Notes: Foundation is Built

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Fans and pundits alike have been salivating over the Ravens' recent offensive wrinkles.

Mark Clayton threw a 32-yard touchdown to fellow receiver Derrick Mason

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just last Sunday. Quarterback Troy Smith has been a consistent threat in a Wildcat formation all season. And, starting quarterback Joe Flacco even hauled in a 43-yard bomb in Week 8.

But, consider such explosive and unexpected plays expensive accoutrements to a well-built house.

The Ravens and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron have earned the ability to execute the eccentric of late by developing a solid foundation.

"The real trick in the whole thing is to build a foundation first and then within that to be creative," said head coach John Harbaugh. "You talk about coach Cameron and what he's done with our offense - we're a fundamentally sound offense. We're built on a foundation that is fundamentally rock solid, and that's what we believe in. Within that, you build some creativity. Guys understand that's what your offense is about."

Sure, Baltimore did have its share of eye-opening plays earlier this year.

In the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, Clayton took a reverse 42 yards around the left side for a score. Flacco hit Mason with a 54-yarder in Week 6 at Indianapolis.

Still, the Ravens are now striking at a much higher rate.

Over the past seven contests, six of which have been wins, Baltimore has tallied 26 offensive plays of 20 or more yards, including a pair of longs in 70-yard touchdown passes to Demetrius Williams (Oct. 26 versus Oakland) and Clayton (Nov. 30 against the Bengals).

"It's collectively just growing," Clayton said. "Joe has been able to hit everybody across the board. As the season goes on, we just want to get better a little bit, each week. We've been able to do that."

According to Harbaugh, players are eager to provide input, often dipping back into their high school playbooks for suggestions to Cameron and the other offensive coaches.

As the Ravens prepare to face the Washington Redskins this weekend at M&T Bank Stadium, could there be more innovative twists to the NFL's 19th-ranked offense?

"There's always a creative mind, right?" Harbaugh noted. "There are always things you can go to."

Night-night for the Ravens

Historically, it has been a tough go for the Ravens when playing in prime-time games.

Their last wins in a night matchup came in back-to-back victories over the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings in 2005.

While that streak could end Sunday at 8:15 p.m. against the Redskins, the Ravens are not concerned with the NFL's decision to move the game into a later time slot as part of flex scheduling.

"We don't care about playing on prime time," Harbaugh said. "We don't care if the rest of the country knows about us or not. We're not interested in any of that. We're not trying to impress anybody.

"We're getting ready to play a football game on Sunday, and I think our guys understand how to win a tough football game when it counts."

The biggest change for players and coaches is adjusting the team's schedule after weeks of 1 p.m. kickoffs. Harbaugh said he will employ a similar routine to the one Baltimore followed in a Week 4 showcase against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football.

That evening, the Ravens played well in a 23-20 overtime loss.

"We've got a schedule," Harbaugh explained. "We did it against Pittsburgh. We get into our night game format. We did it throughout the preseason for four games, so our guys have been through the schedule and our routine with meetings and meals and the different things we do.

"What it is really is just waiting. If you play at 1 o'clock, you can get up, you get your breakfast and you go play the football game. Now we've got to work through some other games and not play the game before 8:15."

The Ravens are not dwelling on past misfortunes, a national stage, or television ratings.

To them, the prime-time feature is simply another game with a chance to remain in the AFC playoff race.

"The main thing is that we need to know what time the game starts so we can be there," said Harbaugh. "They told us it's going to be at 8:15. You laugh about it, but they told us it's going to be at 8:15 and we'll be there right on time ready to go. That's our plan."

Wilcox, Terry and Flacco Hosting Events

Tight end Daniel Wilcox, tackle Adam Terry and Flacco are all hosting charitable events in the coming weeks.

Wilcox is holding his first fashion show fundraiser for the Empowerment M.I.N.D.S. Foundation, which is regularly active in the Baltimore community.

The adult gala is titled "Giving in Style" and will take place Dec. 16 from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at Maserati of Baltimore.

It will include a cocktail party, live entertainment, auction and fashion show featuring Ravens players, their wives and several local celebrities.

Click here for more information and to find out how to attend, and here to read Wilcox's 83 Degreez blog on BaltimoreRavens.com.

Additionally, Terry and Flacco are teaming up with Special Olympics Maryland for the "Raven in a Pear Tree Holiday Party" on Dec. 8 from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. at Rams Head Live!

Joined by defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, the trio will attend an event with complimentary food, drink and a show from Baltimore rockers SR-71.

Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Notable

Another offensive wrinkle has been the use of 340-pound defensive tackle Haloti Ngata

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as a fullback and a tight end on goal line situations. Ngata has cleared holes for rushing touchdowns and last week, he drew coverage in the end zone to free Todd Heap for a 4-yard touchdown catch. "They jumped Haloti, and Todd Heap ran a great route. He pushed up on the corner that was covering him and broke away and got some separation," Harbaugh said with a laugh. "Haloti was our decoy, very good." … Baltimore's defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 31 games, the NFL's longest streak. … Flacco has posted a 99.1 passer rating over the last seven games. It ranks as No. 1 in the league during that span, as he's tossed 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Vote your favorite Ravens to the 2009 Pro Bowl! Click here for more information.

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