The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round …
Gus "The Bus" Edwards topped 100 yards for the second straight week and may have claimed the Ravens' lead running back role in the process as Baltimore has found its stride with a ground-and-pound rushing attack.
The undrafted rookie had 118 yards on 23 carries and once again showed his good feet, powerful downhill style and tackle-breaking ability. It's the first time a Ravens running back has topped 100 yards in back-to-back games since Justin Forsett did so in three straight contests in 2014.
"I think Gus has realized that he has a great opportunity, and when you're a young guy, you want to make the most of it," center Matt Skura said. "You want to play as hard and physical as you can."
Running back Alex Collins has started every game this year and 21 straight in the Ravens backfield, but he was inactive Sunday because of a foot injury that has plagued him throughout the season. Collins has averaged 3.6 yards per carry this year and has a season-high of 68 rushing yards in a game.
Collins' injury has opened the door for more Edwards, and the 6-foot-1, 238-pound Rutgers product has driven through it just like his nickname would suggest.
"That's my mindset," Edwards said. "It's my opportunity, and I'm going to make the most of it. That's going to continue to be my mindset."
The Ravens weren't bruising or gashing defenses with the Joe Flacco-Collins air/ground combination. They were last in the NFL in yards per carry. But the Lamar Jackson-Edwards combination has turned the Ravens into an effective ground-and-pound offense that's eating up clock, churning out yardage and keeping the opponent off the field. The offensive linemen love it, and so does the defense because it keeps them fresher.
"In a way, it reminded me of college when we used to play Air Force all the time," Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. "They are going to run the ball as much as they can and keep you off the field. They will not throw the ball 50 times and give you a lot of possessions. Their job is to kill the clock."
The Ravens' offense is doing more than just killing clock. When teams took away the big-play threat of wide receiver John Brown, Baltimore's passing offense took on a more grind-it-out approach, but didn't have a run game to lean on.
The past two games, the Ravens have been more balanced with Edwards/Jackson running to move the chains and have perhaps even more of a big-play threat. Jackson hit Mark Andrews with a 74-yard pass and ripped off a 39-yard run.
While Jackson has the ankle-breaking wiggle, Edwards has provided the punch. Collins is also a hard runner, but he's 30 pounds lighter than Edwards. Harbaugh agreed that Edwards has brought another level of physicality to the Ravens' run game.
"Big, strong back. I love the way he runs," fellow Ravens running back Ty Montgomery said. "He gets vertical. He's so strong, he makes running through arm tackles look easy. Sometimes it's not even arm tackles – he's just running through guys. It's pretty fun to watch."
Now the big question is whether the Ravens will go back to Flacco or stick with Jackson, and how that will impact Baltimore's rushing attack. Can Edwards still find room if Flacco is the one handing the ball off to him? He said he's hardly practice with the veteran quarterback.
"I think you've got to give credit to everybody involved in the thing," Harbaugh said. "[The offense with Jackson] definitely takes a defender out of the equation. That's the beauty of the offense. But you should never take credit away from the players who are executing the plays."