All week, the Ravens have been peppered with questions about the Denver Broncos' top-rated passing attack and quarterback Kyle Orton's league lead in passing yards.
But that doesn't mean that the defense is going to ignore the running game — an apsect that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison addressed Thursday.
"Yeah, don't believe that," Mattison said when asked if Denver was strictly an aerial team. "… [Broncos coach Josh McDaniels is] not going to go out there and throw it every time. I think a lot of that came from the injury to their running back. They had some line problems. We fully expect — like every game – we've got to stop the run first, and we've got to do a great job."
Denver's rush offense ranks last in the NFL in average yards per game (55.0) and average yards per carry (2.2). Those numbers could suffer even more after the team announced that featured tailback Knowshon Moreno will sit out his third consecutive game because of a hamstring injury.
Laurence Maroney could make his third straight start at running back, and Correll Buckhalter might also take some reps. But that duo combined for just 8 yards on 17 carries in the Broncos' 26-20 victory over the Tennessee Titans last Sunday.
Still, Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said the defense can't afford to enter this Sunday's contest concentrating on solely limiting Denver's options in the passing game.
"They know that we're professionals and they know that we saw them throw the ball 50 times," Suggs said of Orton's 50 attempts against the Titans. "I think they might try to switch it up and run the ball. But like I said, game plans tend to change by teams. We're a totally different team than Tennessee is, so they might want to approach us a little differently."
Zbikowski's status up in the air
Tom Zbikowski was added to the Ravens injury report as the free safety was limited Friday by a thigh injury. Zbikowski, who was not in the team's locker room after practice, is questionable for Sunday, and if he is unavailable, Haruki Nakamura could make his first career start alongside strong safety Dawan Landry. Chris Carr would likely return punts.
Outside linebacker Edgar Jones (bruised thigh) was limited for the third consecutive day, and he is listed as questionable. Inside linebacker Jason Phillips did not practice due to an illness, and he is also questionable.
After sitting out Thursday's practice due to an illness, cornerback Fabian Washington fully participated Friday and is probable for Sunday. Coach John Harbaugh indicated afterward that the ailment was not serious.
"He's OK," Harbaugh said. "He just had a little tweak."
Running back Ray Rice (bruised right knee), fullback Le'Ron McClain (right shoulder) and tight end Todd Heap (shoulder) fully participated for the third straight day. All three players are probable for Sunday.
Decision on Gaither still pending
The team is still waiting to hear from Dr. Robert Watkins, the back specialist in California who evaluated offensive tackle Jared Gaither's thoracic disk injury for a second time earlier in the week.
Gaither had said Wednesday that he wasn't sure what needed to happen for him to return to the field. On Friday, Harbaugh sounded similarly mystified.
"It's tough because it's just frustrating for everybody," he said. "Frustrating for us, frustrating for Jared, frustrating for [trainer] Bill [Tessendorf] and the guys who are trying to do the training because they've been pushing this thing hard ased on the protocol since the first time that they had an issue, and nothing is making it better in Jared's mind as far as how it feels, which is tough. There's something going on there. We haven't heard yet from Dr. Watkins here going onto the practice field. So I don't really know. So to comment on it wouldn't be right. So hopefully, there's some good news in terms of knowing what we can do to make it better. Maybe we've got it now, but as of before practice, he hadn't contacted Bill T. or our doctors yet."
Explanation for absence of pink
Last Sunday, several Pittsburgh Steelers players wore pink cleats and gloves as part of the NFL's participation in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October. Curiously, the Ravens did not.
On Friday, Harbaugh explained why the players weren't wearing pink.