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Dec 31, 2014 12:04 PM

Ravens look to rev offense against Steelers

The Associated Press

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The Ravens' record-setting offense sputtered and stalled before halftime in December, scoring only two touchdowns in eight quarters.

That won't do if Baltimore intends to make a deep postseason run.

"It's like a theme," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "We have to break it."

Despite being outscored 41-20 in the first half, the Ravens won three of their final four games to squeeze into the playoffs. Baltimore's offense produced only seven first-quarter points during that span, a performance hardly befitting the highest-scoring team in franchise history.

"It's something we need to address and fix and make sure it doesn't happen," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "But I think the biggest thing is just to go out there and be aggressive and do the things that we do well and make the plays when they're presented to us."

Of Baltimore's 30 first-half possessions in December, 14 ended with punts and four with turnovers. There was also a missed field goal, and once the Ravens turned the ball over on downs.

The last thing the Ravens need is another early lockdown by their offense Saturday night during their wild-card game at Pittsburgh.

"You don't want to put yourself in a hole. You have to play better," receiver Steve Smith said. "But at the same time, it's the playoffs. Anything happens, and everything happens. We just have to play ball, and we have to play better, and we have to make more plays than them. And hopefully, at the end of the game, we have more on the scoreboard than they do."

Overall, it's been a great year for Baltimore's offense under first-year coordinator Gary Kubiak. The Ravens scored 409 points, ranking eighth in the NFL with a 25.6 average, and yielded only 19 sacks compared with 48 last year.

Flacco set career marks in yards passing (3,986) and touchdown passes (27). He produced comeback wins over Cleveland, Jacksonville and Miami in December but clearly would prefer not to work from behind against the Steelers.

"The biggest thing is just moving the ball and not giving them a lot of third-down chances to really get up and get going early on in the game," Flacco said. "We've probably hurt ourselves more so than anything with false starts and little things like that. And when you do that especially on the road you give their crowd a good chance to get into it and really get fired up. A three-and-out definitely energizes them, and usually it carries over to the next series. "

He speaks from experience. On Dec. 21 in Houston, the Ravens went three-and-out on four of their first five series, fell behind 16-0 at halftime and couldn't climb out of the hole.

"The biggest thing we have to do is move the ball early and get into the flow of the game," Flacco said.

The Ravens were limited to only three points over the first three quarters against Cleveland last Sunday before pulling out a win with 17 points over the final 15 minutes. Sure, they might be able to do the same thing against the Steelers, but counting on that is dangerous.

"Slow starts, third downs, touchdowns in the red zone especially when you play Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh those are things you really need to do well," coach John Harbaugh said. "We need to do better at those things if we expect to come out of there with a victory."


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