Ravens staying balanced on offense

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens' personality and strategy on offense contains more than one flavor, and it's not the strictly vanilla variety. The AFC North leaders have proven that they have the capability to win football games through the air behind quarterback Joe Flacco's strong right arm, or on the ground with a stable of talented running backs headlined by Pro Bowl runner Ray Rice.

With three consecutive victories, the Ravens (4-1) now lead the division after piling up 415 yards of total offense during a 31-17 shellacking of the Denver Broncos.

The Ravens' balance was on full display Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens rushed for a season-high 233 yards as Rice gained a season-high 133 yards and scored two touchdowns, flexing some muscle in the second half. And Flacco passed for 196 yards with the majority produced in the first half to stake the Ravens to a 17-0 lead.

"I like to call in a well-balanced attack," Rice said. "Last year, we were a physical running team. The thing about this season so far is that when we needed to pass the pass, we passed it. When we needed to run the ball, we ran it." The Ravens rank 19th overall in total offense, 14th in rushing and 18th in passing. They've run the football 159 times for 570 yards and six touchdowns.

And they've thrown it 171 times for 1,110 yards and five touchdowns.

So, are the Ravens a smash-mouth running outfit or a high-octane passing attack? "We do have an identity: We're rough, we're tough, we're disciplined, we play hard," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "That's what we're building toward. Run or pass? Who cares? The idea is to be able to do everything you do from one week to the next.

"I' m not sure why everybody wants to say, ‘Hey, your identity is that you're a running team.' That means you're one-dimensional. We don't want to be one-dimensional. We want to have guys we can hand it to, guys that we can throw it to. It gives us a chance to be tough to defend, and that's really the goal."

The Ravens have demonstrated that they can change gears from half to half.

Leading 17-0 during the first half, the Ravens wound up running the ball 29 of 37 times after intermission. Rice gained 85 of his 133 yards on 17 carries in the second half.

And Willis McGahee rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. At halftime, Flacco had completed 8 of 16 passes for 146 yards.

He completed six more throws after the half for a total of just 50 yards. The Ravens managed to win with Rice leading the team with four receptions and star wide receiver Anquan Boldin catching just one pass for eight yards.

"Stats don't mean anything," Rice said. "Our overall goal is to win. I'm just happy to be part of a team that is all about one thing. One play leads to the next, and we all need each other. If I have to take less stats and we're winning, so be it."

Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh acknowledged after the game that his recent string of complaints were painting him in a bad light. He caught two passes and surprised Flacco by not lobbying for more opportunities.

"T.J., man, he's going to tell me he's open every time," Flacco said. "I was surprised one time he came to me and said, 'I think I might have been covered. I just wanted to let you know, good job in whatever you did.' I was like, 'Really?'" For the season, Houshmandzadeh has caught just seven passes for 104 yards.

"I just want to play and win, I said a lot of stuff and I think it came out the wrong way," Houshmandzadeh said. "I just say it the wrong way. It's just dumb. I want to contribute to the win. It doesn't matter if you win. I haven't said that, but that's how I feel."

Boldin enjoyed watching the Ravens grind it out in the second half with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron directing the offense to step on the Broncos' throat.

"We did exactly what we wanted to do," Boldin said. "We were more physical than them. To be a good team, you have to have a killer instinct to put teams away. They knew exactly what we were going to do at the end of the game: line up and run it down their throats. And they couldn't stop it."

The Ravens have a tough game this week, squaring off with the New England Patriots (3-1) following a bye week with coach Bill Belichick having two weeks to prepare.

They'll need their versatility and resolve on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. "I like to say we're a team that's growing," Rice said. "I'd like to say we're a team that's destined, and we're going to control our own dest

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