By sticking to their running game, the Ravens stuck it to the Dallas Cowboys.
Why not run against Dallas, which has surrendered more rushing yards than any team in the NFL? The game plan Tuesday night wasn't complicated, but it was very effective. And with the Ravens looking to make a late-season playoff push, the ground game could be their engine.
Finishing with a season-high 294 yards rushing, Baltimore rolled to a 34-17 victory that snapped a three-game losing streak – good medicine for an offense that had been struggling.
The Ravens kept running and Dallas couldn't stop it. This 294 yards topped anything the Ravens did even last year, when they set the single-season team record for rushing yards and regularly steamrolled opponents.
Lamar Jackson (13 carries, 94 yards) did what he often does, finding ways to hurt opponents with his legs and his arm (two touchdown passes). He opened the floodgates with a 37-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that gave Baltimore a 7-3 lead.
It came on a fourth-and-2 play, when Jackson faked a handoff and found a gaping hole once he got past the line of scrimmage. Ravens left tackle Bradley Bozeman raised his arms and signaled touchdown long before Jackson had reached the end zone, because he knew Jackson would not be caught.
"I'm not going to lie to you; I wasn't even thinking it was a fourth down after the play got called," Jackson said. "Prior to that, we got stopped, so we had to go put points on the board. We were driving the ball downfield, our defense was playing lights out. The line did great, and I just had to finish it off."
But it wasn't just Jackson who was running past Cowboys defenders. It was Gus Edwards, who only needed seven carries to net 101 yards. J.K. Dobbins (11 carries, 71 yards, one touchdown) averaged 6.5 yards per carry, and Mark Ingram II (six carries, 28 yards) was also back in the lineup after he and Dobbins missed last week's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Baltimore's final drive typified how dominant its running game was. Protecting a 27-17 lead, the Ravens recovered Dallas' onside kick, then drove 44 yards with six straight running plays. The Cowboys knew Baltimore was going to call running plays to burn time off the clock, but Dallas looked defenseless trying to stop it.
Edwards slashed his way to a 24-yard gain during the drive, and Dobbins finished it off with a 5-yard touchdown run.
Baltimore's offensive line provided gaping holes with Patrick Mekari back as the starting center, Ben Powers playing right guard and rookie Tyre Phillips and D.J. Fluker sharing reps at right tackle with Orlando Brown Jr. holding things down at left tackle. Head Coach John Harbaugh was pleased with the blocking he saw from the entire team.
"It was very encouraging," Harbaugh said. "I think our guys did a great job. They blocked. They ran. Our wide receivers blocked. The tight ends, the guys that are new to the program, came in and did a good job. It's always a team effort. Obviously, Lamar had a lot to do with that, as well. So, yes, [I'm] very happy with that. That's big for us."
A strong rushing attack can carry a team in December, and if the Ravens continue to run the football effectively, it bodes well for their chances to make the playoffs. With their backfield intact and Jackson looking frisky after a one-game absence, the Ravens ran almost at will against Dallas. That's something they hope to build on as they prepare for next Monday night's matchup against the surging Cleveland Browns (9-3).
While Dallas entered the game with the NFL's worst run defense, the Browns' run-stopping unit is in the league's top 10. It won't be as giving. The Ravens will look to show that their ground attack can succeed regardless of the opponent.
"Just keep building [and] staying focused on our craft," Jackson said. "Everyone just has to do their assignments. I feel we could pull it off. We've got the Browns right now. We've got to come to play."