Clash of the No. 1's

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When something hurtles into a wall, it either bounces off or breaks through, right?

That's what will be tested this weekend in a battle between the Ravens' top-ranked run defense and the New York Giants' No. 1 rushing offense.

Giants Stadium will feature a backyard brawl where the uglier it gets, the more intrigue and suspense is generated.

Baltimore has had great success stopping the run this year. The Ravens are only allowing 65.4 ground yards per game. In fact, no opponent has gone over 76 net rushing yards all season and only one rushing touchdown has slipped through their front.

And perhaps most importantly, the Ravens are looking to continue a league-high streak of 28 consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard runner.

"That's what we take pride in as a defense," said defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. "We're definitely going to work hard this week to keep that 100-yard rushing streak up. We just have to do what we always do."

The Giants present the fiercest challenge to those gaudy numbers to date.

New York averages 168.9 yards on the ground each week, and has already rushed for 200 or more yards four times, including a high of 254 against the Seattle Seahawks.

Utilizing a three-pronged attack, the Giants are led by 6-foot-4, 264-pound running back Brandon Jacobs, who owns 806 yards and a whopping nine touchdowns on 153 carries. The league's fourth-leading rusher is known for his unlikely combination of speed and size that can erase would-be tacklers.

"There are not many backs of that size in the NFL, much less college," defensive tackle Trevor Pryce said, who will play a big role in containing Jacobs at the line of scrimmage. "He presents a unique challenge. That is the truth. If he gets to your DBs, it's lights out. It's bad. So our job is, hopefully, to stop him from getting there."

The onslaught does not stop with Jacobs, however. Derrick Ward owns 89 attempts for 490 yards and one score, while Ahmad Bradshaw has toted the ball 36 times for 295 yards and a touchdown.

Combined, all three backs average 5.3 yards per carry, as opposed to the Ravens' league-low average of 2.9 yards allowed per attempt.

"One thing you can't take away from them is that they're doing a great job with their offense and really letting all the backs really establish their mentality," said linebacker Ray Lewis, who paces Baltimore with 92 tackles. "They like to run the ball; we like to stop it. What the bottom line is, football is going to be football."

Recent history could point to the Ravens' favor. The most an opposing ground attack has gained on Baltimore this year was 76 net yards by the Indianapolis Colts.

Over the last two seasons, the Ravens have squared off against the No. 1 rushing team twice. The Pittsburgh Steelers went into a 2007 matchup (Nov. 5) totaling 159.1 yards per game, but left with only 90. The Atlanta Falcons only got 104 yards in 2006 (Nov. 19) from a unit that had been racking up 198.9 yards each week.

Going back even further, Baltimore has only let an NFL-low 18 backs hit the century mark since defensive coordinator Rex Ryan joined the team in 1999 (then as a defensive line coach).

So how have the Ravens shut down rival runners for so long?

"It comes from the fact that we can do it," Pryce stated. "That tradition continues. That's the thing that our coaches harp on: 'If you want to play fun football, you have to do the dirty work first and stop the run. If you guys want to get after the quarterback, [get] interceptions and all that type of thing, you have to stop the run.'"

Whether it is because they are chasing incentives or simply because of pride, the Ravens go into every game looking to uphold their stingy disposition, no matter who lines up across from them.

"We've shown we can stop it for 10 years," Ryan said with a smile. "They've got three good backs, and their offensive line does a nice job. But hey, we'll see what happens."

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