Ravens look to set up run game – again

Reminiscent of 2008-2009, Ravens shift players on line to open protect Flacco

December 13, 2010|By Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun

Houston — — John Harbaugh's commitment to the running game last week was more than lip service. When the Ravens offense took the field against the Houston Texans Monday night, it brought back the Jumbo, unbalanced formation.

Oniel Cousins moved in at right tackle, Marshal Yanda bounced to right guard and Chris Chester was once again a roaming tight end. On pass plays, the Ravens sent out only two receivers. It was a throwback to the 2008 and 2009 seasons when the Ravens relied heavily on the run game to help protect a young Joe Flacco.

Last week, after four straight games with diminishing rush yardage, Harbaugh said the Ravens needed to run the ball better. The Ravens coach said a more efficient run game would open up the passing game. And the pass game was the dividend in the first quarter, when the Ravens rushed the ball nine times for only 22 yards but Flacco threw effectively short and deep.

Completions of 16 yards to Ray Rice and 17 to Le'Ron McClain set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Willis McGahee on the Ravens' second possession. Early in the second quarter, Rice broke a 16-yard run to the Houston 27, setting up a 9-yard scoring pass to Derrick Mason.

At 14-0, the Ravens had rushed for 47 yards and thrown for 92 against the NFL's worst pass defense. Mason dropped a deep throw on the first series, or it could have been more.

One other familiar element in the offense was getting the ball out to Rice in space on quick screens. Rice had four catches in the first half.

Harbaugh also said the Ravens needed to improve their third-down offense and they did, converting a third-and-14 play on the first possession with a 14-yard catch and second effort by Anquan Boldin. The touchdown throw to Mason came on third down, as well.

D. Reed sets record

David Reed's 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half was the longest in Ravens' history. The rookie spun out of a pile in his own end, eluded another tackle and outran Antwaun Molden down the sideline to score his first NFL touchdown.

That was the fruition of the Ravens' big to get a big play out of the return game. Special teams coach Jerry Rosburg spoke last week about Reed's eagerness to run the ball out of the end zone.

"He's aggressive," Rosburg said of Reed. "He doesn't like to mess around back there. He gets a chance and he's going to go for it. And we don't want to push him down in that regard. We want him to take opportunities … And I think the more experience he gets, the more he develops that mental clock, that stopwatch in his head where, 'It may be four yards deep, but if it's a lower ball I can take this one.' And he has our blessing on most of those."

Roof closed

The Houston Texans have closed the roof of Reliant Stadium for Monday night's game against the Ravens.

The Texans close the roof when temperatures dip below 50 degrees. This decision isn't a welcome one for the Ravens, who entered Monday night's game with a 2-10 record when playing indoors during the regular season.

The Ravens lost in their only previous game in a dome this season, a 26-21 defeat to the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

End zone

Left tackle Michael Oher was flagged for a false start in the first quarter, his seventh false start of the season. The Ravens, troubled all season with pre-snap penalties, had 13 false starts called against their offensive linemen into the game and a total of 18 overall. … Johnson has five 100-yard games, but didn't catch a pass until the final two minutes of the first half. … Flacco's fumble on a second-quarter sack by safety Bernard Pollard was his eighth of the season. It was recovered by Oher. Flacco has lost four fumbles. … The 21-0 lead in the first half was the team's biggest of the season. … The Ravens' inactives were: tight end Todd Heap (hamstring), cornerback Fabian Washington (hamstring), fullback Jason McKie, linebackers Jason Phillips and Dannell Ellerbe, defensive tackles Arthur Jones and Lamar Divens and offensive lineman Bryan Mattison. It's the first game that Heap has missed since the end of the 2007 season, ending his 44-game regular season streak.

ken.murray@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

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