What Got Into The Offense?

A ‘vanilla’ game plan called for a faster tempo, physicality and execution.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Thursday, September 15th, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink, Week 1 vs Steelers

Ravens Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron admitted he was the one who brought up “last year” during halftime of the Ravens-Steelers game last Sunday.

That elicited a passionate response from linebacker Ray Lewis. He said this is the 2011 Ravens, and last year’s issues were just that – last year.

“I agree with him,” Cameron said. “There is no correlation between last year and this year. This is a new team, a lot of new faces, a lot of familiar faces, that have grown. Guys have gotten better.

“I think that’s the thing that makes this team potentially a great team. It’s a unique year and we’re all looking at this year.”

Indeed, the Ravens did look like a new team last Sunday versus Pittsburgh, particularly Cameron’s offense.

Last year’s offense finished 22nd in the league, averaging 322.9 yards per game. The passing game was 20th and the rushing offense ranked 14th.

Cam On Facing ‘Totally Different’ Defensive Front
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Against the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, the Ravens put up 385 yards of offense, including 170 on the ground.

They scored on five of their first eight possessions (not counting when they ran out the clock to end the first half) and their 35 points were the most Baltimore ever scored against Pittsburgh.

In a nutshell, they were explosive.

So what changed?

The first obvious difference is in personnel.

Adding Bryant McKinnie to left tackle sent a ripple effect down the offensive line, sending Michael Oher to the right side where he excelled and permitting Marshal Yanda to stay at his natural right guard spot.

The youth movement at tight end, and adding more speed with wide receivers Lee Evans and Torrey Smith made a difference too by opening up the field.

“Yeah, it felt faster,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “It felt good. It felt like I had time back there, it felt like our guys were winning on routes and it felt like we were playing physical.”

There was also a difference in tempo, according to running back Ray Rice. The Ravens preyed on the fact that the Steelers don’t use many substitutes and Pittsburgh also has the oldest defense in the NFL.

The pace could vary week-to-week based on the opponent, but Rice said, “I like it. I like the way our offense is moving.”

Another change was the use of more zone run blocking. Baltimore’s known for lining up and smashing straight at opponents, but this injected more variety.

“I think we can do both,” Yanda said. “We could have done it last year, but those plays weren’t called as much last year. This year’s different, so we’re just trying to work on what’s called and do our best.”

However, there wasn’t all that much changed in the way Cameron called the game – although it may look that way to the naked eye.

For all the aggression, including an opening 27-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin on the Ravens’ first drive, the Ravens used a “vanilla” game plan, according to Rice.

“I’m not saying that to downplay our opponent, but we didn’t do a lot of trick stuff,” he said. “It was stuff that we practiced in camp.”

There lies the key in Cameron’s mind.

The players played the way they practiced. They executed.

In the week leading up to the Steelers, Rice said the game was less about physicality – which it has long been known for – and more about execution.

Cameron said it’s “a coordinator’s dream” when his players are talking about execution.

“We’re kind of getting out of the scheme world, thinking he’s got to scheme somebody or Cam has to come up with a great call,” Cameron said. “Really, there was no great call in that game. There was some great execution in that game. … Execution will override a call every time.”

The question now is whether the Ravens can keep it up.

Is such a high level of execution and a flawless performance sustainable, starting Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans?

“I think it is,” tight end Ed Dickson said. “We set a standard for ourselves the first week, but we can grow off it each week. There’s room to improve. We want to maintain that and get better each week.”

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