Ravens raise expectations for offense

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
8:30
AM ET
BALTIMORE -- As far as first impressions go, it couldn't have gone any better for Gary Kubiak and the Baltimore Ravens' new offense in the 23-3 preseason win over the San Francisco 49ers.

On the opening drive, the Ravens marched 80 yards on 10 plays, reaching the end zone as well as making it clear that this offense is very different from last year's. In the only series of the game for the starters, the offense was precise, unpredictable and balanced under Kubiak.

The Ravens ran the ball five times and threw it five times. There was a screen pass to tight end Dennis Pitta and a long throw to fullback Kyle Juszczyk down the seam -- two plays not in the playbook last year. And six different players touched the ball.

Expectations have certainly been heightened for an offense that ranked No. 29 in total yards last season, even though the Ravens would like to temper them.

"Don't read too much into it," coach John Harbaugh said. "We've got lots of work to do."

Do you remember when last year's offense couldn't run the ball? Ray Rice had runs of 6, 5 and 6 yards on his three carries, a significant improvement for a back who averaged a career-worst 3.1 yards per carry last year. The Ravens finished with 237 yards rushing for the game, which would've been a three-week total last year.

Do you remember when quarterback Joe Flacco always started slow? Last season, Flacco had the eighth-worst passer rating (73.0) in the first quarter. On Thursday night, he completed 4 of 5 passes for 52 yards and a 110.0 passer rating.

The Ravens, though, pointed out that they moved the ball against a 49ers defense not close to being at full strength. San Francisco was without seven starters: linebackers Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman; linemen Glenn Dorsey, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald; and cornerback Tramaine Brock.

"You can get excited by the way we executed on that drive," Rice said. "But they had key pieces to that defense missing as well."

To put the start into perspective, the Ravens scored a touchdown on just two opening drives last season.

"You never know how it's going to go, but you anticipate and you expect yourself to go out there and have a good drive," Flacco said. "You have a good idea of what plays you're going to run, and you envision a good outcome. So, it kind of went on schedule."

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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