NFL's Most Dangerous Rushing Attack Puts Ravens in Position for Playoff Run
By rushing for more than 200 yards for the fourth time this season and tying a franchise record with five rushing touchdowns in Monday night's thrilling win over the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens once again made a statement with their running attack.
For opposing defenses, that statement is a "run-on" sentence. Leaning on their ground game appears to give the Ravens their best chance at "running" the table in their remaining three games and making a deep playoff "run." (OK, I've run out of run puns.)
In their past two games, the Ravens have rushed for 525 yards and seven touchdowns.
NFL.com analyst Maurice Jones-Drew ranked the Ravens at No. 1 in his list of the most dangerous rushing teams in the league, ahead of the Derrick Henry-led Tennessee Titans and the Browns' one-two punch of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
"Since [Lamar] Jackson's return in Week 13, the Ravens' rushing attack has been utterly unstoppable," Jones-Drew wrote. "We've seen how happy the quarterback is to be back on the field, where his play is again resembling his 2019 MVP performance.
"Jackson has provided the offense with a much-needed spark by running for 218 yards over the last two games, both Baltimore victories, to keep an AFC wild-card spot within reach. Lamar looked as dynamic as ever on Monday night, making huge chunk plays with his legs against Cleveland's man coverage."
It hasn't been all Jackson, though. Running backs Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins also have been major contributors.
"Edwards is a bulldozer. Dobbins runs like he's the Batmobile and Bruce Wayne is in one heck of a mood," Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler wrote. "Can we stop talking about how nobody wants to tackle Derrick Henry? We get it. Baltimore has two steamrollers of its own."
What the Ravens have been doing in the ground game is even more impressive when you take into account season-ending injuries to All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley and elite blocking tight end Nick Boyle.
"After a rocky start, the Ravens offensive line settled in and played well [Monday night]," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "The 231 rushing yards speak for themselves."
Moreover, fullback Patrick Ricard has stepped up as a run-blocker after Boyle went down in Week 10.
"There was a little bit of an opening there for him to fill, and he did a great job of it," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We needed him to. I'm sure he'll continue to do it, because he's never [steered] from any challenge yet since he's been here and look where he's at now. So, yes, he's a big part of what we're doing."
Ravens' Odds of Making Playoffs Increase to 83 Percent
Even though the Ravens are sitting at No. 8 in a seven-team AFC playoff field, their odds of making the postseason soared after Monday night's victory.
Baltimore (8-5) has an 83 percent chance to make the playoffs in NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund's mathematical model. That means Baltimore's odds are better than those of the fifth-seeded Browns (75 percent), sixth-seeded Indianapolis Colts (81 percent) and seventh-seeded Miami Dolphins (47 percent).
According to ESPN analytics, the Ravens' most likely scenario has them as the No. 5 seed. If that ends up being accurate, and the AFC South-leading Titans continue to hold down the No. 4 seed, the two teams would meet in the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Of course, a lot of things can happen over the next three weeks. Even if the Ravens win their remaining three games (which are against teams with a combined record of 8-30-1) there's no guarantee they'll make the playoffs. But it's comforting to know the odds are in their favor.
Trace McSorley Knows What Lamar Jackson Was Doing in the Locker Room During Monday's Game
Trace McSorley made an appearance on the "Pardon My Take" podcast, and of course one of the first questions he was asked was whether Jackson was moving his bowels while McSorley was moving the chains during the fourth quarter of Monday night's game.
McSorley reiterated what Jackson and Harbaugh have already said: No. 8 was not taking a No. 2 when he was in the locker room.
"No, he wasn't. It was cramps," McSorley said. "He wasn't pooping."
Undeterred, the hosts continued with the bathroom humor, asking McSorley how many candles were lit in the locker room when he went in there after suffering a knee injury. By that time, Jackson was back on the field.
"They do always have candles lit by the stalls. So I can't tell if they were newly lit ones, but they do always have candles lit by the stall in the locker room," McSorley said.
McSorley also talked about what he does to stay ready on the sideline.
"Part of it is just trying to stay mentally locked in," McSorley said. "We got the earpiece … know what play we're running from our OC. And then trying to do a mental rep every time as best you can just so you're staying locked in and staying ready.
"It does get a little bit difficult at times. Really, just trying to stay warm, especially on a night like [Monday], it's cold out there. Just trying to stay heated up and loose and ready. I always like to keep a smelling salt with me just if I need to be ready to go. Just hit that and then lock in real quick."
McSorley has been placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, which means he'll miss the three remaining games of the regular season but would be eligible for postseason play if the Ravens make it.
"Trace, it looks like is about a three-weeker, so that was a positive for us," Harbaugh said.
Justin Madubuike Named PFF's Defensive Rookie of the Week
It may not be apparent by looking at the stat sheet, but defensive lineman Justin Madubuike had a strong performance against the Browns. He was named to Pro Football Focus' Team of the Week and selected as the Rookie of the Week.
"Madubuike entered Baltimore's Week 14 contest against the Cleveland Browns with just a 60.4 PFF grade, but the third-round pick lit it up on Monday Night Football against the best offensive line in the game," PFF's Anthony Treash wrote. "The first-year interior defender came away with a 90.4 PFF grade on 31 snaps and made an impact against the run and the pass. Madubuike recorded a couple of defensive stops on eight snaps against the run and won on 17.4% of his reps as a pass-rusher."
Madubuike had multiple pressures against Browns left guard Joel Bitonio and right guard Wyatt Teller, who each ranked first at their respective position in PFF grade heading into the game, Treash noted.