Ravens offense passes test in dress rehearsal

Who are the real Baltimore Ravens?

Are they the ones who showed off a high-powered offense that featured far more passes than runs on Thursday night?

For the second week in a row, the Ravens threw, threw and threw some more. In last Friday's loss to Detroit, the Ravens ran just 22 times and threw 54 times. On Thursday, they ran just eight times in the first half.

Conventional NFL wisdom is that the third preseason game is the most accurate gauge for the regular season. Ravens fans hope that's true.

The second preseason home game had a much more lively tempo and was helped enormously by fewer penalties called by the replacement officials. Six days before, there were 20 called - 13 in the first half alone. The league, obviously embarrassed by the debacle, which was televised nationally by Fox, sent Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, to oversee. Things went smoother for the officials and the Ravens.

"We ran a lot of plays tonight," Joe Flacco said. "We wore the defense out."

Last season, the Ravens suffered a devastating defeat on a Monday night in Jacksonville when the offense could do nothing. The Jaguars won in spite of rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

A year later, Jacksonville replaced its longtime coach, onetime Ravens assistant Jack Del Rio, with Mike Mularkey, and is struggling without premier running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who's holding out.

The Jaguars' defense was horrible, and this game bore no resemblance to last season's. Baltimore showed off a diversified passing attack that featured lots of no huddles and Flacco throwing to nine receivers in the first half alone. There were no long completions, just lots of short and medium snappy stuff.

"Sometimes it just works out that way," Flacco said. "When you're working at a quick tempo, you're just calling plays, calling plays. ...They throw a defense at you, you react."

Torrey Smith was the prime beneficiary, catching eight balls for 103 yards.

"Everyone touched the ball," Smith said. "Joe spread the ball around well."

The Ravens seemingly moved at will on the Jaguars with Flacco throwing for 194 yards in the first half.

"If this was a regular season game, we would have came out feeling pretty good about it," Flacco said.

Even though coach John Harbaugh suggested that Flacco could play as many as three full quarters, the offense had accomplished enough by the middle of the third quarter that the starting quarterback was done, probably until Sept. 10.

Starters play little, if at all, in the final preseason game, and when the Ravens visit St. Louis next Thursday, Flacco will probably just watch Tyrod Taylor, Curtis Painter and Chester Stewart play against the Rams.

The crowd at M&T Bank Stadium enjoyed the show, especially when Ray Rice ran for 28 yards early in the first quarter.

Rice had little action, running twice and catching one pass. He'll have a much bigger role once the season begins.

When the Ravens host Cincinnati on Sept. 10, the stands will be full of enthusiastic fans. For a Monday night game, the atmosphere will be much more electric.

Rice will run more, Flacco will pass less. He relished running the no-huddle.

Baltimore will likely have a much harder time against the Bengals, who were a playoff team last season. It's highly unlikely they'll match the five drives of 80 yards or more and the team preseason record 48 points they put up. Flacco thinks the no-huddle will help tremendously.

"If we're fortunate enough to play really well and make the playoffs, we'll hit the playoffs going full speed instead of dying off," Flacco said.

On a team with relatively few positions up for grabs and free of controversy, this dress rehearsal went quite well.

"That's our final tune-up game," Smith said. "We did all right."

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