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Ravens set to soar after Flacco challenged Mornhinweg

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Four years ago, the Baltimore Ravens made an in-season change at offensive coordinator, squeaked into the playoffs and walked away with the Lombardi Trophy.

Can they pull off a similar feat this season?

No one doubts a smashmouth Baltimore defense that ranks No. 1 in total yards per game, rushing yards per game and third-down percentage. No one doubts Justin Tucker's ultra-reliable leg as a secret weapon inside the 50-yard line.

The concern has been an imbalanced offense, overly reliant upon a quarterback who just snapped a 10-game streak without a passer rating over 100.

The Ravens' pass-heavy, dink-and-dunk offense cost Marc Trestman his job in early October. Stuck with an injury-ravaged offensive line over the next six weeks, new coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's play-calling inspired little confidence -- or change in production.

It wasn't until a Week 13 meeting in which a frustrated Flacco accused Mornhinweg of getting "conservative" that the floodgates finally opened against an overwhelmed Dolphins defense last week.

The Ravens responded with 496 yards, their highest total since Week 16 of the 2012 Super Bowl season. Exploiting Miami's linebackers in coverage, a locked-in Flacco completed 27 first-half passes -- more than any quarterback has completed in the opening half since 2007. The onslaught would have resulted in a career-best passing day for Flacco had coach John Harbaugh not pulled him with a cushy 31-6 lead early in the fourth quarter.

"One thing Marty has never been accused of is being conservative. That's not a label he takes too kindly to, as Joe can probably attest," Harbaugh said after the game, via The Baltimore Sun. "... I thought Marty just had a phenomenal game."

Was this a one-game aberration or the new norm?

Several Ravens players assured NFL Network's Mike Garafolo prior to breakout game that Flacco would step up when the games "start to matter a little more." As much as Flacco had struggled to that point, his track record suggests one of the best cold-weather quarterbacks in the league.

With rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley and perennial All Pro guard Marshal Yanda finally healthy, the offensive line is once again among the league's most dependable. Second-year receiver Breshad Perriman has been inches away from several big plays over the past few weeks. Veteran wideouts Steve Smith and Mike Wallace are exceeding expectations. The next step is to commit to a ground attack that has been abandoned throughout the season.

As former Baltimore coach and current NFL Network analyst Brian Billick pointed out, players refer to December as the "dash for the cash" month.

The Ravens are getting healthy and hitting their stride just in time for the stretch run. Their bid for the postseason starts Monday night in a clash of the AFC titans with the New England Patriots.

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