Coming off a disastrous Week 1 loss that saw Joe Flacco attempt an outrageous 62 passes against the Bengals, Baltimore's quarterback kept drives alive against the Steelers with a heavy dose of high-percentage, play-action passes that repeatedly caught Pittsburgh's defense off balance. Kubiak's scheme doesn't set the imagination on fire, but -- when it's working -- it does milk the most of Flacco's gifts.
Baltimore remains an imperfect beast -- especially in a Rice-free backfield -- but Thursday brought better rhythm in the passing game and a clock-chewing approach that kept the ball out of Pittsburgh's hands down the stretch.
Ravens players can't be asked to solve the problems swirling around this organization off the field. Their job is clear-cut and far less vague -- and they handled Thursday night's task with poise.
We discussed this and previewed the rest of Week 2 in the latest Around the NFL Podcast. Here's what else you need to know from Thursday night's action:
- Flacco was precise out of the gate, completing his first eight passes to five separate targets. He mowed through the first-half clock with two straight scoring drives that featured plenty of Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett on the ground with a smattering of safe throws from Flacco. Gregg Rosenthal charted the Ravens quarterback and didn't see him toss a single poor pass in the first half.
- The Steelers didn't employ their no-huddle offense until deep into the second quarter. It's a mystery why they don't use it more, as it helped spring Le'Veon Bell for his biggest run of the night, a pretty 21-yard jaunt down the sideline. One play later, Big Ben hit Bell on a shovel pass to the Baltimore 14 to set up an eventual Steelers field goal. The two plays showed off Bell's versatility as a lighter, faster runner this season -- and a true threat in the pass game. He's more fluid getting to the edge and dodging would-be tacklers, one reason he came into Thursday as the NFL's most elusive back, per Pro Football Focus. Our man-crush is fully intact.
- Steve Smith has my vote for the offseason's top free-agent signing. Capably filling the void left by Anquan Boldin, the former Carolina Panther came into the game leading the NFL with 15 targets after Week 1. Coming off his 118-yard showing in the season opener, Smith's 10 targets were more than double the next closest Raven. He looks reborn in this offense.
- Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier remains a Rookie of the Year candidate, but he's enduring natural growing pains. We saw him react well to the run and show his speed in pass coverage, but the first-rounder also got smoked on a Flacco pass to Dennis Pitta. Of the two, Ravens rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley made a bigger impact with his earth-shaking, fumble-causing hit of Steelers tight end Heath Miller.
- After his vanishing act during the Bengals game, Elvis Dumervil regained his form in Week 2. Looking like he knew the snap count, the Ravens edge rusher put a multicolored clown suit on Steelers tackle Marcus Gilbert to dial up a seven-yard sack of Roethlisberger. With a pair of sacks and three quarterback hits on Big Ben, Baltimore's pass rush is off life support.
- The Ravens' banged-up secondary erased Antonio Brown for most of the second half. Unable to find his top wideout, Roethlisberger was forced into an unusual number of wayward throws down the stretch. We saw at least three ill-conceived passes that ended drives. It wasn't a clean night for the veteran arm.