Ravens look to keep backfield in motion

Team aims to execute ball-control plan with 3-pronged rush attack

Ravens' run offense vs. Dolphins' run defense

January 11, 2002|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Can three sets of legs be as productive as one?

That's a question pondered by the Ravens, who have hinted that they will try to duplicate the formula that got them a Super Bowl championship last season, when Baltimore played stout defense and controlled the clock by giving the ball to Jamal Lewis.

Then a rookie, Lewis ground out 338 yards in four playoff wins, but exited the 2001 game plan in August with a season-ending knee injury. The replacement ground game was nearly as brittle, as Terry Allen missed five games with an ankle injury and broken hand, and Jason Brookins missed four with a broken foot, but both played and had their moments in Monday night's regular-season finale win over the Minnesota Vikings.

The Ravens are not carping about their red-zone shortcomings Monday night, when the defense scored the team's only touchdown. With Allen, Brookins and Moe Williams combining for 37 carries, the Ravens piled up 212 yards rushing, their most on the ground since a Nov. 26, 2000, rout of Cleveland and only the fourth time this season they mustered more than 130.

Miami is coming off of a similarly heartening display, as it allowed a season-low 39 yards on the ground in Sunday's rout of Buffalo. It was only the second time in the past seven games it allowed fewer than 100 yards rushing.

Opponents couldn't pass on them, but some found that they could run effectively, as the Dolphins finished 17th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, 111.2 per game. The Ravens were 11th in rushing yards, with 113.1 per game. If Brookins can shake off the rust that slowed him against the Vikings and left guard Edwin Mulitalo's calf injury heals, the Ravens are confident their running back by committee can move the ball.

The Dolphins' defense has had its share of injuries. That effort against the Bills did not include Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Thomas, who was nursing neck and right shoulder sprains. Tackle Jermaine Haley sat out with a calf injury. Miami lost Daryl Gardener, another big tackle, to a back ailment in November.

With its defense saying it's ready to dominate again, the Ravens could lean their balanced attack to handoffs instead of passes against the Dolphins.

"They look good against the run," Allen said of Miami. "They've got some big guys up front who create some problems. Obviously, they have Zach running around. We have to take our time, be patient and wear them down."

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