The Ravens have run their last four opponents into submission.
Baltimore rushed for more than 200 yards for the third time in four games during Sunday's 27-13 victory over the New York Giants, churning out 249 yards on the ground. If it wasn't Lamar Jackson (13, carries, 80 yards) whizzing past New York defenders, it was Gus Edwards (15 carries, 80 yards) using his power and agility or J.K. Dobbins (11 carries, 77 yards) showing his explosiveness.
That has been the story for the Ravens (10-5) during a four-game winning streak that has them threatening to run their way into the playoffs. Baltimore's rushing attack has become dominant, reminiscent of last season when the team set the NFL single-season rushing record (3,296 yards) on its way to a 14-2 regular season.
The Ravens lead the NFL in rushing, but the ground attack has really caught fire in December. In the first six games of the season, the Ravens rushed for over 200 yards just once. But over the last four games, the Ravens have averaged 233.3 yards on the ground, better than last year's record-setting clip of 206.0 yards per game.
The running game is clicking at a perfect time, with Baltimore needing a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals next weekend to make the playoffs for the third straight year. The Giants entered the game ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing defense (101.8 yards per game) and expected to offer more resistance. But the Ravens set the bar high for their running game, and recently they have loved the results.
"It's what's expected every time we're out there," Edwards said. "Big ups to our O-line. Great push, they worked hard all week. Communication was key. They kept coming back to us, giving us input on what they were doing out there. A lot of credit to them. They kept us going the whole game."
With Dobbins and Edwards running with determination since becoming the lead backs during the second half of the season, the Ravens are getting the most from the running lanes being created. Dobbins' 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter gave him a touchdown in five straight games and seven rushing touchdowns this season, setting the franchise record for rookie rushing touchdowns. Jamal Lewis had six rushing touchdowns as a rookie in 2000.
"It means a lot to me," Dobbins said. "Jamal Lewis, I mean, he won NFL Offensive Player of the Year [in 2003], and he's an amazing player. So, for me to do that, it's an honor and a blessing. I'm just going to keep trying to get better."
After being forced to make numerous personnel adjustments this season, the Ravens have found their rhythm on the ground. They knew that the retirement of perennial Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda after last season would produce a huge challenge for the line. Then they lost All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley to a season-ending ankle injury on Nov. 1, and Nick Boyle, one of the NFL's best blocking tight ends, to a season-ending knee injury on Nov. 15.
However, Orlando Brown Jr. has impressively made the Pro Bowl for the second straight year after switching from right tackle to left tackle following Stanley's injury. Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard has dished out punishing blocks on a weekly basis. Ben Powers has played extremely well since becoming the starting right guard on Nov. 8.
The wide receivers and tight ends are also blocking well, which is an important factor in Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman's system. The Ravens imposed their will on New York, and tight end Mark Andrews gave credit to Ricard and backup tight end Eric Tomlinson for their jarring blocks on Sunday.
"I love him," Andrews said of Tomlinson. "He's got a dog mentality to him. He's been doing a great job. Him and Pat are just mauling dudes. No defense wants to see that."
From the opening drive, it looked like Roman could call almost anything in the playbook and the Ravens would make it work. Baltimore took the opening kickoff and marched 82 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown, then after the Giants went three-and-out, Baltimore marched 65 yards in 10 plays for another score to take a 14-0 lead.
Those drives set the stage for Baltimore to keep pounding away with its running game, which took a toll on New York's defense, and the Ravens started getting chunk plays on the ground, like Edwards' 32-yard run and Dobbins' 25-yard run, which both came during the third quarter.
Edwards has become a complete back and it showed off in the fourth quarter. He had a 29-yard catch-and-run that displayed his power, when he broke an attempted tackle by Ryan Logan, then ran over Xavier McKinney after making the catch. Later in the drive, Edwards made a 360-degree spin to elude safety Nate Ebner on a 7-yard run. Some defensive backs don't look very thrilled trying to tackle Edwards, and it's easy to understand why.
"Gus deserves a lot more credit than he gets," Andrews said. "He's the heart-and-soul of our team really with everything he does. The way he runs the ball, you see the way he catches the ball, he breaks tackles left and right. He's a beast, man. He's one of our best players. It's so much fun to play with him."
Meanwhile, Jackson is always capable of picking up yards with his legs, part of what makes him so difficult to defend. Some of his rushing yards Sunday came on designed runs.
Other times he escaped the pocket and turned a designed pass into an effective run.
The Ravens are rolling on the ground, and they don't plan to stop.
"The offensive line, they love it, we (the running backs) love it," Dobbins said. "It's our identity. We're a physical team, and we want to show that."