If the Ravens could have a do-over, they would want their running backs to get more touches than they did in their playoff game.
Mark Ingram II got just six carries, which was a season low. Gus Edwards had three carries, which tied a season low. Those were two of the most surprising statistics from the 28-12 divisional loss to the Tennessee Titans that knocked Baltimore out of the playoffs.
Baltimore set an NFL record for rushing yards during the regular season, but in the playoff opener, the running backs didn't get much of a chance to run. It has been a talking point since the defeat, and during his end-of the-season press conference Friday, Head Coach John Harbaugh said that falling behind 21-6 midway through the third quarter contributed to the low production from the running game.
"We were balanced up until end of the third quarter," Harbaugh said. "We were balanced at halftime pretty much. I think we might've had seven runs and six passes in the third quarter. Now we're down 21-6, the dynamic changes. We shifted gears at that point and time. We knew we had to score points. They weren't exactly giving us the ball back right away. That's a team that controls the clock. I had to consider how many possessions we were going to have. The decision was made to open it up and let's try to go win the game."
On their opening drive, the Ravens called four runs and three passes, before the drive ended with Lamar Jackson throwing an interception. On their second drive, the Ravens called four runs and two passes – the drive ending with Jackson being stopped on fourth-and-1.
Tennessee scored on the next drive to build a 14-0 lead. On the next drive, three straight passes were called, and the Ravens went three-and-out. Then on their fourth possession, the Ravens called six runs and six passes on a 12-play drive that ended with a Justin Tucker field goal.
That made 14 run plays and 14 pass plays for the Ravens through their first four drives, including the pass plays that resulted in Jackson scrambling. To Harbaugh's point, that's a 50-50 run-pass balance, although Jackson was doing more running than the backs.
After those first four series, the Ravens' play-calling was largely impacted by time and score. Baltimore ran a two-minute drive just before halftime, moving the ball almost exclusively through the air on a 91-yard drive that set up a short field goal by Tucker.
Trailing 14-6 at halftime, the Ravens were still in position to establish their running game. But on the opening drive of the third quarter, the Ravens called five running plays and eight passes on a 58-yard drive that ended in frustration. Edwards was stopped for one yard on third-and-2, and Jackson was stuffed for no gain on fourth-and-1.
Four plays later, Derrick Henry rumbled for 66 yards to set up the Titans' third touchdown, and after a fumble by Jackson set up another Titans score, the Ravens trailed 28-6 with about four minutes left in the third quarter and had to get pass-happy. The result was Jackson throwing a season-high 59 times, and Baltimore scoring a season-low 12 points.
The Ravens never established Ingram, who had a 1,000-yard season. They never established Edwards, who had 130 yards in Week 17 and had a 19-yard carry on the opening drive against Tennessee. They didn't run the ball with enough success against Tennessee, and while Jackson (20 carries, 143 yards) made some plays with his legs, the Titans contained him in critical moments.
Meanwhile, Henry (30 carries, 195 yards) was the dominant force and Titans were better than the Ravens at running the football. That's just one of the things the coaching staff will examine after a disappointing loss in which Baltimore's running backs combined for nine carries and 42 yards.
"Yeah, sure, we want Gus carrying the ball," Harbaugh. "The game didn't play out the way we wanted it to play out. We didn't play our game. One of the goals going into the game was to play the Ravens' game. The Ravens' game and the Titans' game is kind of similar. The Titans played that game because they made certain plays and scored points and made the most of some of the yards. We didn't because we didn't convert. Heck yeah, we want him (Edwards) to get the ball more than that. We had a great season, but we had a disappointing end."