Raiders try to run, but, like other teams, are slowed to a crawl

NFL's top rushing attack gets 24 yards vs. Ravens

Ravens 16, Raiders 3

Ravens Extra

January 15, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. - Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa is stunned that after 19 games this season, teams still haven't learned.

Attempting to run the ball on the Ravens is a fruitless venture. Yet teams still try, and Siragusa expects the New York Giants, who will face the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, will try to establish the run also.

"Everybody [tries to run], which amazes me," Siragusa said. "Why you going to try and run on us? You can't run the ball on us. I mean, how many weeks are we into the season? Everybody tries, and I'm sure the Giants are going to come out and try."

Oakland experienced the same troubles with the Ravens' front seven that most other teams have had this season. But excuse the Raiders if they felt confident at gaining yards on the ground: They came into the game with the NFL's top-ranked rushing offense.

It was a matchup of strengths because the Ravens allowed the fewest yards on the ground this season.

Yesterday's showdown produced a convincing victory for the Ravens. The Raiders rushed for a paltry 24 yards, with 7 coming from starting running back Tyrone Wheatley on 12 attempts.

Rich Gannon, who was second in the league among quarterbacks in rushing, had just a 2-yard scramble on one attempt.

The Raiders, though, stuck with the running game as long as they could. Of Oakland's first 25 plays on offense, 11 were running plays.

"We take pride in shutting the run down," defensive end Michael McCrary said. "All year, teams have come into the game thinking that they are different, and they are going to run the ball on us. But we stop that real quick. We make them face reality, and force them into passing."

The Raiders' their longest run of the day was for 5 yards by backup quarterback Bobby Hoying. That Hoying was in the game was thanks to Siragusa, maybe the Ravens' best run stopper.

Siragusa forced Gannon out of the game with just under 11 minutes left in the second quarter after landing on top of him on a pass attempt. That play aggravated Gannon's injury to his throwing shoulder, which he first suffered when McCrary hit him during the game's first series.

"I was just glad my fat butt didn't have to chase him around for a while," Siragusa said.

Gannon came back in the third quarter but failed to make any of his usual timely runs. In the divisional playoff game last week against the Miami Dolphins, he converted four first downs on the ground. Against the Ravens, he didn't even try.

"Our game plan doesn't change much," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "They add the element of Rich Gannon, which was the biggest, but we were able to contain Rich."

Without Gannon's improvisation, defensive tackles Siragusa, Sam Adams and Larry Webster made running up the middle difficult, if not impossible. Siragusa and Adams combine to form a 670-pound wall.

Siragusa and Adams combined to finish with just one assisted tackle, but they took up enough space to allow linebackers Jamie Sharper, Peter Boulware and Ray Lewis to finish with 23 tackles.

It also did not help the Raiders' cause that top backup running back Napoleon Kaufman was a game-time inactive after re-injuring a knee against Miami. His specialty is using his speed to run outside.

But Kaufman never had a chance to do any damage, and for all intents and purposes, neither did Wheatley.

"We have backups that could be starting in this league," Siragusa said. "The way we rotate, the way we play, you are not wearing us down."

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