Short Game Has Long-run Benefits

RAVENS INSIDER

November 02, 2009|By MIKE PRESTON

After weeks of trying, the Ravens seem to have discovered their offensive formula for winning football games again.

It's not pretty, and it certainly isn't what you would expect from a franchise-caliber quarterback like Joe Flacco. But for now, it's the ideal game plan.

Instead of Flacco throwing the ball all over the stadium as he did in the opening weeks, the Ravens now come out trying to establish the run. They nickel-and-dime teams down the field with their passing attack, using running back Ray Rice and wide receiver Derrick Mason.

And by midway in the second quarter, they open up the offense, allowing Flacco to take some shots down the field, as he did with the 20-yard touchdown pass to Mason early in the fourth quarter.

"We played this way against Minnesota but didn't come away with a win," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "But our emphasis has been on being fundamentally sound, and I think we've been that way on offense the last two games."

The Ravens stayed with the formula in the first period, and halfway through the second, they were starting to grind down the Broncos. The Ravens rushed 35 times for 125 yards, and Flacco completed 20 of 25 passes for 175 yards. More importantly, the Ravens had the ball for 33 minutes and 37 seconds compared with 26:23 for Denver.

The Ravens ran the no-huddle and kept the Broncos off balance. That's how they won games most of last season.

Secondary plays solid

Let's hope the Ravens' cornerbacks don't get ahead of themselves after not giving up a big passing play to the Broncos.

There are high school teams in the area that have a more sophisticated passing game than the Broncos, who consistently failed to throw downfield even when behind by 16 points early in the fourth quarter.

Cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Domonique Foxworth and safeties Dawan Landry and Ed Reed did a nice job tackling after short receptions, easily their best collective effort of the season.

Next week, the bombs will come again in Cincinnati.

Pressure gets to Orton

With 11:27 left in the first half, the Ravens punked Denver quarterback Kyle Orton.

On second-and-17, Orton dropped back to pass only to be pressured by defensive tackle Kelly Gregg. Before Gregg got within 2 yards of Orton, he chucked the ball without stepping into the pass and backed off, afraid of being hit by Gregg.

From that point on, it was the Ravens' game to win because Orton might as well have been on the sideline waving pompoms with the Ravens' cheerleaders.

Ravens played with urgency

Denver has been and continues to be a soft team. But the way the Ravens put pressure on Orton and protected Flacco was impressive.

The Ravens played with a sense of urgency in the trenches and mugged a Denver team that controlled the line of scrimmage in its previous six games.

Bad calls, all around

The Ravens had eight penalties for minus-94 yards. Some of them, like pass interference, are understandable. Those things happen.

But those dumb ones for unsportsmanlike conduct against offensive tackle Michael Oher and wide receiver Derrick Mason are unnecessary. Mason threw a temper tantrum when the officials failed to call Denver cornerback Alphonso Smith for holding him in the first quarter.

But only a few plays earlier, the same referees failed to call Mason for holding cornerback Champ Bailey on a run by Rice around the left end.

The officiating has been consistent in 2009: consistently bad for everybody.

Walker at his best

Ravens cornerback Frank Walker was inactive Sunday, and that was perhaps his best coverage all season.

Johnson delivers

Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson has gotten better every season, and he might have been the best player on the field Sunday.

Johnson was credited with only three tackles, but he made life miserable for Orton, including that blind-side hit on him on the first play of the game.

Ah, the memories

My favorite Ravens drive of the season came with 2:44 left in the first quarter. The Ravens took possession at the Denver 23 and proceeded to go minus-2 yards in four plays.

My mind shot back to the days of the old offensive genius himself, former Ravens guru, Brian Billick.

Fair-catch Carr

Chris Carr was back returning punts, and it was apparent he was told to fair-catch a lot of them. On some, it appeared he might have told the officials he was going to fair-catch them before the snap.

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