Ravens ground game soars under Caldwell

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The Ravens are headed to the second Super Bowl in franchise history, and the switch to Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator was one of the keys.Following a Week 14 loss to the Washington Redskins, the Baltimore Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell.

It's a move that appears to have paid off, as the offense averaged 30 points per game during a playoff run that pushed the Ravens to New Orleans for the franchise's second Super Bowl.

Power Football

The biggest change for the Ravens has been an emphasis on the running game under Caldwell. In its first 13 games, Baltimore ran 40 percent of the time, right at the league average.

During the last three weeks of the regular season and the playoffs, the Ravens have run 49 percent of the time.

The contrast has been even greater on first down. The Ravens have used designed rushes on 61 percent of their first down plays under Caldwell, compared to less than half the time under Cameron this season.

Ravens Rushing By Offensive Coordinator
This Season (Including Playoffs)

The overall impact has been an increase of 10 carries and 46.5 yards per game on the ground. The new emphasis hasn’t limited Baltimore’s passing attack. The Ravens threw for 236 yards per game before the change and have averaged 251 passing yards per game in their last six games.

The biggest beneficiary of the change has been rookie Bernard Pierce. In Caldwell’s six games, he has been on the field for almost a third of Baltimore’s snaps. In the first 13 games, he was on the field 17 percent of the time.

In three weeks spanning the end of the regular season and Wild Card round, he ran for 315 yards and topped the 100-yard mark twice. That topped the 300 yards he ran for in 13 weeks under Cameron.

Taking the Pressure Off Flacco

Forcing the opposition to focus on the Ravens’ rushing attack has helped the passing game. After throwing one interception in Caldwell’s first game, Joe Flacco has 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last five games. He had 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions under Cameron.

Under Caldwell, Flacco is averaging 9.1 yards per attempt and has thrown eight touchdowns without an interception when facing four or fewer rushers. That’s nearly two more yards per attempt than under Cameron, when he had 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Flacco ranks sixth in the league with an 83.7 Total QBR against four or fewer rushers over his last six games. He posted a 60.8 QBR in those situations during the first 13 games of the season, ranking 20th.

Joe Flacco Passing 21+ Yards Downfield
This Season (Including Playoffs)

This seems to have opened up a new dimension to the Ravens passing attack -- the deep ball. Under Cameron, he completed just over a third of his passes more than 20 yards downfield. That number is above 50 percent under Caldwell.

Flacco’s average target depth has been 12.4 yards downfield this postseason, nearly three yards higher than his regular season average of 9.5 yards. This season, the two games he has thrown for the longest average pass depth have come in the last two playoff games.