BALTIMORE - Joe Flacco looked plenty loose as he warmed up, occasionally glancing over his shoulder at a wall of cameras. Players were smiling. Terrell Suggs even sang a song for news crews before he took the field.
No matter what happened behind closed doors Thursday at the Ravens' training facility, players and coaches, at least while in front of cameras, seemed relaxed and ready for Saturday's AFC Championship against the Patriots.
It shouldn't be any surprise. It's something Ray Lewis spoke about earlier in the week . The team has been in the same game with the same team in the past. There's no reason to stress – just focus on execution.
The way it began seemed to be similar to the way it ended.
Music shook the doors to the practice field as the workout came to a close. Players played corn hole in the locker room. Suggs? The Dark Knight Rises could be heard playing through a monitor and sound system in his locker.
Why the relaxed feel?
Maybe it's because things are like Lewis said. The team is really beginning to "gel."
After practice Thursday, offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell admitted the team has gotten better. Through the season, they have found a way to execute on offense more consistently. While he touted Flacco's improvement through each game, he said it really is something that has happened with many.
An example was the play against Denver that kept the game alive – a 70-yard touchdown pass thrown from Flacco to Jacoby Jones to send the game into overtime. Caldwell says the play didn't go as intended, but the end result was something to celebrate.
""There was a lot going on in that play," Caldwell said. "Very, very good pass protection led to a great throw down the field. …They improvised a little bit, and that's what great players do."
Caldwell said more of that type of execution and decision-making is needed on offense. He said it's a testament of the team's hard work and the quarterback's passion.
"These guys are getting better all the time."
As far as Flacco, Caldwell said his improvement through the course of the season comes from his work ethic.
"He spends a lot of time studying his craft," Caldwell said.
How do the Ravens get to the Super Bowl? Caldwell will tell you it's by keeping with their normal plan and being able to mix things up with the run, short passes and deep tosses.
"We go in with the same mindset, no matter who we are facing," he said. "Our job is to score points, regardless who we are playing."
The Ravens play the Patriots Sunday at 6:30 p.m. for the AFC Championship. The winner will go to the Super Bowl in New Orleans.