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Run Game Leads Offense in Debut, and Ravens Look to Keep It Rolling


The Ravens' best offensive drive in Sunday's 20-0 win over the Cincinnati Bengals was one that ended with three points, not seven.

It was the third quarter and Baltimore had a 17-point lead. Baltimore's defense just got its fourth turnover on a Terrell Suggs sack/strip.

That's when the Ravens went to the ground – time and time again.

The Ravens broke off 12 straight run plays, moving 58 yards in the process. It started with 10 minutes, 44 seconds left in the third quarter and ended with a Justin Tucker 25-yard field goal with 1:09 remaining – nine minutes and 35 seconds.

It was the kind of drive offensive linemen dream of, and one that made a statement not only in Sunday's game, but also about the kind of offense the Ravens are striving for this season. 

The Ravens talked all offseason about their desire to run the ball more this year. Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda doubled down on that promise in the week leading up to the first game.

Baltimore delivered, rushing for 157 yards compared to just 121 passing yards in Sunday's win.

"We ran the football well and protected Joe Flacco. It was fun out there," Yanda said.

Funny enough, Flacco had a different perspective.

"Let's be honest. I was 9-for-17, for a hundred and a couple yards. I mean, it's not that fun," Flacco quipped. "I'd rather throw for 350 and win 42-0. But it's fun to win, and that's the most important thing."

Flacco said the Ravens' 2017 debut reminded him of his rookie year. Nine years ago, a skinnier Flacco attempted a career-low 428 passes. Meanwhile, Baltimore led the NFL in rushing attempts. 

As time passed and the Ravens offense evolved, that ratio flipped. Flacco had the second-most passing attempts in the league last year and the Ravens had NFL's third-fewest runs. Their 91.4 rushing yards per game ranked 28th in the NFL.

The Ravens committed themselves to balancing the offense this year. They got bigger in the trenches and brought in run-game guru Greg Roman to be a senior offensive assistant.

Still, there were questions as to whether Baltimore would follow through on its intentions and whether it would work, especially behind an offensive line that hardly had any time together this preseason due to injuries and position shuffling.

In the end, it was the rushing attack – and that third-quarter-drive – that led Baltimore's offense.

Starting running back Terrance West toted the rock 19 times for 81 yards and a touchdown and No. 2 back Javorius Allen ran 21 times for 71 yards in a two-pronged attack that lost a tong of the fork when Danny Woodhead went down with a hamstring injury.

"The fact that we were able to crack them a little bit and hit a few runs, I thought was important for us," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I thought we were really patient with it. I thought we called it really well. I thought we blocked it really well and our guys ran it really well."

Harbaugh said every game is going to be played out differently. Just because the Ravens ran so often in the first week doesn't mean it will play out that way every week. If the Ravens have to throw to win, they'll throw.

But with a suffocating defense and stellar special teams, if the Ravens can get a lead, their rushing attack can do a lot of damage milking the clock just as it did in Sunday's win.

"When we get to run the ball, it takes the air out of the defense and takes the air out of the pass rush. It helps our football team," Yanda said.

"It's nice to not have to make [Flacco] throw the ball 55 times in his first game. He had a good game, and we're going to keep rolling."

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