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Ravens' Top-Ranked Rushing Attack Could Be Crucial Down the Stretch

RB Gus Edwards
RB Gus Edwards

The Ravens have the NFL's top-ranked rushing attack entering Week 14, averaging 158.6 yards per game.

Baltimore can attack defenses on the ground in many ways using Gus Edwards' power, Justice Hill's versatility, Keaton Mitchell's speed and Lamar Jackson's unique ability as a running quarterback. If the Ravens rely on their rushing attack even more as the weather turns nastier in December and January, Pro Bowl fullback Pat Ricard is ready to provide more running room with his blocking.

"If we've got to rely more on our running game, then so be it," Ricard said. "We're ready for that task. I love our backs, I love our line, love the way our receivers block, I love our quarterback that can also run the ball. If we have to emphasize more of the running game, we'll take that challenge on."

The bye week gave Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken and the entire staff time to self-scout, and while the Ravens want to improve their overall consistency, the running game has been a strength all season.

"There's a lot of things we are doing well," Monken said. "Sometimes in the bye week, as you assess things, you have to be careful to not overreact, because you do want to clean up some of the things that you think you have a chance to look and assess where you're at, but remember some of the things you're really good at and try to build on that."

Sunday's forecast is calling for rain and winds above 10 miles per hour, which could potentially make the rushing attack a bigger part of the offense when the Ravens return to action against the Rams.

"I think weather affects a number of things," Monken said. "You're anticipating rain, there's a chance you're going to get wind, so I would anticipate it in your game-planning and certainly your play-calling."

Jadeveon Clowney Wants to Put Finishing Touch on Impressive Season

With 7.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hits this season, Jadeveon Clowney has been one of the team's most impactful defensive players. He's come close to reaching 10 sacks before, with a career-high 9.5 sacks for the Texans in 2017, and 9.0 sacks in 2018 (Texans) and 2021 (Browns).

Needing just 2.5 sacks to reach double digits for the first time, Clowney smells that goal.

"Of course," Clowney said. "Probably (want) more at this point. I've got a lot of football left, five regular season games. I just want to be great for my teammates and my coaching staff."

Clowney is a major reason Baltimore leads the league in sacks (47.0), and he's fit in perfectly since signing with the Ravens before the season. Some may be surprised by Clowney's production after he tallied just two sacks for the Browns last season, but Clowney said he wasn't healthy.

"I had a bad elbow really the whole season," Clowney said. "It didn't turn out how I wanted it to. I came in this season, I just wanted to be available, be healthy and dominate like I know I can. I put a lot of pressure on myself and take pride in it.

"I know a lot of people counted me out because I'm 30 (years old) or whatever they wanted to say. I just go out and play my game."

Rams' Offense Creates Unique Challenges

The Rams seem to be hitting their stride offensively, having won three straight and scoring 37 and 36 points respectively in their last two games. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is a proven passer who can make every kind of throw, and the Rams' offense is versatile featuring running back Kyren Williams (687 yards rushing, 22 catches) and wide receivers Puka Nacua (77 catches, 1029 yards), Cooper Kupp, Tutu Atwell and tight end Tyler Higbee.

Head Coach Sean McVay has long been recognized as one of the league's best play-callers, and the Rams are excellent at disguising their intentions until the ball is snapped. The Ravens' defense is preparing for one of its toughest tests.

"How they marry their run and their pass game, the action and the movements, is definitely a big challenge to what you're trying to take away at any given moment," Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald said. "They do it as good as anybody in the league, and a lot of it looks the same.

"It all comes down to our communication, diagnosing the play and handling our responsibilities. But the formations that they create and staying in the same personnel is a little bit unique, compared to a lot of teams we've played this year."

Cornerback Brandon Stephens said the Rams' receivers don't need to rely on sheer speed to get open, due to their excellent route running.

"They're crafty players," Stephens said. "They find ways to get open. They run their offense well."

Ronald Darby Not Happy to See Florida State Snubbed From College Football Playoff

Ravens cornerback Ronald Darby attended Florida State, so he naturally wasn't happy when the Seminoles weren't voted into the College Football Playoffs despite their undefeated season. Michigan will face Alabama in one semifinal game, while Washington will face Texas in the other.

Florida State's chances with the selection committee were damaged when starting quarterback Jordan Travis suffered a season-ending knee injury. However, Darby felt Travis' teammates had earned the right to play for a championship without him.

"When I heard it, I was like, 'That's messed up,'" Darby said. "It's a slap in the face. That's your goal to win the national championship. They're trying to write history for everybody. It's just messed up. You don't think those other players want to win the natty?"

Not surprisingly, Ravens Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who went to Alabama, saw things differently.

"I hate it for FSU," Humphrey said. "It's tough, but it's not the most deserving. It's the teams that are the best four teams. It's that simple. I think the committee got it perfect."

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