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Ravens' offense sheds bland label with trickery

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -When the Baltimore Ravens line up in a peculiar formation, or employ a variety of players in unusual positions, typically it's been on defense.

Recently, the Baltimore offense has been just as crafty. That's saying something for a unit that's been as bland as a rice cake.

The Ravens ran a few trick plays earlier this season, just to keep things interesting, before taking it to another level Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Using two quarterbacks in a single-wing set, Baltimore gained 75 yards in four plays - including a memorable 43-yard completion from backup quarterback Troy Smith to starter Joe Flacco.

The defense was its usual self, but, for a change, didn't have to be exceptional to carry Baltimore to victory. The Ravens amassed 375 yards and held the ball nearly 13 minutes longer than the Raiders in a 29-10 rout.

Coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron installed the single-wing package months ago in minicamp, but waited until Week 7 to unveil it. The Raiders had no idea it was coming.

That stuff gave us an advantage, and it worked against those guys,'' Flacco said.You see those things put in during practice and you're always just hoping that they actually get called.''

The Ravens still have a few tricks left.

There's a lot of other things we're practicing that we are going to show as time goes on,'' Harbaugh said Monday.We think we're creative. We think we have a chance to be an exciting offense; we think we've been that.''

On the first two snaps Smith took on Sunday, he ran between the tackles. The third time, he scooted around end and pitched to Ray Rice for a 21-yard gain. Then came his pass to Flacco, who lined up as a wide receiver on the left side and hauled in a perfect throw after racing past Oakland linebacker Ricky Brown.

So far, Cam has done an incredible job of game planning,'' Smith said.He keeps coming up with different ways to get guys the ball in certain situations.''

Who knows how - or if - the Ravens (4-3) will use the formation Sunday in Cleveland?

We could see using that package every game. I think people that are preparing to play against us are going to have to be prepared for it every week,'' Harbaugh said.We're just scratching the surface of the things that we have in. That's going to be a viable part of our offense all the way through.''

So is the notion of rotating three running backs. Willis McGahee, Rice and Le'Ron McClain have shared the workload, and there's no telling who will line up in front of them. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was employed as a tight end near the goal line Sunday because, well, any offensive line can use a guy that's 6-foot-4 and 345 pounds.

He's a big physical guy, and he can block,'' Harbaugh said.He wants to be back there in the backfield running the football. ... He figures as long as he's on the field, he has a chance.''

That kind of switch goes both ways. A few weeks ago, offensive guard Ben Grubbs lined up as a defensive tackle, and Cameron has a formation that uses members of the defense as wide receivers.

``Cam is amazingly creative in matching personnel to scheme,'' Harbaugh said.

Some of those ideas may never be used in a game, but it sure keeps things interesting during practice.

``That kind of stuff makes it more fun for the players. It gets them more involved,'' Harbaugh said.

The Baltimore defense, meanwhile, couldn't be happier about seeing something new and exciting from the offense.

It kind of keeps it fresh,'' linebacker Ray Lewis said.When we're at practice, we see where our offense is going. It's kind of exciting when you see a new flavor.''

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