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Ravens Prepare Their Revolutionary Offense for Playoff Run


The revolution is here, and now the Ravens are taking it to the playoffs.

Maybe the NFL didn't see this coming during training camp, but the Ravens did.

Head Coach John Harbaugh talked openly during the summer about an offense that would "revolutionize" football, a multi-dimensional attack centered around Lamar Jackson, a quarterback who can dissect defenses as a thrower and dazzle them as a runner.

Many were intrigued. Many were skeptical. But the Ravens totally bought in.

"I really feel like it goes back to the players," Harbaugh said. "It goes back to the guys that we had, and we felt like we could build something that was different than what was currently, is being, run, most of the time, in the National Football League."

Harbaugh said it wasn't like the Ravens made up new plays, but the way they were packaged, organized and called was unique, and started with Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman. Then the players are the ones that put the "personality and the flavor to it."

Baltimore rolls into the playoffs with the league's highest-scoring offense. They set the single-season record for rushing yards, a record that had lasted 41 years. They became the first team to average more than 200 yards throwing and 200 yards passing. Jackson set the single-season rushing record for quarterbacks, and he also led the league in touchdown passes, building a case for the MVP award that is tighter than the cork on a champagne bottle.

Now the Ravens' singular focus is on winning the Super Bowl, which would be the last word for a team that has already made plenty of bold statements. After being so dynamic during the regular season, the Ravens' offense has left itself a tough act to follow for the playoffs.

It's not always easy to maintain sharpness during a bye week. Jackson, who is suffering from the flu, was not on the field during Tuesday's practice that was open to the media, and he was one of seven starters who didn't play Week 17 against Pittsburgh. However, Roman said he isn't worried about rust being an issue for the offense, or for the Ravens as a whole.

"I really think with our guys, I'm not really concerned about that to be very blunt," Roman said. "We want to have some really good practices this week. I think that will serve the purpose of keeping our edge sharp. With our guys, no. They're going to use this as a complete advantage."

The Ravens have plenty of equity and belief in their offense, after spending so much time retooling it during the offseason. They're not sure if they will face the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, or Tennessee Titans in the divisional game. But the Ravens are game-planning for all three possibilities, confident they can adapt to whatever situation or opponent presents itself.

Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale is very familiar with the problems that Baltimore's offense presents, competing against it regularly in practice. This offseason, he knew the Ravens were cooking up something special offensively.

"It's just so many moving parts," Martindale said. "Similar to what we do defensively, they send so many different personnels out and do a lot of different things out of it. There's just no way that within a week's time, a week's prep, that you can over it all as a defensive coordinator."

Baltimore never scored fewer than 20 points in any game this season, and scored at least 30 points on 10 different occasions. The Ravens' lowest-scoring game was against the San Francisco 49ers, the No. 1 seed in the NFC, who Baltimore outlasted for a hard-fought 20-17 victory in Week 13.

However, the game when Baltimore was shutdown offensively never happened. That consistency may be the thing Roman is most pleased with, and the Ravens are determined to carry that offensive standard into the postseason.

"I told John (Harbaugh) sometime during training camp that we would be very explosive at times," Roman said. "I wasn't quite sure how consistent we would be at that point. I'm very encouraged and proud of the approach we've taken, the day-to-day approach, to perform as consistently as we have. You see some teams, one week they're just going up and down the field, the next week they can't get a first down. We didn't want to be that group.

"This league is amazing, it's 100 years old, and I've been doing this for almost a quarter of a century now. To break some of those records is really a credit to our players, and the commitment and atmosphere and chemistry. These men have really come together and bought in."

Roman has long been praised for his ability to scheme a successful running attack. But before this season, some people questioned whether an offense with Roman as the play-caller and Jackson as the passer would ever be as dynamic as Baltimore's offense has been through the air.

The Ravens have been double-deadly as an offense – No. 1 overall in rushing and No. 6 overall in passing. The knock on the Ravens relying too heavily on their running game was silenced, beginning Week 1 when Jackson threw five touchdown passes.

"The day I got here, I said, 'Greg Roman is about balance,''' Roman said. "And I hate to use my name in that tense, in the third person, but that's what we strive for, is balance. I don't think you want to present a singular problem to a defense, because in this league, they can stop something all the time if they really, really want to commit to it. So, it was critical that Lamar really applied himself and he did. He's done everything we've asked him to do with a great attitude. I really think the results have shown."

Not only do the Ravens have the offensive records, they have six players on offense named to the Pro Bowl – Jackson, running back Mark Ingram II, tight end Mark Andrews, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, right guard Marshal Yanda and fullback Patrick Ricard.

The revolution was a success. But what the Ravens want most is a Super Bowl victory. That would make their revolutionary offensive season the most gratifying to look back on.

"It's something that people will be talking about for a long time," Harbaugh said. "But we won't be. We'll be talking about getting ready for the next game."

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