John Harbaugh said last week that he would like to see his offense push the ball downfield a little more and start picking up some yardage in chunks.
The Ravens didn't waste any time following their head coach's wishes, as quarterback Joe Flacco completed nine passes of at least 15 yards in yesterday's 37-13 win over the Panthers.
Baltimore was able to stretch the field vertically right out of the gate, as Flacco hit T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a 56-yard touchdown pass on the Ravens' second offensive snap of the game.
Houshmandzadeh, who wouldn't exactly be called a speedster, was somehow able to get a good two or three steps behind the Carolina secondary on a skinny post route, and Flacco hit him in stride for the TD.
That play was the Ravens' only pass of over 30 yards on the afternoon, but they still used deep routes down the field to their advantage.
Flacco and company were able to pick up chunks of yardage through the intermediate passing game largely because they continued to stretch the field, which forced the safeties to provide help deep, opening things up underneath.
Check out this 29-yard pitch and catch from Flacco to tight end Todd Heap. Wide receivers Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin both pushed the Panthers' defensive backs deep, which opened up space for Heap on a crossing route.
Because Mason completely cleared out the right side of the field on what looked like either a go-route or a post-corner, Heap had the sideline wide open and picked up an extra 17 yards after the catch.
Heap also had a big reception of 26 yards earlier in the game, and Flacco was able to hit Houshmandzadeh and Derrick Mason on the outside for nice gainers as well.
Wide receiver Donte' Stallworth saw his most extensive playing time of the season, and while he only made one catch on the day for 15 yards, his speed kept the Carolina defensive backs honest.
They had to respect his big play ability, which cleared space for the Ravens' other receivers to work.
That's why even if the Ravens don't connect on 50 and 60-yard gains down the field, they need to continue to run those routes with Stallworth and their other receivers. Doing so will stop defenses from being able to bring an extra safety into the box to stop the run or spy Ray Rice in the passing game.
The offensive line gave Flacco time to look down the field yesterday, and he was successful when given opportunities against Carolina.