Leading up to Sunday's matchup with the Houston Texans, the Ravens had been saying all week that their offense was an evolving entity.
After getting multiple new weapons involved in a prolific 41-13 victory at Reliant Stadium, it's safe to say that process is going well.
Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco!(/team/roster/joe-flacco/3e20766f-6520-4ca1-9901-44389aaea8b8/ "Joe Flacco") threw for two touchdowns, including a 43-yard strike to **Yamon Figurs** for Figurs' first score of the season.
Quarterback **Troy Smith** added a touchdown pass of his own to tight end **Todd Heap**. Is was the second score of the day for Heap, whose lack of recent statistics in the passing game caused many to ask where the Pro Bowler's form had gone.
And running back **Willis McGahee**, who was held out of the Ravens' win over the Cleveland Browns two weeks ago, found the end zone twice and totaled his highest rushing output this year.
The unit is making a solid case as the best offense in franchise history, as the Ravens' fourth straight win was also the first time Baltimore has ever scored at least 27 points in four straight games.
That production is a big reason the Ravens are now 6-3 and tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC North lead, and has the team optimistic about what is to come.
"It feels good, but at the same time, we aren't where we want to be yet," Heap said. "I think we're improving; we're seeing signs of what we were capable of. But as far as all of us were concerned in the huddle, we know we can get a lot better.
"I think games like this are good for us, to really get in that rhythm and figure out, 'Hey, we can really put it to teams.' I think this is just a sign of what we're going to see down in the future."
The Ravens certainly put it to Houston when it was needed most.
A 48-yard field goal from Texans kicker Kris Brown three seconds before halftime closed Baltimore's lead to 12-6. But coming out of the break, the Ravens ran the ball nine times on an 11-play drive that culminated in McGahee's 1-yard run off a key block from 345-pound defensive tackle Haloti Ngata!(/team/roster/haloti-ngata/9225ada6-37a5-4b66-9776-1b6e4df2fb50/ "Haloti Ngata").
The Ravens weren't out of the woods yet, however.
On the ensuing series, Ngata burst through Houston's offensive line to pressure backup signal-caller Sage Rosenfels – playing for an injured Matt Schaub (knee) – into throwing the ball directly to linebacker Ray Lewis!(/team/roster/ray-lewis/1c6d5ed3-fe49-4a89-a6b5-9e358e906ae7/ "Ray Lewis"), who returned it 29 yards.
But when **Matt Stover** missed a 50-yard field goal wide left, it set up a 60-yard touchdown pass from Rosenfels to receiver Kevin Walter on the next snap to cut the lead again to 19-13.
All the steely Flacco did was come back to direct a nine-play, 78-yard march that featured an 8-yard scramble from the quarterback, a 21-yard shot to wideout **Derrick Mason** and three Texans penalties – the last of which gave the Ravens first-and-goal from their 1.
Just one minute into the final period, Flacco hit a stumbling Heap for the first scoring connection between the duo.
"They started to feel like they were going to get back in the game," said Flacco, who completed 15 of 23 attempts for 185 yards and no interceptions. "We still had the lead. We just knew we needed to take it back down there, move the ball, keep getting first downs, and then when we got down there, capitalize on our chance of getting the ball in the end zone. We did that at the end of the game."
Heap nearly wasn't there for the catch. He was briefly tripped up by a Ravens offensive lineman before breaking off to his left with Flacco buying time with his feet.
"That was a great feeling," Heap explained. "I think at that point in the game, we needed it, so that was what made it even more pretty. I don't think the play was quite like we wanted it to turn out, but we got it done. Joe stayed with me and we got to score."
The play ignited a 22-point fourth quarter keyed on big plays from both sides of the ball.
Lewis snared a second interception, this time deep in Houston territory. The offense responded with the unorthodox "Suggs Package," with Smith taking a direct snap and selling a run to his right before delivering a 14-yard dart to Heap.
**Samari Rolle**, playing in his first game since Week 3 due to a neck injury, picked Rosenfels off on the Texans' 17-yard line to set up McGahee's 4-yard touchdown. McGahee notched 112 yards on 25 carries, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt.
Closing out an opponent with an offensive onslaught was an unfamiliar feeling to some in the Ravens' locker room.
"It's the first time we've done it in that fashion yet this year," Heap said. "Hopefully we can build on that and learn from that. I think we kind of got in a little rhythm of running the ball, moving the ball down the field. To finish drives the way we did in the second half, I think we need to learn from that and expand on that."
The defense did its job early by rattling Rosenfels with solid pressure by their front seven. Baltimore notched two sacks, five hurries and held the Texans to only 75 rushing yards.
Following a 43-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Figurs on the Ravens' second drive of the game, the Texans marched all the way to Baltimore's 1-yard line. On first down, Rosenfels looked for tight end Owen Daniels in the end zone, but Ngata tipped the pass to himself and fell to the turf.
"It was real big," Ngata said, noting that he was originally looking for the run on the play. "I was lucky to be in the right spot at the right time. I was happy to make that play. They were driving the ball, and it killed their momentum."
Then, the Texans had another touchdown – a 58-yard catch-and-run from rookie running back Steve Slaton – nullified by a holding penalty on Daniels in the second quarter.
Houston was able to get to the 5-yard line, but Rosenfels tossed two incompletions, setting up kicker Kris Brown's 23-yard field goal.
A Sam Koch!(/team/roster/sam-koch/5db3abab-9670-4b0b-93b7-286dcac1e69c/ "Sam Koch") punt that went out of bounds at the 5 on the subsequent series pushed Houston against their own goal line, but left tackle Duane Brown was called for holding in the end zone on linebacker Terrell Suggs!(/team/roster/terrell-suggs/ad26be43-1380-45f1-b047-a91e850d9761/ "Terrell Suggs"), which automatically qualified as a safety.
With the ball back in hand, the Ravens were able to get just close enough for a 54-yard boot from kicker **Steve Hauschka**, marking the second-longest field goal in franchise history.
"You cut them once, and they keep fighting. You've got to keep cutting and keep their head under the water," Suggs stated. "I think we did a good job of doing that, and I think our offense did a good job of doing that."