The Ravens kept one of the NFL's top-ranked defenses on its heels last week in their 30-7 win over the Denver Broncos.
Baltimore can offer a big thanks to its no-huddle offense.
The fact that the Ravens ran 31 plays without a huddle demonstrates how far Joe Flacco has come with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's system. The no-huddle calls for the quarterback to call the play or make an audible, get everyone in the right position, and then receive the snap before the play clock runs out.
By not huddling, the defense – in this case a Broncos' unit that was ranked second in the league – is forced to keep the same personnel on the field.
Defensive fatigue, coupled with offensive yardage, ensued.
"You just try to keep a team off-balance," wideout Derrick Mason said on Monday. "They are a very athletic, very fast-flowing team, and you want to keep a team like that off-balance as much as possible. So whether it's no-huddle, sugar-huddle or whatnot, we want to put the pressure on the opposing team's defense. And we wanted to wear them down.
"We felt that if we stayed in our no-huddle package for a little while, kind of mixed it up a little bit, that would pose some difficulties for them."
The Ravens remained very balanced.
Flacco passed 25 times, while the Ravens had 35 rushes (29 if Flacco's five scrambles are removed). IT marked the first time the Ravens ran more than they aired it out since a Week 2 victory in San Diego.
Mason believes the run/pass ratio – at least in Baltimore – is dictated by the course of play.
"I don't think the coaches scripted it that way," said Mason. "It's how the game is flowing. Whether they're putting eight or nine men in the box, and then you have to throw the ball on them, or whether they're playing zone and sitting back, and we're able to run the ball.
"It's good to be balanced, but then again, some games you might have to throw it 40 times, as we've done in previous games. And then in some games, you might have to run it 30 or 40 times. Sometimes we dictate to the defense what we're going to do."
Flacco's performance against the Broncos showed that he doesn't have to hurl the ball all over the field to be effective.
The second-year signal-caller completed 20 of those 25 attempts for an 80.0-percent success rate, tying Elvis Grbac for the highest single-game percentage in franchise history.
He started out 6-of-11 for 19 yards, but once he got into a rhythm, Flacco hit on his next 14 throws, even finding Mason for a 20-yard touchdown strike.
Perhaps some of that rhythm can be attributed to the no-huddle, but the Ravens' ability to convert on third down allowed the team to really keep moving.
In 35 second-half tries on third down, Denver's opponents have only reached a first down twice. The Ravens got to the marker on six of their eight third downs (75 percent).
"If you can convert on third down and keep a defense on the field, you're going to have a pretty good chance to be successful," noted head coach John Harbaugh. "It plays into points, it plays into time of possession – everything. And defensively, you've got to get off the field. So probably the biggest thing that played into that from our perspective was we were able to stay on schedule on offense. We got a lot of third-and-reasonables."
In fact, that is a trend that the Ravens have followed all season. Baltimore is currently third in the league with a 48.4 third-down completion rate (46-of-95).
With a stingy Cincinnati Bengals defense coming up on the schedule, the Ravens would do well to continue that.
"I've been saying, we've been good all year," Flacco said. "There's times where we've been a little inconsistent, we've had games where we've been really good, and we've had games where we've been average and it was good to see that we came out and played really well on third down and kept those drives going. It makes a big difference when you can keep a defense on the field for a long time rather than three, four, five plays a series and let them have all the energy in the world."