On M&T's turf, opponents have nowhere to run

Ravens Weekend

October 12, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN REPORTER

One reason the Ravens have the NFL's best regular-season home record since 2000 is the noise created by their fans.

Another factor is an unspoken rule: No one runs on the Ravens on their home field.

Teams have to become one-dimensional on offense at M&T Bank Stadium because they can't expect to establish a ground game.

The Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in their past 12 home games. The Houston Texans' Domanick Davis was the last to do so when he gained 155 yards Dec. 4, 2005.

When linebacker Ray Lewis is in the lineup, the streak is even longer. With Lewis in the middle, the Ravens haven't permitted a 100-yard rusher in the past 18 games at M&T Bank Stadium.

While the quarterbacks the Ravens have seen at home lately have been young - the New York Jets' Kellen Clemens and the Arizona Cardinals' Matt Leinart - they have faced several quality running backs.

This season, the Ravens contained the Jets' Thomas Jones (67 yards on 24 carries) and the Cardinals' Edgerrin James (57 yards on 10 carries), two of the NFL's top 12 rushers in 2006.

It was the same way last season at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Ravens held six of eight starting running backs to fewer than 60 yards. That formidable list includes: the Oakland Raiders' LaMont Jordan (35 yards), the San Diego Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson (98), the Carolina Panthers' DeShaun Foster (58), the Cincinnati Bengals' Rudi Johnson (77), the Atlanta Falcons' Warrick Dunn (52), the Pittsburgh Steelers' Willie Parker (22) and the Buffalo Bills' Willis McGahee (23).

This year, the Jets and the Cardinals didn't have time to run the ball against the Ravens because they fell behind so early. But most teams can't commit to the run no matter the score.

The amazing part of the Ravens' defense is it forces teams to give up running almost completely even in close games.

Case in point: the last two regular-season home games of 2006. In a 27-17 loss to the Ravens, the Cleveland Browns ran the ball on 16 of 55 plays. In a 19-7 loss to the Ravens, the Bills ran the ball on 14 of 52 plays.

Stopping the run has been a Ravens staple since their 2000 Super Bowl championship season. But the run defense had been slipping from 2003 to 2005, when it went from No. 6 in the NFL to No. 8 to No. 9. It was before the 2006 draft that Lewis complained about not having enough big bodies in front of him.

The Ravens used their first-round pick on defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and his presence boosted the run defense back to the top of the NFL rankings. The Ravens' run defense finished No. 2 last season and is No. 2 so far this season.

That's the challenge facing the winless St. Louis Rams, who come to M&T Bank Stadium with a rookie running back, Brian Leonard, and an offensive line thinned by injuries.

Judging by recent history, the Rams could be running on empty if they try to beat the Ravens on the ground.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

RUNNING PROBLEMS

Fewest 100-yard rushers allowed since 2003: Pittsburgh 6

Ravens 12

Jacksonville 12

Dallas 12

San Diego 14

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