Ravens Reviving Power Running


Make no mistake, Ravens running back Ray Rice was elated to make the fourth-and-5 catch that may have saved the Ravens' season last Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But that wasn't his favorite part of the game.

Rice was most proud of the Ravens' four straight runs into the teeth of Pittsburgh's defense. While not flashy, those up-the-gut rushes set up Billy Cundiff's overtime field goal.

"It was our will against theirs," Rice said after the game. "That's Ravens football and we got back to it."

After placing much of the offensive load on the arm of sophomore franchise quarterback Joe Flacco to begin the season, the Ravens have been gearing up their smash-mouth running style over the past few games – a formula that carried Baltimore to last year's AFC Championship game.

Heading into a pivotal game in Green Bay Monday night and a December playoff push, don't be surprised if Baltimore continues to revive the three-headed monster.

"I took more pride in finishing that game the way we did, running the ball play after play after play," Rice said this week. "It really set a precedent for what's going on in the near future with our offense."

Last season the Ravens recorded the most rushing attempts in the NFL, averaging 37 carries per game through the regular season. In the Ravens' first eight contests this season, Baltimore averaged only 22 carries per game between Rice, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain. Meanwhile, Flacco passed an average of 36 times per game.

The Ravens got back to their 2008 style against the Cleveland Browns three weeks ago on Monday Night Football. Baltimore ran the ball 36 times and passed half that amount.

"I felt like we were starting to become more physical," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said in this week's episode of Rave TV's Game Plan. "We were more patient with the run."

Over the past three games, the Ravens have averaged 32 total rushing attempts per game. They tallied 364 total yards rushing in those three games, 21 more yards than the previous four games combined.

The Ravens have won the time-of-possession battle two of the past three games after winning it just three times in the previous eight games.

The Ravens' renewed commitment to power running was evident against the Steelers. They moved Marshal Yanda into the starting right guard position to replace Chris Chester, which, as Cameron said, added more physicality to the offensive line. They also welcomed back the unbalanced line that was so successful last season.

"We just had to get back to the basics," said McClain, who rumbled four times for a season-high 28 yards before an abdominal injury grounded him late in the third quarter. "We were really just running downhill on them, trying to wear them down. It's just something to build on."

Monday night's game could be the perfect opportunity for the Ravens to continue their grinding rushing attack.

The weather is expected to be in the low 20s, making passing more difficult. With the possibility of snow in the forecast, Baltimore's coaches are also expecting a soggy field, conducive to straight-ahead running.

The Ravens would surely like to keep the ball away from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as much as possible and a time-chewing run attack could do the trick. The Packers will also have All-Pro cornerback Charles Woodson, who is second in the NFL with seven interceptions, lurking in the secondary.

Cameron said the Ravens' offensive game plan fluctuates on a game-to-game basis and that his young offense is still establishing its identity. But there's one simple fact that he can't deny.

"That's what you have to be able to do to win big games; you've got to be able to run the football," Cameron said. "We're not where we want to be but we're making strides in the right direction."

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