Coming into the season, the Ravens felt that the best recipe for success was to lean on their high-priced defense and stellar special-teams unit to win games.
The offense wasn't in sync at the start of the season – the back injury that sidelined quarterback Joe Flacco all summer probably played a big part in that – and the Ravens relied on a turnover-happy defense to put them in position to win.
But that formula has gone through a recent overhaul, as Baltimore's offense has sprung to life over the last month and Flacco is playing his best football of the season. The offense has led the way in recent weeks, and the unit did so again in Saturday's nerve-wracking 23-16 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
"They finally owe us," wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "It just shows that we have a full team, instead of just a defense, or just an offense."
Baltimore's offense put up 323 total yards on a rainy night against the Colts, and Flacco played perhaps his most efficient game of the season. He completed 29-of-38 passes for 237 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
With starting receiver Jeremy Maclin sidelined by a knee injury, Flacco spread the ball around to 10 targets. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro and tight end Maxx Williams both caught their first touchdowns of the season.
"As an offense, we're starting to hit our stride," Flacco said. "I'm playing more consistent. The receivers are getting open quick. The line's playing really well together. The backs are running the ball really hard."
Flacco showed up in big moments and the Ravens put together five drives of at least 10 plays or more. The unit's most impressive drive was the 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the fourth quarter. The Colts had just cut Baltimore's lead to 16-13, and then Flacco took nearly eight minutes off the clock to march the unit down the field and punch in the touchdown on a 4-yard pass to Williams.
"That was a sweet drive," he said. "We knew those guys were playing good football on the other side, and we knew we had to put six points on the board right there in order to win this football game."
Flacco's emergence has coincided with getting healthier from the back injury. He's downplayed the issue all year, but he's clearly moving better in the pocket and Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg recently pointed to Flacco's health as a reason for the improvement.
Flacco has been lights out over the last four games, and he's completed 64.9 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and just one interception. He's averaged 265.8 passing yards per game during that stretch, and the Ravens have averaged 33.3 points per game.
"He's been balling," Wallace said. "He's been having a great month so far. We need him to keep it up. He's throwing great passes and the confidence is up."
As well as the offense moved the ball, Flacco lamented that the group struggled to put the ball in the end zone. They had to settle for three field goals by kicker Justin Tucker, and Flacco is confident the Ravens can play better offensively.
"It's good to come out of these games and have some things that we left out there but still a lot of things that we did well," he said. "We're playing good football, and you've got to be optimistic about it."
Flacco has developed a well-deserved reputation over his 10-year career of playing his best football late in the season. He's proving that to be the case again this year, and with the Ravens just one win away from the postseason, his teammates are eager to see what he can do in January.
"Everybody knows that second season, we become a different team; a special team," veteran Terrell Suggs said. "'January Joe,' we are all looking forward to seeing him."