Fast Starts Have Ravens Offense Cooking


Remember when Baltimore's offense was stuck in the mud early in this season's first meeting with the Bengals?

The Ravens were shutout in the first half against Cincinnati, and heard the boo birds from the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium as they went to the locker room trailing 15-0.

That season opener seems like a distant memory now.

Baltimore's offense has been red-hot lately, especially early in games. The Ravens have scored on opening drives in back-to-back weeks, and they've put up 35 combined first-quarter points in those victories over Atlanta and Tampa Bay.

"We've been through a lot since [Week 1]," quarterback Joe Flacco said.  "I think that we've been able to play well, and through that, gain confidence. I think that's all going to help us this week."

A common issue for the Ravens offense last season was struggling early in games, as the unit ranked 30th in the NFL in first-half points (138). Now, it is seventh in total first-half points so far this year.

To help flip that trend, the Ravens have added some new wrinkles to the practice routine with Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak.

A specific change that Head Coach John Harbaugh pointed to is the Ravens spending a portion of practice specifically working on the beginning of games. The Ravens try to build game situations into practice, and they will have the first-team offense face off with the starting defense in a competitive series of drills simulating a game's opening series.

"That's been something that we've done through training camp, and we usually do it about once a week," Harbaugh said. "We have put a couple things in practice that we think put an emphasis on a lot of different situations. We're big on situations."

The practice tweaks seem to be paying dividends for the Ravens in the first half of the season, as the unit ranks third in the NFL in first-quarter points (45).

"I don't know if that's what's helped us, but it's something that we try to focus on, and it's good to see that it's carried over a little bit," Flacco said.

Like many teams, the Ravens script a series of opening plays going into a game. Kubiak scripts 15 plays to start the game, and he only deviates from that plan when game situations force his hand.

"We stick to it," Flacco said. "I think it's worked well for us. Guys are ready to go"

Continuing the recent trend of fast starts is important for Baltimore heading into this week's re-match with the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The Ravens want to start fast to take the crowd out of the game like they did in Tampa, and that will go a long way in putting them in a spot to add to their division lead.

"If we go out there and play the way we expect ourselves to play, we think it will be a good outcome," Flacco said.

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