Ravens Put Offensive Wrinkles On Display


It was third-and-1, the Ravens' first third down of the game on their opening drive.

They were in the same scenario the week prior against Denver.

In that game, Joe Flacco tried a quarterback sneak for one yard, but fumbled. It started a snowball effect of mistakes that ultimately led to a blowout loss.

This week, Flacco ran the option. Yes, the option.

Flacco shuffled to his left and pitched to running back Ray Rice, who scampered for 14 yards. The play sparked a touchdown drive, building momentum for another touchdown on the next drive, which started Sunday's 33-14 rout of the New York Giants.

It wasn't just the option that raised eyebrows. The Ravens showed a few different offensive wrinkles in Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell's second game calling plays.

As Caldwell and the Ravens have stressed since he took the job two weeks ago, the system nor the playbook have changed.

But Caldwell is a different person making the calls, and he dialed up some different plays.

"I thought [Caldwell] did a great job," tight end Dennis Pitta said. "I think it was evident with how we played and the tempo we had. We were able to keep them on their heels a little bit.

"Some of those things we've had up for a few weeks and didn't get to them until this game. Other things we put in this week or last week that have been new. It's a combination of both."

Flacco said the Ravens have had the option play and some of their other wrinkles in their game plan for weeks, but "they just haven't come up, necessarily." Flacco said the Giants' defensive formation dictated that they run the option, and indicated that he audibled to that play.

"You have the ability to run the option, but a quarterback sneak has come up instead, or something like that," Flacco said. "It just so happened that they gave us the look to run that option, that's what I went with."

The Ravens also attacked the middle of the field more than in the past.

Wide receiver Torrey Smith's 6-yard touchdown catch for the Ravens' first touchdown was on a slant. Flacco hit a 39-yard deep strike down the seam to Anquan Boldin in the second quarter. He found Boldin again for a diving catch on third down in the third quarter.

Rice optioned wide and ran a slant for his 27-yard touchdown in the second quarter, in which Flacco zipped a pass through traffic and let Rice outrun the Giants the rest of the way. Head Coach John Harbaugh said that is a base route, but that they tinkered with where Rice was at in the formation.

"This year, we probably haven't seen as much of that with Ray," Harbaugh said of the pass over the middle. "[We] got him in a situation where he was going to catch that inside route coming across there. I just thought it was a great throw and a great catch. It's nothing new to what we're doing, but obviously, we got the ball to the middle of the field more today, which was a good thing for us."

Flacco was asked what his favorite part of the game plan was. He unquestionably said the offense's pace.

The Ravens came out immediately in the no-huddle, which helped build some early momentum. They were almost exclusively in the no huddle in a second-quarter drive that went 83 yards and ended with a 23-yard field goal by Justin Tucker.

They used the no-huddle throughout their next drive too, which ended with Rice's 27-yard touchdown over the middle. Even with a 17-point lead in the second half, the Ravens were still hurrying up on their second drive of the second half. That was a 16-play, 82-yard drive.

"You just feel like you go out there and executing the plays and, all of a sudden, you're down at the goal line and you score points," Flacco said. "It felt good."

Flacco was also on the move more in Sunday's offense. He rolled out on a number of occasions, helping to negate some of the Giants' pressure. Flacco was sacked just once when a quarterback keeper on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line went bad.

But it was the sight of Flacco running the option like Washington's Robert Griffin III did a couple weeks ago that was truly startling.

"Joe's athletic," Rice said with a laugh. "I'm just glad he got it out to me. It's a really good play."

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