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Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco – not usually known to his express his emotions – couldn't stop saying how much fun he had Saturday night.
After scuffling last week against the Redskins, Baltimore's passing game not only found its stride but broke into a full sprint Saturday night versus the visiting New York Giants, leading the Ravens to a 24-10 win in their final dress rehearsal for the regular season.
"I think the plan coming out was to throw the ball, throw the ball and throw the ball some more," Flacco said. "So it was fun, man. I had a great time and I think everyone out on the field did."
Flacco completed 21-of-34 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns with his only blemish coming on a lone late interception – good for an 89.0 quarterback rating.
He hit a mixture of old and new targets as tight end Todd Heap caught six passes for 69 yards (a personal preseason record) and free agent addition Anquan Boldin snagged four passes for 52 yards and a touchdown.
Although Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron said earlier this week that he was primarily focused on not fumbling the ball (there was one), the first-team offense's success was a preview of this it's potential heading into the Sept. 13 opener versus the New York Jets.
"We're definitely confident about how we're entering the season. We feel good about ourselves," Flacco said.
"It's definitely a huge benefit that we did play well and just proved to ourselves and proved to everybody that we could do it. But like I said, it's still about going out there and doing it in the regular season and we'll see how much of a correlation there is."
Baltimore inflicted the bulk of the damage through the air as Cameron stuck to his plan of challenging his passing unit while mostly resting the running backs.
The Ravens had 14 straight passing plays to start the game and threw the ball nearly two-thirds of the time in the first half – often in three-wide formations and while using the no-huddle formation frequently.
"The no-huddle is a big part of what we are and what we do," Cameron said. "We'll continue with it throughout the season."
Flacco spread the ball to five different receivers in the first half alone, finding Heap six times, Derrick Mason five times and Boldin and Ray Rice each four times. He also hit Mark Clayton for a 20-yard gain.
Asked whether Heap and Mason were still the keys to this offense, Head Coach John Harbaugh said, "It's nice to have a lot of keys."
Baltimore was coming off a game against the Redskins in which its starters did not score a touchdown and Flacco went 9-of-16 for 72 yards and a 67.7 quarterback rating. The Ravens' first drive Saturday night looked to forecast more of the same.
The Ravens started with a three-and-out in which Flacco was sacked on the second play of the game when Justin Tuck came untouched up the middle. Flacco was then sacked on the first play of the Ravens' second drive and a false start by Marshal Yanda made it 2nd-and-17.
But thanks to a 22-yard pass to Boldin and a couple of runs by Flacco, Baltimore started to build momentum and capped the drive with a 25-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff.
That served as the warm-up.
The Ravens swept down the field on their next drive as Flacco dissected the Giants' secondary. He started with a 12-yard pass to Boldin, then hit Clayton for 20 yards. Flacco found Ray Rice for 12-yards, then Rice ran twice to make it fourth-and-3.
Cameron pulled the trigger and Flacco made the bold call pay off, hitting Boldin for a 9-yard touchdown on fourth down. The throw was a tad behind Boldin, but he spun to notch the first touchdown connection between the Ravens' starting quarterback and top receiver.
"I ran a nine-route and the guy was pressing," Boldin said. "Joe and I looked at one another, and we both felt that if I could beat him right away, Joe would be able to get the ball to me. The safety went the other way, we had the press coverage and Joe hit me perfectly."
"We have confidence with this group on fourth-and-short, and we'll continue to be aggressive with those," Cameron added.
Flacco went 6-for-7 once again on the Ravens' next drive, this time capping it off with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Heap, who went high to make the grab despite illegal contact on safety Antrel Rolle, who earlier extended the Ravens' drive with a personal foul hit on Clayton.
The Ravens' defense shouldn't be overlooked either. The unit, which hadn't allowed an offensive touchdown all preseason, surrendered its first with only one minute, 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter. It held Giants starter Eli Manning to 63 yards passing while notching an interception.
The Giants' running duo of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 63 yards combined, but the Ravens came up with a fourth-and-inches stop when Ray Lewis stuffed the lone gap.
Baltimore (3-0) will likely rest Flacco and most of its starters in the Ravens' final preseason game Thursday in St. Louis.
Thus, the Ravens offense will head up to New Meadowlands Stadium to face the New York Jets with a sweet taste in its mouth.
"You could tell everyone was having fun; you could just look in their eyes," Flacco said. "We were having a good time out there today."