For Ravens, third down's the charm

For Ravens, third down's the charm
December 23, 2012, 9:00 pm
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Raven's Insider, J. Michael on the 'new and improved' offense

It became clear right away against the Giants on Sunday that the Ravens’ offense would be different from the one that slumbered through their third straight loss last week.

A week going the first 20 minutes without a first down in a 34-17 loss to Denver, the Ravens marched 73 yards for a touchdown the first time they had the ball and rolled from there to a 33-14 win over the Giants on Sunday.

Perhaps most telling: The Ravens were 4-for-4 on third downs on that opening drive, setting the tone for their offense all day. The Ravens, who were 1-for-12 on third down last week against Denver, were 6-for-8 on third down in the first half against the Giants as they rolled to a 24-7 lead.

Move the chains, move the ball, score points. It’s a pretty simple formula when it works, and for Joe Flacco and the Ravens, it was definitely working in Jim Caldwell’s second game as offensive coordinator.

On their first third down, a third-and-1 from the Ravens’ 36-yard line, Ray Rice ran left for 14 yards.

“We always talk about just getting that first first down,” Rice said. “Just getting that first first down really felt good.”

Later in that drive, facing third-and-5, Flacco hit backup running back Anthony Allen for a 5-yard gain. Flacco connected with Jacoby Jones for 7 yards on third-and-5, and then hit Torrey Smith for a touchdown on third-and-goal. Move the chains, move the ball, score points.

“We were better on first and second down, which helped us on third down,” tight end Dennis Pitta said.

Even when that didn’t wasn’t true, the Ravens found a way to move the chains. They twice converted on third-and-19, including a 36-yard catch by Pitta.

On the Ravens final series of the first half, Flacco again connected with Boldin, this time for 3 yards on third-and 2. Three plays later, Flacco hit Rice for a 27-yard touchdown pass and a 24-7 lead.

The Ravens entered the game ranked 23rd in third-down conversion percentage at .354, but were 11-for-18 on Sunday (.611).

“We got started,” coach John Harbaugh said. “If we get started, we feel like we can build on that. It’s hard to get going if you can’t get started.”