A low rumbling of boos and groans greeted the Ravens as they jogged off the field and headed into the locker room at the end of the first half.
The offense was stagnant through the first two quarters. The unit got shut out, putting up just 122 total yards and converting 1-7 third downs.
But then the Ravens came out of the locker room and found a rhythm. The offense strung together some first downs, put together a pair of long scoring drives, and then ran down the clock for the 14-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
"The game didn't go exactly how we wanted it to, but that's how we've won football games around here," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We're able to win like this, and sometimes you have to do it in an ugly way."
The Ravens came out committed to running the ball in the second half and that's exactly what they did. After the running backs had just seven carries in the first two quarters, the Ravens pounded the football with Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. The duo combined for 91 rushing yards – most of which came on first and second downs – and then Flacco moved the chains with third-down conversions.
The offense converted 7-of-9 third down conversions in the second half, and the Ravens controlled the time of possession by holding the ball for 18 minutes, 32 seconds.
"They kept their poise and [Offensive Coordinator Jim] Caldwell is a calming presence and that is a plus," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "They've got confidence in Joe."
Flacco set the tone in the first half to keep the group from getting flustered by the slow start. The sixth-year quarterback is known for not getting rattled, and that kind of demeanor rubbed off on his teammates.
"I wasn't frustrated because I looked at Joe, and Joe wasn't frustrated," rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown said. "And, he's our leader, so if our leader isn't frustrated, and he's calm and cool, I'm going to be like, 'We're going to be alright, because Joe's going to be alright.'"
Part of the issue in the first half were drops that plagued the receiving corps. Brown and Torrey Smith both had touchdowns bounce of their hands, and those plays could have made for a much different score at halftime.
"If we make a couple of plays – they wouldn't have been easy plays – that would have been a difference in the first half, as well," Harbaugh said.
Despite the miscues, Flacco kept this cool and the offensive line also stayed patient.
"We have a veteran offensive line that can kind of keep everybody understanding that everything is not going to happen right away and you can't panic," Harbaugh said. "You have to keep playing and we did a good job of that."
The offensive line wore down the Browns' front seven, and the running backs were able to find holes. Pierce finished with 19 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown. Rice, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a hip flexor strain, had 13 carries for 36 yards.
"At halftime we all just came together and agreed that we just had to get this running game going," Pierce said. "Nothing mattered – doesn't matter what down and distance it was, doesn't matter what play was called – we just have to run the ball. So we all got together and got it going."
The final stat sheet was not particularly impressive, as the Ravens finished with 296 total yards, and Flacco went 22-of-33 passing for 211 yards and a touchdown.
But Flacco made plays when the Ravens needed him to move the ball.
On the Ravens' opening drive of the third quarter, Flacco led the offense on a 12-play, 80-yard drive down the field that was capped off by Pierce's 5-yard touchdown run to give the Ravens their first lead of the day. Flacco was perfect on the drive – connecting on all three of his passes, which all came on third down.
"The third downs were huge in the second half, on the scoring drive that we had, so you have to just credit those guys for making those plays," Flacco said.
"We had to just take our time and be patient. You know, it was only 6-0, no need to panic or get all crazy, and we came out in the second half and just played really well."
That drive got the offense into a bit of a* *groove after plodding its way through the first two quarters.
"I definitely think it gave us the momentum and it gave us the confidence to keep running the ball and putting pressure on their front seven," Pierce said.
The Ravens built upon their lead when Flacco connected with Brown for a 5-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The start of the season has been up and down for Flacco and the offense. Flacco has an entirely new group of receiving weapons – Smith is the only starting target back from last year – and they are still working to develop a rapport with the quarterback.
With two weeks now behind them, the focus for the unit is on consistency.
"I think that's safe to say [that we're still a work in progress]," Smith said. "We have to work on some chemistry between us, but at the same time it seems to have started working out for us. We know what we're doing; we just have to start doing it consistently."