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John Harbaugh: Ravens let Joe Flacco 'cut it loose'

The Baltimore Ravens weren't afraid to lean on quarterback Joe Flacco's arm in Sunday's 28-13 AFC Championship Game win over the New England Patriots.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh talked afterward about letting his quarterback "cut it loose" in the second half, a scenario sweetened by injuries to New England's secondary.

"We were running the ball with some effectiveness (in the first half), but they were doing a good job on defense. They were stopping us," Harbaugh told David Lefort of ESPNBoston.com. "They were very physical up front. ... Their front seven is as good as any in football and we had to get away from that. We had to get away from challenging them and give Joe a chance to make some plays."

Patriots starting cornerback Aqib Talib left with a thigh injury after New England's second defensive series, and Baltimore pounced. Lefort points out that the Ravens went with three-receiver sets on 79.5 percent of Flacco's dropbacks, their third-highest percentage of the season. Chalk that up to offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell's aggressive play-calling. The Ravens rarely used three-wideout sets under fired coordinator Cam Cameron.

This edgier Baltimore attack has dared opponents all January. The team is playing with exceptional confidence. Case in point: Ravens players weren't even aware Talib was out of the lineup.

"I didn't even know he went down until the end of the second quarter," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "I was like, 'Where's 31 (Talib) at?' You just go out there and play. You don't really look at who is across from you too much."

And this from running back Ray Rice: "I didn't even know he went down, I'll be honest. We came in at halftime, Coach Caldwell said he was going to keep his foot on the pedal and that's what we did."

These Ravens just forge ahead, almost ignoring the overt roadblocks in their path. Think less. Play more. It's worked so far.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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