Ravens' no-huddle heating up

OWINGS MILLS -- The football was snapped in a hurry as the Baltimore Ravens orchestrated their no-huddle offense, an accelerated approach that was of paramount importance in a victory over the Miami Dolphins. In a 27-13 win that snapped a three-game losing streak, rookie quarterback Joe Flacco operated at a faster tempo.

He lined up often in the shotgun formation,and the Ravens engineered four scoring drives.

That included a crisp two-minute drill capped by Flacco delivering an 11-yard strike to wide receiver Derrick Mason for a touchdown with 30 seconds remaining before halftime.

The shotgun and the no-huddle represent familiar territory for Flacco, who was exposed to that combination regularly at the University of Delaware.

The Dolphins had trouble substituting personnel to make adjustments.

"I think Joe likes to run it," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of the no-huddle. "I don't know if he prefers it over the huddle or not, but I think it puts defenses in a tough spot. It makes those guys operate maybe a little bit more simply at times, and that's an advantage to the offense.

"We've had some success in it, and other times we haven't. But it's been effective so far, and Joe seems comfortable with it."

Flacco appeared more decisive and confident against the Dolphins, who entered the game ranked 29th in pass defense.

And the first-round draft pick took advantage of their lack of sound coverage by completing 17 of 23 passes for 232 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a 120.2 quarterback rating. He was sacked three times, but never seemed to get rattled.

"It felt good compared to last week," tight end Todd Heap said. "We improved a lot of things offensively. We were able to sustain some drives, which was good to see.

"It seemed like we were struggling the last few games. So to be able to do that, to sustain some drives, take some time off the clock and put points on the board, it felt good as an offense."

While Flacco botched a handoff and was nearly intercepted one play prior to his touchdown to Mason when cornerback Will Allen failed to catch a pass thrown directly at him when Mason drifted away from his pattern area, he had a strong game overall. Especially one week after a three-interception outing in a 31-3 blowout loss against the Indianapolis Colts.

"It was a bounce-back game for us as a team," Flacco said. "You get in the groove of the game. I felt good from the first play out there and we grew in confidence as a team."

To open the third quarter, the Ravens exclusively stayed in the no-huddle on a 13-play, 67-yard drive where Matt Stover kicked a 28-yard field goal. It lasted six minutes, 28 seconds with eight runs for 50 yards.

Running back Willis McGahee rushed for 105 yards and a five-yard insurance touchdown in the fourth quarter to complete the Ravens' scoring.

"Is the running game where we want it? I think it was good last week," Harbaugh said. "As we all know, one week to the next doesn't guaranteed anything. I'm sure Oakland is going to be cranked up to stop that running game, so we've got to find a way to run it against them and to throw it and to run the screen pass and to protect the quarterback and all the things we have to do."

For the season, Flacco has completed 107 of 167 passes (64.1 percent) for 1,076 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions for a 68.8 quarterback rating.

Although he has struggled with turnovers, Flacco has remained poised through his growing pains. He completed passes to six different targets Sunday, averaging 13.6 yards per completion.

The Ravens lack a legitimate big-play threat outside, rarely throw deep and aren't regularly involving Heap, but are beginning to employ more screen passes and may open up the offense if Flacco continues to progress.

At this stage of Flacco's development, the Ravens and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron are becoming more at ease with allowing him more latitude to run the offense.

"I'm not sure how much we haven't given him," Harbaugh said. "We've got a certain two-minute offense that's part of our system, and he's got the whole package. Now, how Cam calls plays in situations whether he might be thinking, 'You know what? I'm going to hold back in my play-calling here a little bit,' I can't say for sure.

"I don't have the feeling that we're holding back or cutting things down too much for Joe. He's got to be able to run our offense for us to have the best chance to win and we need to get everybody involved. We've got some guys running around out there that we think can make plays, and it's really Joe's job to get those guys in the mix."


OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal on whether cornerback Chris McAlister would regain his starting job after being benched against the Miami Dolphins for unspecified reasons, but he chided the three-time Pro Bowl selection for violating the team dress code for road trips.

McAlister was wearing a T-shirt and shorts in the lobby of the team hotel prior to kickoff Sunday morning while his teammates were dressed in suits. During Harbaugh's weekly radio program, a fan called it embarrassing and referenced McAlister's past violations of team rules, including breaking curfew and skipping a team meeting prior to a 2003 road game against the San Diego Chargers.

"As far as the dress for the bus, it was wrong," Harbaugh said Tuesday night. "It was a mistake. It's been addressed and we're moving forward. We've got a discipline policy in place. We don't talk about things in the past.

"Everything is addressed, whether it's late for a meeting, late for a practice. We've got a number of players with issues. Sometimes, they oversleep. Sometimes, things happen and there's a fine system."

McAlister only appeared in a handful of snaps against the Dolphins as Frank Walker started ahead of him.

Harbaugh also addressed how McAlister was accompanied by three young women in the lobby of the hotel Sunday morning.

"As far as the girls in the lobby, I never saw them, but we set our travel up very tight," Harbaugh said. "We've got a tight curfew. By 11 o'clock, they're in their rooms and they aren't coming out of their rooms. When we check into the hotel, those floors are locked down.

"We've got police officers at every elevator and exit. We want our guys to be secure, safe and focused. From what I understand, the friends of his came over, picked up three tickets and went to the football game. They met in the lobby."

Harbaugh declined to elaborate on whether McAlister would line up with the NFL's second-ranked defense Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

"He was playing last week," Harbaugh said. "The term, 'benching,' I'm not sure what that means. He was in our packages last week. To me, it's very obvious and clear-cut.

"You put the best 11 players out there for the package. We put the players out there we think are going to play best in the coverages we're going to play."

INJURY REPORT: Offensive tackle Adam Terry underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a slightly torn lateral meniscus in his right knee. He's expected to be out two to three weeks.

"They cleaned it up a little bit," Harbaugh said.

Meanwhile, strong safety Dawan Landry (spinal cord concussion) is unlikely to play this week, but could return next week.

"When you're dealing with a neck, you want to make sure it's 100 percent," Harbaugh said.

Cornerback Samari Rolle (neck surgery) has a better chance of playing this week than Landry, according to Harbaugh.

"We're hopeful, but we don't want them out there unless they're totally safe," Harbaugh said.

SUGGS HONORED: Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after returning an interception 44 yards for a touchdown and recording nine tackles and a sack against the Dolphins.

Suggs' touchdown is the first of his NFL career. He leads the team with four sacks and ranks second in tackles to middle linebacker Ray Lewis with 46 tackles.

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