Ravens Rookies Have Offense On the Rise

Sean O'BrienCorrespondent INovember 5, 2008

Capped off by a 31-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week Six, the Baltimore Ravens had fallen from 2-0 to 2-3.  Their offense was looking downright inept and their defense had suffered a major blow to it's ego.  Needless to say, things weren't looking good for the city of Baltimore.

Week Seven saw a visit to the rising Miami Dolphins (also 2-3 at the time).  Many speculated it would be entirely up to the Baltimore 'D' to win this game by shutting down Chad Pennington and Ronnie Brown.

The defense did indeed show up to play.  It shut down the Wildcat formation, picked off Pennington for a touchdown return and redeemed itself from last year's embarrassing loss (the 1-15 Dolphins only win was over the Ravens).

What was lost in the spotlight of the defense was how well the offense played. 

Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco completed 17-of-23 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown.  He would end the day without an interception after throwing three in the loss to the Colts. Running back Willis McGahee carried the ball 19 times for 105 yards and a touchdown.

The Ravens went on to win the game 27-13.

Up next came the Oakland Raiders, a team struggling to even stay in games.  If Baltimore needed a turnaround game, this was it.

Rookie coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron decided to open up the playbook and really let loose their offense.

Joe Flacco even lined up as a receiver on multiple plays as second string quarterback Troy Smith lined up behind center.  In what would be deemed the "Suggs" Package, Smith fired off a 43 yard-strike to Flacco, who showed amazing balance and speed by staying on his feet for an extra 5-10 yards and setting up a Ravens field goal.

Even though Willis McGahee had the most carries, rookie Ray Rice managed to compile more yards.  On 8 carries, Rice amassed 64 yards on the ground, including a 19-yard scamper.

Joe Flacco went 12-of-24 for 140 yards in the air, threw 1 touchdown and rushed for another. He went his second game in a row without throwing an interception.

The Ravens defeated the Raiders 29-10 and improved to 4-3.

In what would be their highest-scoring game on the road since a 41-9 victory over the Cleveland Browns in 1999, the Ravens once again visited their divisional rivals.

This would be the defining moment of multiple rookie careers. 

There was 5:13 left in the third quarter and the Browns had opened the second half with touchdowns on their first two drives.

An incompletion and a six-yard sack put the Ravens in a tough spot, 3rd and 16 at their own 15. Normally, a rookie would respond badly to such a position.  A rookie would either force a throw and cost his team the game or be pressured into throwing the ball away.

Not Joe Flacco though. 

In a pass that appeared to give the Ravens new life, Flacco completed a 20-yard strike to wide receiver Derrick Mason.  Going mostly with the no-huddle offense, Flacco would then lead his team 79 yards down the field. A quick one-yard dash into the endzone by Le'Ron McClain put the Ravens within a touchdown of tying the game.

The 11-play drive sparked the Ravens to score 24 unanswered points and ultimately the victory.

Flacco finished the game 17-of-29 for 248 yards and had his first 2-touchdown pass game.  He went his third straight game without an interception. It was safe to say that this was Flacco's breakout game, where he proved he was the leader of this new offense.

In 76 straight pass attempts, Flacco hasn't thrown an interception.  Over his last three starts, Flacco has completed 60 percent of his passes for 620 yards and his QB rating stands at 103.9.

Fellow rookie Ray Rice also had a breakout game, earning a season high 154 yards on 21 carries.  That included a 60-yard dash that would set up a Matt Stover field goal.

Baltimore won the game 37-27 and rookie head coach John Harbaugh scored his first three game win streak.

He had this to say about his rookies:

"When they get drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, we expect them to play like that.  Are we surprised? No."

The Raven offense is now ranked 19th in points per game and yards per game, 25th in passing yards and fourth in rushing.

Keep an eye on the careers of Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and John Harbaugh, they may very well be destined for greatness.