Jim Caldwell breathed some confidence into Ravens offense

New coordinator got the ball into the hands of his playmakers Sunday -- and they delivered

December 24, 2012|Mike Preston

Two weeks after he was named offensive coordinator, Jim Caldwell has finally put his finger prints on the game plan.

After gaining 533 yards of total offense Sunday in their 33-14 win over the New York Giants, it's hard to tell if the Ravens can continue the dominance, but now they have a sound starting point under Caldwell.

There is newfound confidence.

"I think so," Ravens receiver Torrey Smith said of gaining momentum. "We were on a rough stretch for a while, even though — I guess it was three games — we played alright at times, we just weren't consistent. We definitely needed to get a win, and more importantly clinch the division, and I think we'll be fine.

"We need to build on this, which we normally do, and look forward to next week's practice; Christmas first, and then practice."

The Ravens were looking for this kind of spark when owner Steve Bisciotti forced head coach John Harbaugh to fire offensive coordinator Cam Cameron soon after the Ravens lost to the Washington Redskins on Dec. 9.

Caldwell had only three days to install some new things before last week's loss to the Denver Broncos, but he had a few more days before the Giants came to town.

The Ravens kept New York off pace by sometimes going no-huddle and making quick substitutions. Creating a fast tempo is something Caldwell has stressed to quarterback Joe Flacco all season.

Flacco completed 25 of 36 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns, and the Giants finished out of breath.

"It seemed like they had 13 guys on the field, and then two would run off," New York linebacker Chase Blackburn said. "So we were in a messed up personnel, especially early. And then we basically had to stay more vanilla at times, because personnel were coming in so late."

The Ravens also attacked the middle of the field more than they had against any other team this season. In fairness to Cameron, he pulled back on Flacco's passes across the middle during the last month when the fifth-year quarterback started to struggle.

Caldwell took more chances Sunday. Receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Dennis Pitta showed no fear going across the middle, as they combined for 12 catches. Flacco also connected on a 27-yard touchdown pass to Ray Rice, hitting him in stride over the middle, a pattern the Ravens haven't used a lot in 2012,

The Ravens repeatedly targeted Gians cornerback Corey Webster whenever he was one on one with Smith, and the Ravens ran clearing routs on the outside as opposed to their usual comeback routs.

"This year, we probably haven't seen as much of that with Ray," Harbaugh of attacking the middle of the field. "That's a route that we run a lot, that's one of our base routes. We messed around with where Ray was at in the formation and 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."

Against Denver, the Ravens came out using a lot of two-back formation in the first quarter. That seemed to be more of an order from Harbaugh because the Ravens wanted to take the ball out of the hands of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

On Sunday, the Ravens were more wide open offensively because they wanted to put the ball in the hands of their playmakers.

"It was a collective effort from everybody protecting Joe and a matter of Joe getting the ball out on time," right guard Marshal Yanda said. "Converting third downs was huge. I think it was 11-for-18. You're going to win football games doing that.

"It's just a matter of having confidence in our guys. There's no magical formula," Yanda continued. "We didn't reinvent the wheel. It's just football. We got a lot of great guys on this team — a lot of great players. More than anything, it's just guys making plays. You saw Torrey and some of the catches he made, Ray and some of the runs he ran and Bernard [Pierce made]. That's what this league is about: big-time players making big-time plays."

The Ravens helped themselves, especially the offensive line, by moving Flacco more on roll out and sprint out passes. The Giants were also slowed by the Ravens play-action passing game.

In the past, Flacco was a stationary target. Poor pocket awareness made him an easy victim for speedy ends or outside linebackers who could blow by his offensive tackles.

But on Sunday, the Giants didn't have a sack and Flacco was hurried only twice.

"When our offensive line blocks the way they did in terms of the run game, and the pass game, it's tough for the defenses," Smith said. "And we made the plays, and all the credit goes to the big guys up front. They did a great job, they've been busting their tails all week long — really all year long — and to see them play the way they did, and as confident as they did, and see the results, we're very excited about it."

Smith has the right idea. It will always come down to the offensive line, but at least on Sunday, Caldwell gave the group a better chance for success. Isn't that what coordinating is all about, putting your players in the best position to succeed?

"It turned out well," Smith said of the game plan. "I don't what to say anything besides that. We went out there and executed well, and I think we operated pretty quickly, so if I had to pick one thing, it would probably be that.

"Just executing," Smith added. "I say the same thing every week, whether we win or lose. That's what it all boils down to, and when you watch film you can see it."

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