The Baltimore Ravens offense is perfectly content to bore the NFL en route to the Super Bowl, and they hope to do that again this weekend in Foxboro.
Not once during their win over the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon did the Ravens turn the ball over or draw a penalty. They had ample opportunity, with a 31:30 time of possession and 27 passing attempts from quarterback Joe Flacco, who tied a career high with 12 interceptions this season and had the most lost fumbles in his four NFL seasons this past year.
But a major mistake or gaffe? Didn't happen.
It's not to say that the Ravens played a beautiful game of football or that they embodied the proverbial cliché of "clicking on all cylinders." But simply put, they were effective and efficient in advancing to this Sunday's AFC championship game.
And against the flash and finesse that is the Patriots offense, the Ravens are willing to be plodding and purposeful in order to protect the ball and limit mistakes. Head coach John Harbaugh called it "emotional smarts."
"To me, it's emotional smarts; it's playing smart football. It's understanding when to be aggressive and when not to be," Harbaugh said. "And, basically, it's between the whistles, and the rest of it doesn't matter."
On paper, it'd seem like the Ravens could put up some points on the Patriots on Sunday. After all, New England gave up the second-most yards per game in the NFL this season and its unit has been battered all season long. While many pundits and fans don't think the defense is good enough to give the franchise its fourth Super Bowl title, Harbaugh said that the unit is "good enough to be 14-3. So, it's pretty impressive."
There's a reason why Harbaugh respects a defense that few others do. Underneath the gaudy yardage conceded numbers, the Patriots defense is second in the NFL in interceptions and tied for seventh in fumbles recovered. It is likely going to come down to whether a defense with a propensity to create turnovers can force the issue against an offense known to limit mistakes.
Harbaugh singled out the turnover battle as the key to winning playoff games, and in his even-handed quarterback he has the perfect player to run an offense that holds on to the ball. The Ravens may have rather average offensive numbers across the board, but they are the No. 10 unit in the league in time of possession, a testament to the care which they take in limiting mistakes.
For his rather ordinary numbers, Flacco has drawn some flak from Ravens fans. Even though his team beat the Texans last weekend, his 14-27 for 176 yards and two touchdowns were rather ordinary numbers. That's all right by Harbaugh.
"I can just tell you in this last game, he won, and his quarterback rating was what? Ninety-seven. That's a winning performance, and Joe - I told him last night - I thought he played very, very well," Harbaugh said. "In a lot of situations in this game when he was under duress, he handled himself really well. There were plenty of things he'd like to have back and could have done better, and he'd be the first to tell you that. So, you just try to get better, you try to improve and you try to play winning football, no matter what position you play. And that's what we value around here."
Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer
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