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Ravens Controlling the Clock


The Ravens' defense is currently ranked first in the NFL in yards allowed per game this year, but that isn't incredibly impressive news considering the unit has occupied that mantle often in the past few years.

What could classify as impressive is that the offense deserves a part of that honor.

Over the Ravens' march to an undefeated 2-0 record, the offense is tops in the league in time of possession, averaging a whopping 37:02 per game.

The next highest team is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are just over three minutes behind at 33:54.

Baltimore has used a three-headed rushing attack – with running backs Willis McGahee and Ray Rice, fullback Le'Ron McClain – and an aggressive offensive line to tire the opposition and take control of the football – not to mention keep the defense rested.

"In any game of football, everybody knows that the best defense on the field is a great offense if you can hold the ball," said linebacker Ray Lewis. "Any time you have that type of balance on any side of the ball, it's going to wear down one side of the ball.

"When you can come in, control the game and really keep the game under wraps and [have] 'Flac' [quarterback Joe Flacco] stay out there and do his thing, it's only going to help us."

Flacco, the first-round draft pick out of the University of Delaware, has given the offense every opportunity to make plays by taking care of the football and not making too many mistakes. The rookie only has two interceptions, both thrown in the first half of last weekend's 28-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

Of course, he's not had to pass much with Baltimore's grinding ground game.

The Ravens have only attempted 48 passes, compared to 90 runs en route to an average of 190.0 rush yards per game, second-best in the NFL.

Such production comes at the hands of all three backs. McGahee, who sat out Week 1's 17-10 defeat of the Cincinnati Bengals, got 15 carries for 64 yards and one touchdown Sunday. McClain, the 260-pound workhorse, had 17 attempts for 66 yards and two scores, while Rice contributed with five rushes for 21 yards.

"To have three running backs that you feel comfortable with, that helps you. It's like rotating defensive lineman," said head coach John Harbaugh. "We don't necessarily subscribe to the fact that one guy's got to carry it 35 or 40 times, necessarily. If that was what you had and that was your strength, that's what you'd go with.

"But we feel fortunate to have three guys that can do it, and we're going to use all three guys."

The outcome has been advantageous especially in the fourth quarter, where the Ravens have dominated.

Against the Bengals, Baltimore held the ball for 13:17 in the final period. Against the Browns, that number was a similar 13:18. The Ravens' two opponents have only registered 97 total yards in the second half, compared to Baltimore's 316.

And as a direct result, the defense relished watching idly from the sideline as Flacco and Co. ticked the closing seconds off the clock with the outcome firmly in hand in both contests.

When asked to recall the last time that happened, defensive coordinator Rex Ryan had to go all the way back to Nov. 19, 2006, when the Ravens held possession for 20:37 in the second half of a 24-10 win against the Atlanta Falcons.

"I remember that happened against Atlanta a few years ago," said Ryan. "That's fantastic to see [this year]. I think our defense was so fired up on the sideline. It was like, 'Man, look at this. We're just standing here watching.' And, that was a great feeling.

"Is that going to happen every week? You don't know, but all I know is you got a chance for it to happen, and that's exciting to me."

Members of the offense take pride in letting their defensive teammates be spectators, something that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has preached since he arrived in January.

Sticking with Cameron's plan could make this ball-control phenomenon a regular occurrence.

"It was great when we can do that, keep the defense off the field and finish the game," McClain explained. "We're just sending shout-outs to the league that we have a strong team and we're going to finish.

"That's the main thing our coaches have been telling us, just to finish the game, and that's what we've been doing."

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