The Ravens have led the NFL in rushing since Lamar Jackson became their starting quarterback seven games ago. They rushed for a season-high 296 yards Sunday, upping their average to 229.5 rushing yards per game with Jackson under center.
It has already been proven the Ravens can win consistently playing this way. They are 6-1 in their last seven games.
However, can their rushing success continue during the playoffs?
Their first postseason test comes this weekend against the Los Angeles Chargers (12-4), a team that Baltimore faced just two weeks ago and fared better than most defensively against Baltimore. The Chargers will be the first team to face Jackson a second time. His speed won’t catch them by surprise.
Despite losing to Baltimore 22-10 in Week 16, the Chargers held Jackson to 39 yards on 13 carries and held Baltimore to 159 yards rushing.
Don’t expect the Ravens to change their run-pass ratio dramatically just because the playoffs are about to start. They believe their run-first offense, coupled with their No. 1-ranked defense, gives them the best formula for success.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re already are sold on that, or we wouldn’t be running the offense. This is not some fly-by-night offense. This is not something that somebody just made up in their head. This type of an offense has been around for decades and decades.
“I’m excited to see where it goes. I think our coaches have done a great job of expanding it and throwing formations and motions and different things out there that haven’t really been done before. So, that’s the creative part of it, and I’m excited to see where it goes.”
Harbaugh has often credited Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Assistant Head Coach Greg Roman, and the entire offensive staff for designing plays and blocking schemes that give the running game a different look each week. And with Kenneth Dixon busting out for 112 yards Sunday, the Ravens have another back to join Gus Edwards as a problem for opposing defenses.
The Ravens have scored at least 20 points in every game that Jackson has started. They are getting plenty of big plays, but they’re doing it more via the running game than any other team.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has thrown at least 25 passes in all but two games this season. Jackson has only attempted 25 passes once. Although both teams will adjust, it’s going to be another contrast in styles Sunday when the Chargers visit M&T Bank Stadium.
“Both teams are really smart, great coaching staffs, great players, smart players,” Harbaugh said. “I’m sure both teams will be very well prepared.”
Ozzie Newsome’s Last Ride Isn’t Like Ray Lewis’ Last Ride
Harbaugh presented General Manager Ozzie Newsome with a game ball following Sunday’s game, the final season in which Newsome will serve as general manager. Newsome will step down after the season, and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta will take over as general manager, although Newsome will remain in the front office.
But Harbaugh isn’t buying into the idea that Newsome’s last ride is anything like Ray Lewis’ galvanizing last ride in 2012 when the Hall of Fame linebacker announced his retirement at the start of the playoffs.
“Our guys love Ozzie, and they respect him,” Harbaugh said. “I think sometimes it gets lost that Ozzie is not leaving. He’s not going anywhere. He’s going to be right here with us, so the guys understand that, too. But from the standpoint of this is his last year as the GM, that’s why last night was another layer to the whole thing about why it meant so much. It’s Ozzie’s last opportunity as a GM, and here we are, playing the Cleveland Browns, of all teams, in a game like that. So, yes, I think that kind of puts it in perspective a little bit.”
If the Ravens were to win the Super Bowl, it would be his third championship as a general manager.
“It would be amazing,” Harbaugh said. “We’d love to make that happen, absolutely.”
Being Aggressive is in Ravens’ DNA
The Ravens continued their aggressive approach Sunday, going for it on fourth down on their first offensive series, then calling four consecutive cover-zero blitzes on defense to stop the Browns on their final possession. Harbaugh said the Ravens want to make their breaks, not wait for them.
“It reflects our personality, mindset, the way this team thinks what guys want to do,” Harbaugh said. “I loved it, the guys executed great. The guys executed fourth down great. We’ve gone for a lot of fourth downs, we’ve made a lot of fourth downs. I think we lead the league in third- and fourth-and-short. Credit to the coaches and players for that. As a head coach, it makes you want to go for it more if you think you’ve got a good chance to get them.”
Defensively, the Ravens went after Rivers in their Week 16 matchup, sacking him four times. Expect the Ravens to throw more blitzes at Rivers on Sunday. It’s what they do.
Asked what was different about the Ravens’ defense this season, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said, “Don Martindale. It wasn’t perfect. It hardly ever is. It wasn’t pretty, but it was ‘The Raven Way.’ It was a good finish and a way to punch our ticket.”
Two ‘Almost’ Touchdowns Could Have Changed Sunday’s Game
Maybe the Ravens’ 26-24 win on Sunday wouldn’t have been as close if Jackson had not fumbled at the 1-yard line, and if another touchdown run by Jackson not been nullified by a holding call on tight end Maxx Williams.
The holding call on Williams looked highly questionable, and when asked if the Ravens would submit that play to the league office for review, Harbaugh said, “Yes, we will.”
As for Jackson’s fumble, his 12th this season, Harbaugh said that is something the Ravens need to correct.
“We can address that,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not something we want to see happen. That was a huge swing. We want to score from the six-inch line.”
WR*/KR* Chris Moore Expected to Be Available or Sunday’s Game.
Ravens wide receiver/kick returner Chris Moore left Sunday’s game with an undisclosed injury, but Harbaugh said he expected Moore to be available for the Chargers game.
“He had something that kept him out,” Harbaugh said. “It was a bruise type of deal. His situation as I’ve been told this morning looks really good. He came through it last night just fine. I think he’ll be good to go.”