Ravens Offense Builds Confidence With Breakout Game


It was the same, frustrating offensive story in the first half.

A penalty, a turnover, a sack. Each time the Ravens were close to scoring, they stumbled.

But there's a reason why the Ravens were especially celebratory after Thursday night's 28-7 win over the Cleveland Browns, even perhaps more than they were after beating their rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

It's because the offense – the team's Achilles heel all season – came alive.

The Ravens know they have a narrow path to reaching their postseason goals if their offense doesn't perform. On Thursday night, the group put on a confidence-inducing performance.

After just six first-half points, the Ravens exploded with three touchdowns in the second half. The final came on an impressive 12-play, 90-yard drive in which the orchestra hit all the right notes.

"It was good to see all three phases of our team contribute fully," Head Coach John Harbaugh said in his opening statement. "For the offense to step up and play as well as it did in the second half is good for our football team."

The Ravens' 28 points is a season-high and their 396 yards of total offense is the second-most they've posted this season (16 behind their Week 4 loss to the Oakland Raiders).

Quarterback Joe Flacco was 30-of-41 for 296 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He hadn't thrown three touchdowns in a single game yet this season. Nine different players caught passes. The ground game churned out 119 yards.

As the Ravens walked into halftime, they had piled up 18 straight drives without a touchdown. There was a smattering of boos from the home crowd as they settled for yet another Justin Tucker field goal. Flacco had a 66.8 quarterback rating in the first half and threw a bad interception on a pass to the end zone intercepted by cornerback Brien Boddy-Calhoun.

"It's a lonely position when you're making mistakes and hurting your team's chances to win," Flacco said. "But I think I'm a big boy, and I can handle it, and you've got to continue to do your job and lead your team."

At halftime, the Ravens decided to pick up the pace. They felt like they gained some momentum on their final field-goal drive, and, as Flacco said, "we had them on the run a little bit."

The Ravens came out of the break with seven straight no-huddle, shotgun formations. They marched 64 yards on nine plays, capped by a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Darren Waller in which Flacco was once again in a shotgun, no-huddle formation.

Flacco said the no-huddle offense worked because it relies on players winning one-on-one coverage in "simple ways." He said it takes some of the thinking out of the offense, simplifying the defense to a certain extent.

The Ravens stayed in the up-tempo offense for the next two drives, stomping on the gas pedal to take a 21-7 lead near the end of the third quarter when Flacco hit Smith for an 11-yard touchdown. Then, the unit converted on the two-point conversion to fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

Much of the damage was done on short crossing patterns. Wide receiver Mike Wallace caught one for 20 yards, then Smith grabbed one for 12. Wallace took another 23 yards, then receiver Breshad Perriman ran away from a defender for 25 yards.

"I think the biggest thing today was we were able to get the ball to Mike and Breshad underneath today on some guys and just let them do the work," Flacco said.

The Ravens' final 12-play, 90-yard touchdown drive was a thing of beauty. Running backs Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon combined to churn out 44 yards. Flacco hit Perriman for a 12-yard gain across the middle, then finished the drive with a 27-yard strike to Perriman, in which he made a dazzling adjustment to haul in the pass.

Did it feel like everything finally clicked?

"How many yards was [the drive]?" Smith asked a reporter. "That's clickable, isn't it? Absolutely."

The question now is whether the Ravens offense can keep the momentum rolling.

Cleveland's defense entered the game ranked as the second-worst in the NFL, and was playing without one of  its starting cornerbacks. Next week's opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, rank 10th in the league.

As Flacco said, the Ravens won't be playing the Browns next week.

"You don't live on what you did the previous week," Flacco said. "I think it does give guys confidence, and it can be a big plus, but it still comes down to how we go out there and respond to it."

While Harbaugh agreed with Flacco, he had a more optimistic answer to the question of whether Sunday was a springboard.

"I do; I think we've in a building process with our team, but most certainly with our offense, which has the furthest distance to go, probably," Harbaugh said. "We had some success in the second half, and that was really important for us to do that.

"Hopefully, we'll all look back at this at the end of the season and say this was a turning point for the offense."

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