With two premier veteran run-stoppers injured, the Ravens defense lost up front against the New England Patriots Sunday night.
Heading into Sunday's game against Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans not knowing whether they'll have Calais Campbell or Brandon Williams, the Ravens know a repeat of that performance will end up getting them run over.
It will be a long day for the Ravens if their young defensive linemen – and the defense as a whole – doesn't improve on its performance from last week.
"It's going to take a great effort. It's going to take all we've got," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "They're a very good run-blocking offensive line. Obviously, [Henry is] a downhill runner right at the top of the heap."
Patriots running back Damien Harris ran for 121 yards against the Ravens, the most of any ball-carrier so far this season. Harris and the Patriots offensive line went downhill, right at Baltimore's defensive front.
While Harris is a good power back, he's no Henry. The Titans' 6-foot-3, 247-pound hammer has the second-most rushing yards in the league this season (946). His physicality, especially his vicious stiff-arms, seem to make highlight reels every week.
The Ravens know Henry well. He ran 30 times for 195 yards in the Ravens' divisional playoff loss to the Titans last season, including a 66-yard gallop that set up his own passing touchdown on a trick play.
One of the lasting images from that playoff loss was Henry essentially turning former Ravens safety Earl Thomas III into his lead blocker. Now DeShon Elliott has stepped into Thomas' starting spot, and the Ravens safety prides himself on his big hitting.
"He's the best running back in the NFL. You know what they're going to do. They know everybody knows what they're going to do. They're going to give it to him 30 to 40 times per game and he's going to run it down your throat whether you like it or not," Elliott said.
"We've just got to figure out a way to slow him down. You've got to get to him before he gets going. If you get to him before that train gets going, you've got a chance. But he's going to get the ball regardless. So you better have your helmet strapped up and be ready for this ride. You better come downhill and hit him every time."
It's not often that a Ravens team is out-physicaled at the point of attack. Baltimore prides itself on winning up-front, and the team's moves to acquire Campbell and Derek Wolfe, as well as draft Patrick Queen and others, were a sign of that commitment.
The Titans, however, are a team that's also built around physicality and running the football. Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan is on injured reserve, but they still have big bodies and a punishing mentality.
"The more physical team is going to win up front," Elliott said. "That's all the run comes down to is who wants it more."
Elliott said the Ravens will be in pads Wednesday, and the tone will be set.
"It's going into the game with the mindset that you're not going to be outworked, you're not going to out-hit us," Elliott said. "Just go out there and bring that dog up out of you. We're going to see who brings that dog out on Sunday."
Campbell and Williams did not practice Wednesday. If they cannot play, it will mean defensive ends Wolfe and Jihad Ward, veteran nose tackle Justin Ellis, and rookie defensive tackles Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington are the men for the job.
There's no doubt that not having two Pro Bowlers and pillars of Baltimore's run defense would hurt, but there also isn't time for excuses or self-pity sitting at 6-3 in a tight AFC playoff race. If the Ravens are going to win a big game at home, they need a big showing from their reserves.
"Brandon and Calais, they're great vets, great parts of our defense," Madubuike said. "It's a standard here at the Ravens and it's a brotherhood. It's next man up. We're all equipped to handle any situation on defense when a guy goes down."