Morris pours it on, swamps Redskins Running back grounds out career-high 176 yards, as Ravens control clock

October 27, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER -- The day began with ominous, gray skies. By kickoff, a sprinkle had turned into a steady rain, adding more bite to the chilly air and gradually transforming the Jack Kent Cooke Stadium field into a soggy pit.

And to Ravens running back Bam Morris and his massive offensive line, the weather was heavenly.

"Like John Wayne said, this is powder river football. It's muddy, it's raining, it's third-down-and-three and we've got to get that first down," Morris said. "My role today was pounding."

Morris pounded, all right. He pounded left, right, up the middle. He pounded the Washington Redskins into submission.

The Ravens ended their three-game losing streak with a 20-17 victory and handed the Redskins their first loss in their new home, largely because they placed their fate in the hands of a 245-pound battering ram named Bam.

In what was easily their most impressive ground attack of the season, the Ravens took full advantage of the Redskins' weak run defense. They ate up equal amounts of yardage and the game clock, with Morris at the head of the table.

Morris, sore and exhausted, walked gingerly through the locker room, his winks and smiles revealing a restored confidence. Carrying the ball a career-high 36 times for a career-best 176 yards will do that to you.

Coming into yesterday's game, Morris had rushed only 45 times for 172 yards in his three games since returning from his suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. And the way Morris and his offensive line mates saw it, the Ravens could wait no longer to establish a running game that has sputtered for most of the season.

"There have been some games where we've been behind, or for whatever reason, we didn't run as much. But we've got to use it," Morris said.

"With the line that we have, the whole emphasis this week was we had to run the ball to win this game. From the first drive, we were getting 6 yards, then 4 yards, then 6 again. They were

making holes that you guys could have run through."

For the first time in 1997, the Ravens produced more rushing yardage (199) than passing yardage (133). For the first time, they rushed (44 times) more than they passed (21 times). They held the ball 10 minutes longer than the Redskins. And it all sounded like sweet music to right guard Jeff Blackshear.

"All year long, we've been waiting to just smash some people. Everyone knows the type of offensive line we have," Blackshear said. "We just wanted to go out and roll guys into the ground and smash them every play. We had a chance to do that today, and it felt good."

Said left tackle Jonathan Ogden: "You can sense when you're pretty much beating somebody up front, and we've known all year that our offensive line averages about 320 pounds. All you have to do is come off the ball, and we did that. When Bam is running good and we're blocking well, teams have trouble stopping us and it just keeps rolling."

Morris' longest run was 17 yards, but he kept the sideline chain crew moving all afternoon with medium-range runs that typically required two or three Redskins to stop. Morris set the tone early, breaking off runs of 5 and 8 yards off left guard on the Ravens' first two plays from scrimmage.

Although quarterback Vinny Testaverde provided that drive's highlights with a 39-yard pass to Jermaine Lewis and a 13-yard touchdown strike to Derrick Alexander, the Ravens re-established their game plan forcefully on their next possession, after the Redskins had tied the score at seven.

Over a span of 11 minutes, 22 seconds, the Ravens battered Washington's front seven with a 20-play, 78-yard drive that belonged to Morris. He accounted for 53 yards, gaining 49 on 10 carries, and scoring on a 4-yard burst up the middle to give the Ravens a 14-7 lead with 10: 23 left in the half.

"I thought to myself this morning, I haven't had a good game since I came back, and I had to come out and play well," Morris said. "Regardless of whether there's 10 guys in the box or 12 guys, if there's a guy hitting me, I'm 245-250 and I can't go down. I was getting hit, but I kept going forward."

Coach Ted Marchibroda said: "Big plays aren't necessarily the 70- or 80-yard runs. A big play is when you get hit after 2 yards, but you break tackles and get 4 more. Bam did a lot of that today."

By midway through the second quarter, when he ripped off successive runs of 11, 17 and 12 yards, Morris hit the 100-yard mark.

And as the second half dragged on, with his cuts growing less crisp and his legs becoming weary, Morris kept protecting the Ravens' lead by dragging around defenders.

His most-inspired runs may have come after the Redskins had pulled within 17-14 with 2: 17 left in the third quarter.

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