CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 01: Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
When the season started it was apparent that the Baltimore Ravens were trying to become more of a passing offense. With quarterback Joe Flacco entering his fourth year many expected to see him take the reigns of the offense and put his stamp on it.
After the first few games of the season something seemed a bit off with the offensive progress however. The Ravens seemed to be passing when they should run and running when they should pass. This lead to criticism around the organization that our players were not being used correctly, most of all running back Ray Rice.
After almost a half season of tinkering with the offense, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron gave the fans what they wanted. Baltimore got back to running a smash-mouth, run-first offense. The team started using the run game to set up the pass, as opposed to the beginning of the year when they were passing more to set up the run. With timely play action and screens on obvious blitzing downs, this has worked out well for Baltimore. Most importantly it has given the offense an identity. The Ravens must know who they are and what they are good at in order to be successful in the playoffs.
Full back Vonta Leach can wear a defense down delivering punishing hits to any linebacker or safety that tries to rush the hole. The Ravens realized this and told Rice "just follow 44" and it has worked out very well. Ray Rice is a true game breaker, he is capable of taking it to the house at any time, and now that he has Leach bulldozing a path for him he can be even more effective.
Perhaps the biggest improvement for the Ravens this season is that they have a game breaker in the receiving core as well. Rookie Torrey Smith has shown he also is capable of going the length of the field at any time. This causes defenses to have to guess with their safeties. If they bring one up in the box to stop Rice from breaking long runs then they face the possibility of Smith being left in one-on-one coverage in the secondary. Baltimore has never had this before and it will be important they take their shots deep in the playoffs so the defense doesn't sit on Rice.
These two play-makers can make life a lot easier on guys like Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson as well. With Rice keeping defenders up and Torrey taking them deep that (in theory) leaves the middle of the field open for Boldin and our duo of young, talented tight ends.
So what is the Ravens offensive identity? They are a run first team with big play ability. Right? In order for them to be that they have to run first and make big plays though. We all know Joe is going to take his shots to Torrey and we all know that Rice is going to see the ball... a lot. So, that leaves the other guys to step up and make sure they are keeping teams honest in the middle of the field. It is time for Cam to put it all together and show us why they put this team together. If everything works like they have designed it to there should be no stopping us.
It's all about execution and the Ravens execute at home. Now is the time. This team has everything it needs on both sides of the ball in order to win it all. The question is, can they execute when it matters? I guess we will see.