After such a dominating performance from the Ravens' defense in Sunday's 27-9 playoff win over the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore didn't need much from their offense.
But in a game where the Ravens forced five turnovers against the NFL's best squad in taking care of the football, only two of those were converted into points - one of which came from safety Ed Reed!(/team/roster/ed-reed/89ece203-7de4-4b40-9651-f16f4c3b7699/ "Ed Reed")'s 64-yard interception return for a touchdown.
That is something Baltimore would like to change this weekend when the club travels to Tennessee to take on the Titans in an AFC divisional matchup.
Quarterback Joe Flacco!(/team/roster/joe-flacco/3e20766f-6520-4ca1-9901-44389aaea8b8/ "Joe Flacco"), who completed 9 of 23 passes for 135 yards and no interceptions, thinks that the opportunities were there to strike a dagger in the Dolphins' hearts, and those chances simply failed to hit.
"There were a handful of throwaways we had to do," Flacco said after the game. "And we had a couple where we had them beat deep and we missed them at the end of the game. We didn't connect there, but we will make sure to connect in the future."
Flacco's longest gains came on a pair of 31-yard completions to tight end **Todd Heap** and wideout **Derrick Mason**.
There were other times when Flacco looked downfield - namely on two long throws to receiver **Mark Clayton** in the fourth quarter - but more often than not, those fell incomplete at Dolphin Stadium.
"We have the ability to make them, but we need to make them," head coach **John Harbaugh** explained in a Monday press conference. "If we'd have made a couple more of those plays on offense, I think it would've taken a little pressure off the fourth quarter. But we continued to take shots. We were close to making some of those plays. I know that we sure want to make them."
It ended up not mattering.
The Ravens took a 20-3 lead into the final period, which was cut by six when Miami quarterback Chad Pennington found running back Ronnie Brown for a 2-yard touchdown pass, and then Ravens cornerback **Frank Walker** blocked the extra point.
On the ensuing series, Flacco looked twice for Clayton, but the first attempt hit the turf outside of Clayton's grasp, and the second landed in the capable hands of Reed, who was observing from the sideline.
Still, Flacco's teammates were impressed with the rookie's ability to stand tall amidst a fierce pass rush, not taking any sacks as he made judicious decisions on when to look for a check-down receiver, when to air the ball out and when to throw it out of bounds.
"He made some tremendous throws, was very poised in the pocket," Harbaugh noted. "I thought our offensive line did a great job at protecting him and they allowed him to hold the ball which he was willing to do. He didn't get antsy in their at all, he made some really good throws, managed the game well, and didn't turn it over at all which is big.
"He played playoff winning football."
Calling Flacco just a game manager may be a misnomer, however.
As the Ravens' 11-5 regular-season progressed, the former Delaware signal-caller continued to show more and more confidence utilizing his strong right arm each week.
Baltimore produced 10 pass plays of 40 or more yards in 2008, five of which went for touchdowns. Those 10 big tosses tied for second-most in franchise history and were the most in a single season since 1999, when Tony Banks and Stoney Case were the Ravens' top two passers.
"Joe is being aggressive," said center **Jason Brown**. "He's a young quarterback, so even though it's late in the season, he is still progressing week-in and week-out. It's only making our offense better."
Against Miami, it was running back **Willis McGahee** that provided the longest play of the day. Running a call that the Ravens had made a few times previously, McGahee took a fourth-quarter handoff off right tackle Willie Anderson and sprinted 48 yards to the Dolphins' 4-yard line.
Offensive coordinator **Cam Cameron’s** commitment to the fourth-ranked rushing attack in the league is another reason why Baltimore didn't inflict its damage through the air. The Ravens totaled 151 ground yards, slightly above their 148.5-yard average per game this year.
"Cam is a very patient play-caller," Harbaugh stated. "He doesn't get discouraged with any part of it. He keeps taking shots. He continues to run the ball. He mixes it up really well. Eventually, if you're physical, running the ball and blocking, you're going to get some yards in the running game."
So while Reed and Co. continue to terrorize opponents by capitalizing on any and all offensive mistakes, there is still confidence that the Ravens' offense can step up when it needs to.
"Since I've been here, we've tried to get it that way, and this is the first year we've succeeded," said Mason, a 12-year veteran and three-year Raven. "The defense doesn't worry about us, and we don't worry about the defense. No longer do we have the mentality of 'just manage the game and the defense will win it. No. 'Defense, you just stop guys, and we'll win it for you.'"
Of course, when that defense is controlling the game like the Ravens' did in Miami, it can overshadow what their offense has done all season.