In a game billed as a showdown between two of the toughest teams in the NFL, the Ravens forced the Miami Dolphins into submission courtesy of a solid performance from their running back corps.
The trio of Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain battered Miami to the tune of 124 rushing yards on 33 carries. They also contributed to the aerial attack, combining to catch 10 passes for 139 yards and one touchdown that helped the Ravens claim a 26-10 victory at M&T Bank Stadium.
"It's the same thing," McGahee said of the running backs' approach to every game. "Just set the tone as the point of the offense to open up the passing game. Me and Ray did a great job, and also Le'Ron did a great job when he was running the ball."
Rice gained 83 yards on 22 carries, McGahee compiled 24 yards on six rushes, and McClain collected 17 yards on five attempts. That trio rushed 18 times in the second half, allowing the offense to keep the ball in the unit's possession, take time off the clock, and give the defense a breather.
Rice and McGahee were also effective in the passing game. Rice caught seven passes for 97 yards and frequently burned the Dolphins on underneath routes in which he was matched up against a linebacker.
"That's the most space I've seen all year," Rice said. "… I was one-on-one a lot. I won my one-on-ones, and the run-game tempo was there. Having Willis and Le'Ron is the biggest thing. I have to keep myself fresh, and I like to consider our backfield one of the best backfields out there."
McGahee caught three balls for 42 yards, 32 of which came on a screen pass in which he wove through a maze of defenders to give the Ravens their first touchdown of the season on their opening drive.
Asked about what he saw as he was following blocks and avoiding tackles, McGahee said with a smile, "That's called having fun."
The play of the running backs caught coach John Harbaugh's attention.
"Ray had a bunch of catch and runs," he said. "Willis ran well. Le'Ron made a couple of plays. I know in the run game, he was running hard."
Josh Wilson did not start, but the cornerback played well in his limited time.
Wilson replaced Fabian Washington to begin the third quarter, and he broke up three passes and intercepted Miami quarterback Chad Henne late in the fourth quarter.
"It was man-to-man, and he stopped, and I've got to be able to stop and break back," Wilson said. "And when I looked back, the ball was there. The easy part was just catching it."
Wilson said he was unsure whether replacing Washington in back-to-back contests could mean a starting role against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night.
"I'm not the coach. I'm not the front office," he said. "All I know is I'm a player, and I go out there and play when I get the opportunity. When the opportunity's there, I play, and when the opportunity's not there, I'm ready to play."
Said Harbaugh: "He's here for a reason. He's a guy that's had a lot of success. I figure as we go forward, we want to play those corners as much as we can."
Washington benched, again
Two weeks after surrendering three touchdowns to the Buffalo Bills' Lee Evans and getting benched, Washington found a spot on the sideline again.
Washington was removed at halftime in favor Wilson, who replaced Washington against the Bills on Oct. 24. Washington, who hadn't given up a touchdown to the Dolphins, said coaches informed him of the move before the start of the third quarter.
"It doesn't bother me," sad Washington, who said he thought he was being disciplined for missing a tackle that Miami's Brian Hartline turned into a 31-yard gain in the second quarter. "The reason why it bothers me but at the end of the day, it doesn't bother me is because I'm still going to compete and I feel like I'll get my shot to get back on the field and when I do, you've got to take advantage of it — like Josh did today."
Asked if he thinks he will start against the Falcons, Washington replied, "Yes, of course. But we'll see when we go into tomorrow. We'll see what happens."
Added Harbaugh: "First of all, Fabian was playing OK. And Fabian's going to be fine. Fabian's a big part of what we're doing here."
Mason vs. Crowder
Capping a week of exchanged barbs, wide receiver Derrick Mason questioned linebacker Channing Crowder's worth to his own team.
On Thursday, Crowder referred to Mason as "the old guy." On Friday, Mason said Crowder "was still peeing on himself when I was playing football."
After Sunday's game, Mason told a group of reporters that Crowder didn't know how to play football.