In addition to mauling opponents with their run game, the Ravens are keeping defenses off balance.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman is keeping the pressure on defenses with creative schemes. Baltimore has averaged 233.3 yards rushing during its four-game winning streak, while adding some new wrinkles along the way.
Lately, the Ravens have used formations featuring two running backs more often, sometimes lining up J.K. Dobbins in the slot before he motions into the backfield to join Gus Edwards. With Dobbins' speed threatening the perimeter, Edwards' power between the tackles and Lamar Jackson's elusiveness, the two-back formations create a triple threat that's difficult to contain.
"We've always had it; it's part of the offense," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "That personnel group has been in the offense for a long time. We're using it more now than ever, certainly. Those plays are in the offense – it's just how you group them. It just was part of the evolution, a little bit, of what we've been talking about doing; what you do and what builds off the next thing, in terms of building things and kind of growing throughout the season."
Losing the blocking of tight end Nick Boyle, who went down for the season with a knee injury in Week 10, was a major blow. But the Ravens are finding ways to compensate without perhaps the league's best blocking tight end. Sometimes Baltimore is using six offensive linemen to create more leverage at the point of attack, and having 300-pound Pro Bowl fullback Pat Ricard is like having an extra offensive lineman.
After setting the all-time NFL record for rushing yards in a season last year, the Ravens knew opponents would study their running game searching for ways to contain it. But the Ravens have responded with adjustments that have helped them remain the league's top running team.
"I think our offensive coaches, Coach Roman and the rest of the guys, have done a really good job of being creative with those groups and those backs and different guys in different settings," Harbaugh said. "It's put people in conflict. It's put defensive position players and coordinators in conflict, and that's what we always try to do.
"You try to build your offense around what guys can do and what they're capable of doing. We have to keep chasing that. You can't stay the same in this league. As soon as you start staying the same, people start stopping you. So, we always have to keep building on it and kind of moving the shells around as best as we can."
James Proche Was Victim of Numbers Crunch
Rookie wide receiver James Proche was inactive for the first time Sunday as Devin Duvernay handled both the punt return and kickoff duties. Harbaugh said the decision had nothing to do with Proche's performance.
"It was a numbers crunch," Harbaugh said. "James has done a really good job back there. You get to a point when you start getting healthier you have to make some choices. We felt like we needed the help in terms of the gunners and the vice guys and kickoff coverage in terms of special teams.
Duvernay looked very comfortable fielding punts, averaging 18.0 yards on two returns.
"Devin did a really good job," Harbaugh said. "We have other guys that can do punt returns, too. He's been doing it in practice and we felt good about it. To see him do it in a game in conditions when the pressure's on, that was a big plus."
Harbaugh Updates Injuries
Head Coach John Harbaugh said none of the injuries suffered by Ravens on Sunday were severe. Starting center Patrick Mekari (back) left the game in the first half and was replaced by Matt Skura.
Outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue and wide receiver Willie Snead IV left the field with injuries in the second half. The Ravens entered the game without two of their top cornerbacks, Marcus Peters (calf) and Jimmy Smith (ribs/shouder).
"I would just say that there's nothing that's a season-ender or anything like that," Harbaugh said. "It's all going to just kind of come down to day-to-day and possibly game-time for some of those guys. Everybody is in kind of a different spot. The same goes for the guys coming back off the injuries; they're all right there. So, it really, truly is just going to be a wait and see kind of a thing with everybody. I probably wouldn't tell you anyway, but that's where we're at with all those guys."
Joe Mixon Won't Play vs. Ravens
Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor announced Monday that running back Joe Mixon (foot) won't play against the Ravens on Sunday, but Baltimore can't sleep on Cincinnati's run game.
Without Mixon during Sunday's victory over the Houston Texans, the Bengals rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns led by running backs Giovani Bernard (65 yards) and Samaje Perine (95 yards).
Mixon only played six games this season, so the Bengals are used to being without him.
Harbaugh is Happy for Darren Waller
Harbaugh wasn't watching Saturday night's telecast of the Miami Dolphins vs. the Las Vegas Raiders. At that point, the Ravens did not control their playoff destiny, and many Baltimore fans were watching hoping Miami would lose. The Dolphins won a last-second thriller, 26-25, and Harbaugh does not regret saving himself the stress.
"You hate to spend too much emotional energy on other games," Harbaugh said. "You really have to save your emotions for your game in this league. It's really important to do that. I'm sure some guys did watch the game."
Harbaugh missed another huge performance from Raiders tight end Darren Waller (six catches, 112 yards). The former Raven has blossomed into one of the league's top tight ends, enjoying his second 1,000-yard season (98 catches, 1,079 yards) and was voted to his first Pro Bowl. Waller spent his first two NFL seasons with Baltimore, but he was signed off the Ravens' practice squad in 2018 after Raiders saw him warming up before a game at M&T Bank Stadium. The story has been told many times, but Harbaugh said he was happy to see Waller realize his potential.
"Darren's not a guy we were trying to hide," Harbaugh said. "I think everybody knew who he was. They knew, or should've known who he was. He's a guy we're really proud of. We have a great relationship with Darren. Had a great relationship with him when he left. It would've been great if he had stayed. It's not like we didn't try to keep him. He just felt like he had a better opportunity out there at the time. Looking back on it, I sure wish we would've been able to keep him. Great guy, happy for his success."
Harbaugh said the Ravens do not have practice squad players go through pregame workouts anymore.