Maybe power running games aren't out of style after all.
For all of the attention paid to the NFL's shift to a pass-driven league, the weekend of playoff football showed that a strong running game can still get the job done in January. Every team that advanced to the conference championships – New England, Denver, Seattle and San Francisco – relied on a strong running game in their wins over the weekend.
Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount rumbled for 166 yards and four touchdowns. New England had 234 total rushing yards on 46 carries, compared to just 25 passing attempts for future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.
Seattle's Marshawn Lynch rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Saints. The 49ers and Broncos both topped 100 total rushing yards in their victories.
Neither Brady nor Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw any touchdowns.
The hard-nosed running style on display was something that Baltimore lacked throughout the season, and the Ravens could add a big-bodied running back to the mix as they work to rebuild the running game this offseason.
"Yes, I think we need to diversify as much as we can what guys can do," Head Coach John Harbaugh said when asked at his season-ending press conference about signing a bigger back .
"I've had a lot of conversations with Ozzie [Newsome] and with Eric [DeCosta] and our different scouts about that, and our coaches, too. Yes, we want to have as many weapons as we can at our disposal. Big backs, fast backs, quick backs, route-running backs that you see around the league – we want to chase all those guys."
The Ravens had a variety of issues in the running game this season, as the offensive line struggled and running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce both dealt with injuries. Adding a big back to the rotation would give the Ravens a different look coming out of the backfield.
Rice (5-foot-8, 212 pounds), is known as an elusive playmaker and Pierce (6-0, 218) is a one-cut runner who likes to get outside the tackles. A big back like Blount (6-0, 250) would provide a change-of-pace and could help power through holes in short yardage situations.
The Ravens haven't used a big running back since Ricky Williams (5-10, 230) was on the team in 2011, but they have featured big backs in the past. Fullback Le'Ron McClain (6-0, 260) was a featured back during Harbaugh's first season in 2008, carrying 232 times for 902 yards. The Ravens also had Willis McGahee (6-0, 230) from 2007-2010.
The Ravens are looking at a variety of options to improve the running game after finishing the year with 83 rushing yards per game to rank 30th in the league. Harbaugh stressed after the season that he wants to have a hard-nosed team that can overpower opponents, and bringing in a powerful running back could be part of that equation.
"We philosophically believe – in being a rough, tough, physical offense that can run the football," Harbaugh.
"That's the way we started, and that hasn't changed. No matter where you go with the passing game, that has got to be a staple of what we're going to do. And, it wasn't this year."