Can Ravens stay committed to the run?

Offense that just recorded 100 rush yards vs. Bengals faces top-ranked run defense in 49ers

November 24, 2011|By Edward Lee

Staying patient with the run eventually paid off the Ravens in Sunday’s win against the Cincinnati Bengals. That kind of commitment could be just as critical on Thanksgiving night against the San Francisco 49ers.

San Francisco enters Thursday night’s clash as the top-ranked defense against the run, surrendering just an average of 73.9 rushing yards per game. The unit is the only one in the NFL yet to allow a touchdown on the ground and has not permitted a 100-yard rusher in 32 consecutive games, which is tied for the third-longest streak since 2000.

Still, as intimidating as those numbers are, the Ravens plan to test the 49ers’ strength.

“Running the ball is important,” right guard Marshal Yanda said, repeating a familiar refrain expressed by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. “… Obviously, Cam’s going to run the ball. No question. As long as we’re not down by two scores, we’re going to run the ball. So I’m not worried about that. Just like any team, if you can run the football in the NFL, it’s a good thing.”

The Ravens faced a familiar scenario last week when they dealt with a Cincinnati Bengals ranked second in the league against the run. When the smoke had lifted from the Ravens’ 31-24 victory, the offense became just the third to amass more than 100 rushing yards against Cincinnati, and Rice was just the second opposing tailback to gain 100 yards on the ground.

Staying with the run – even when it’s not collecting four or five yards a clip – can be beneficial as it keeps defenses honest and discourages them from blitzing too frequently. But quarterback Joe Flacco said it’s also important to get a few big plays.

“I think any time you’re going to be patient, if you decide to take that route, you’ve got make sure that you hit a couple chunk plays like we did on Sunday,” he said. “Other than that, I think you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do to move the chains and be efficient on third downs. The best way to do that is to have third-and-shorts and keep yourself out of third-down positions. That’s what we’ve really got to fight towards, just putting ourselves in good situations on third down so that we can get firsts.”

How committed the Ravens stay to the run should be an interesting development Thursday night. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie said there’s at least one reason to be patient.

“We would like to be the first team to have a rushing touchdown against them,” he said. “So that’s something that’s definitely a challenge for us.”

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