There wasn't too much frustration in the Ravens locker room Sunday as they celebrated a 19-14 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
But as quarterback Joe Flacco looked at the team's overall offensive performance, the veteran quarterback made it clear that the Ravens need more production out of the unit if they're going to make a playoff push in the final five games of the regular season.
"I'm confident in my ability to play games like this and win down the stretch and do the right thing with the football, but in order for us to take that next step and be the kind of team that we want to be and be a championship football team, we're not going to survive week-in and week-out doing things like this," Flacco said. "We've got to keep the foot on the gas and learn how to put teams away."
Baltimore's offense turned out another up-and-down performance Sunday.
The group started about as strong as it could have hoped, marching down the field on an 11-play touchdown drive on the game's opening series. The Ravens added three points on their next possession to take a quick 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
But then the unit went into a funk.
Flacco got picked off on the first pass of Baltimore's next series and the Ravens had to punt on two-straight possessions after that. Had it not been for kicker Justin Tucker drilling three first-half field goals longer than 50 yards, the Ravens would have found themselves in a much more precarious predicament.
"We lost our tempo a little bit," Flacco said. "It just felt like we got a little bit conservative. I mean, you can feel it."
Settling for four field goals kept the Bengals within reach even though the Ravens led almost the entire game. By the time the game got deep into the fourth quarter, Flacco found himself talking with tight end Dennis Pitta on the sidelines about the possibility of falling behind and having to orchestrate a game-winning drive in the final minutes.
"I definitely wasn't feeling great about what kind of position we put ourselves in," Flacco said. "I'd love to be able to finish them off, go put a touchdown or two or three on the board in the second half and just get this game over with for sure."
The Ravens opened the game with an up-tempo, no-huddle approach that has worked well in recent weeks. Flacco is a fan of the no-huddle offense, and the Ravens have used more of that since Marty Mornhinweg took over as the offensive coordinator last month.
A benefit of the no-huddle offense, in addition to limiting what the defense can do from a substitution standpoint, is that it simplifies the system for the offensive players.
"I think we've found a lot of success with playing some up-tempo football and letting our guys do simple things that they do really well and just take advantage of that," Flacco said. "I think that when we played well today, that's kind of what you saw."
The Ravens could certainly come away from Sunday's game feeling good about improvement in certain areas. Running backs Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon combined for 144 total yards, wide receiver Breshad Perriman made a tough touchdown grab and the offensive line held up well against a talented Bengals front.
"I thought they played winning football, but at the same time, I think the offensive guys would be the first to tell you that we want to get better," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We are improving. We are playing more solid. We cut down on some penalties. We ran the ball pretty darn well at times. I thought Joe was really good."
The improvement up front might be the most encouraging sign for the Ravens.
After dealing with injuries throughout the season, the line finally seems to have some stability. Marshal Yanda seems to have settled in at left guard after a shoulder injury forced him to make the move from the right side. The rest of the line also stayed healthy and played with the same lineup in consecutive games for the first time since Week 3.
"I felt like our line did a really good job today keeping them off me," Flacco said. "I was able to sit back there and feel pretty comfortable all day."
With the line improving, the running backs finding their stride and a quarterback now more than a year removed from last year's knee injury, the Ravens are hopeful for what the group can do down the stretch. The Ravens already have one of the league's best defenses and special teams units, and they're confident that the offense is headed in the right direction as well.
"I know that we are getting better on offense," Harbaugh said. "I think we're doing a good job, but we're striving for more than that. Our guys are going to tell you, we want to put a lot more points up than that. That's what we're working towards."