OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- For those who think it's unlikely that the Baltimore Ravens will reach the Super Bowl this season, consider this: How many thought the Ravens would have scored more points than the Pittsburgh Steelers entering the final two weeks of the regular season?
The Ravens have surprisingly become the highest-scoring team in the AFC in the second half of the season, after being touchdown-challenged at the start of it.
In the first seven weeks, Baltimore averaged 18.6 points per game, which ranked 23rd in the league. Since Week 8, the Ravens are putting up 30.7 points, behind only the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams.
Quarterback Joe Flacco thinks the offense has found its identity and confidence with each trip to the end zone.
"I don't know if anyone will admit this, but I think we have a better feel for who we are and what we do well," Flacco said. "I think the last handful of weeks we have been definitely pinpointing that and doing some good things with it."
The Ravens are getting into a groove with the right balance of running the ball to set up play-action passes for big plays downfield. The evolution has included Alex Collins' ascension to the No. 1 running back role, continuity along the offensive line (six out of seven weeks with same starters) and Flacco's improved health from an early-season back injury.
The other key is the quality of defenses Baltimore has had to face. In the first seven weeks, the Ravens played against four top-10 defenses. Since Week 8, they went against four defenses ranked in the bottom half of the league, including three that were 25th or worse.
On Saturday, Baltimore will line up against a Colts defense that ranks 30th.
"We were playing some of the very best defenses at that time," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "We were a little beat up, so we went into a couple games trying to figure some things out there, and you have to give it to the players. They didn't flinch. They got better every day, and usually good things happen when you do that."
There weren't many signs that Baltimore's offense would find its stride. The Ravens went 10 quarters without scoring an offensive touchdown, and Flacco sounded off twice publicly about the conservative playcalling.
Baltimore has scored more than 21 points in each of its past five games, its longest single-season streak since 2006, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The only time the Ravens have scored more than 21 points in six consecutive games was in 1999, when Tony Banks was the starting quarterback in Brian Billick's first season in Baltimore.
"Once you kind of get going and you give guys the confidence, the freedom and the ability to do some of the things we have been doing, things kind of take off from there," Flacco said. "You can definitely tell when we are on the field that we are a confident group and we are playing together and having a lot of fun, and all of that stuff helps and goes a long way."
Injuries played a part in derailing the offense early in the season. Baltimore lost tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and guards Marshal Yanda (ankle) and Alex Lewis (shoulder), which caused some transition.
At this point, the Ravens have scored 345 points this season, more than a Steelers offense (344) that has six Pro Bowl players this season (quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown, running back Le'Veon Bell, tackle Alejandro Villanueva, guard David DeCastro and center Maurkice Pouncey).
"It just takes a while to get everybody meshing," wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "You just have to believe in yourself. If you have confidence, in your training, your coaching and the things you do all the time, you're going to be fine no matter what. It's a game of waves. Sometimes you're going to be up, sometimes you're going to be down, but you just have to be you and stay the course -- no matter what it is."