest and really make sure you're on the same page and get your different personnel groups in and out," Daniels said. "We can make more adjustments when we get in the huddle, but that's football."
Flacco appears capable of running both styles of offense.
"I know that he likes doing [no-huddle], too," Kubiak said. "So, what we try to do is always have the capability. Whether you're not in a rhythm or something is going on, or you're trying to create speed or tempo or those type of things, you can do it that way. You can also do it with a lot of quick count and various things that we like to do offensively. But I think Joe has handled, pretty much, what we're doing pretty well, and we're growing as he grows, and he has done a heck of a job."
Flacco rebutted the notion that a slower style provides a clear-cut advantage for the Ravens. In his view, huddling is more of a function, not the key to how the Ravens run their offense.
"I don't really think about it that way," Flacco said. "It's just what we do, and how we operate things. I think we still operate at a pretty quick pace. At least that's our goal. It's just how we call the plays."