For backfield, 3 a magic number



December 30, 2008|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,

The Ravens' running-back-by-committee approach has helped the unit join some elite company in the NFL this season.

The New York Giants' Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward became the fourth pair in league history to each rush for 1,000 yards. The Carolina Panthers' DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart became the fourth duo to each score 10 rushing touchdowns in the same season.

The Ravens became the only team in the NFL to have running backs who have collected 900 (902 by fullback Le'Ron McClain), 650 (695 by running back Willis McGahee) and 450 yards (454 by rookie running back Ray Rice).

"That's the three-headed monster," McClain said. "Hopefully, we'll get Ray back [from a left shin bruise] next week, and we're going to need him for these playoffs. Then it's going to be crazy if we get Ray back and doing the things that he does. The way we're rolling right now, we're executing, and if we don't turn over that ball, we're going to be hard to beat."

McClain said the running attack wouldn't have succeeded if not for McGahee's professionalism. McGahee, who has been relegated to a third-down-back role after starting at tailback last season, had rushing touchdowns on back-to-back carries when he added a 13-yard score in Sunday's 27-7 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars to the 77-yarder he turned in against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 20.

"When my number's called, I'm just trying to make a play," McGahee said.

The backfield unit set franchise records for rushing touchdowns (20 compared with the previous mark of 18 in 2003) and rushing first downs (132 compared with the former record of 116 in 2000). But coach John Harbaugh said the numbers and records are not a high priority.

"We just want to be a good football team and use our guys as best we can," Harbaugh said. "You find out what you are as you go."

Injury updates

"Hopeful" was the word of the day for Harbaugh when he was asked about the availability of cornerback Fabian Washington and Rice for Sunday's AFC wild-card game against the Miami Dolphins.

"He's doing well," Harbaugh said of Washington's injured toe, which forced the cornerback to miss his fourth game of the season. "I don't know that we can expect it, but we're hopeful that he will be there."

A little later, Harbaugh said Rice is "doing better."

Harbaugh also said the team does not intend to place linebacker Antwan Barnes (pectoral muscle) on injured reserve. "We're going to take a shot at trying to get Antwan back," he said.

Supporting Ryan

With speculation that assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Rex Ryan will be interviewed for NFL head coaching jobs in the offseason, Harbaugh backed his candidacy. "Rex Ryan's going to be a great head coach in the NFL - without a doubt," Harbaugh said. "He's got all the talent, all the ability to do it. I'm hoping that Rex Ryan is here for many, many years to come, and maybe that's been part of our conversation. But whatever happens, happens."

Nice catch

Edgar Jones didn't post a tackle as a linebacker Sunday, but he did make his first career reception, a 25-yarder from Troy Smith that got the Ravens to Jacksonville's 11 with less than 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

"As soon as I got out, I turned my head around and I saw the ball. I was like, 'I've got to catch this,' " Jones said. "I realize that if I had just stayed up, I would probably have been in the end zone. But it felt good."

End zone

Normally mild-mannered Haloti Ngata drew a rare unnecessary-roughness penalty when the defensive tackle jumped into a fray involving linebacker Bart Scott and a couple of Jaguars offensive linemen after the final play of the first half. "I wasn't surprised. I was the last guy to do anything," said Ngata, whose 15-yard penalty was assessed to the Ravens' opening kickoff of the second half. "They started it, and I kind of finished it, and it's always that last guy who gets called for the penalty." ... Running back Jalen Parmele made his first appearance as a Raven, and his first carry was a 31-yard burst up the middle. "I was waiting on the sidelines, waiting for my number to be called. I knew it was a possibility," said Parmele, who was signed off the Miami Dolphins practice squad Dec. 10. "Once it happened, I saw a huge hole, hit it, and it was a good feeling." ... The Dolphins sold out the remaining 25,000 tickets for Sunday's game. The tickets, which went on sale at 9 a.m., were gone by noon. ... Punter Sam Koch finished the regular season with a 45.0-yard gross average and a 39.9-yard net average, eclipsing Kyle Richardson's franchise records of 43.9 and 38.3, set in 1998.

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