Ravens Notebook: Harbaugh sticks up for struggling McGahee

Street Talk Ravens Notebook: Harbaugh sticks up for struggling McGahee

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OWINGS MILLS — Despite the rapid decline of running back Willis McGahee due to injuries, ineffectiveness and attitude and the meteoric rise of hard-nosed fullback Le’Ron McClain, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh isn’t inclined to declare McClain the centerpiece of the NFL’s fourth-ranked running game.

Although McClain has led the Ravens in rushing for three consecutive games and McGahee is dealing with a shoulder stinger and a mild concussion suffered during a 24-10 victory over the Washington Redskins where he was limited to 32 yards on 11 carries and lost a fumble, Harbaugh defended McGahee following his latest shaky performance.

"Your premise is that he didn’t play well," Harbaugh said when a reporter suggested that McGahee was off his game. "I don’t see it that way. Willis hammered it up in there.

"He had the one pitch thing, the wind took the thing and moved it about two feet, so he did the best he could with it. He’s going to be fine."

McClain leads the Ravens with 606 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns while McGahee has gained 521 yards and scored five touchdowns followed by rookie Ray Rice’s 454 yards. Rice leads the Ravens with 4.2 yards per carry.
McGahee has rushed for just 58 yards over the past three games since producing a season-high 112 rushing yards with two touchdowns in a Nov. 9 win over the Houston Texans.

Harbaugh stressed that the committee approach is here to stay.

"You guys want us to name a starter and say, ‘He’s our No. 1 back,’" Harbaugh said. "We just don’t do it that way, not right now. We’ve got three guys right now. They are our guys and we believe in them."

Against the Redskins, McGahee’s fumble led to a touchdown. His longest run was six yards.

From a health standpoint, McGahee, who was taunted by Redskins safety LaRon Landry after the brutal hit that knocked him out of the game, is expected to be all right for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"He had a little stinger," Harbaugh said. "He had a little tingling and stuff, but he’s going to be fine."

INJURY REPORT: Rice suffered a contusion in his lower leg.

"We don’t think it’s anything more than that," Harbaugh said. "We’ll see how he does."

Kicker Matt Stover feared that he had broken his right ankle when Landry tumbled into him after being blocked by tight end Daniel Wilcox, but it was just a scare.

Return specialist Yamon Figurs bruised his left knee and didn’t return, but indicated it wasn’t serious.

GUTSY CALL: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s gamble on fourth-and-one paid major dividends as rookie quarterback Joe Flacco hit tight end Todd Heap for a 24-yard gain that set up Stover’s 32-yard field goal.

The third-quarter gambit involved Heap slipping away from the Redskins’ coverage toward the left sideline after Flacco sold the play with a well-orchestrated play-action fake to the right.

The Ravens are now 6-for-9 in fourth-down conversions this season.

"Those are great calls when they work, right?" Harbaugh said. "We were talking to the defense right before the call was made just to let them know, ‘Hey, we’re going for this thing.’ They kind of looked at me and said, ‘Punt them down in there!’

"And I said, ‘We’re going for this thing, and you get them stopped if it doesn’t work.’ Then, it was, ‘Wait until you see this call. So, then they all jumped off the bench and they were watching. They couldn’t believe it, either. And Todd did a great job of executing it, as did Joe. So that’s Cam Cameron at his best."

TOUGH ROOKIE: Flacco elected to lower his left, non-throwing shoulder and plowed into Redskins middle linebacker London Fletcher.

Even though Flacco got the best of the exchange as he knocked Fletcher backward, the coaching staff would prefer he protect his body in the future.

"We’d rather he slide," Harbaugh said. "We’d rather he not put himself in too many of those situations. I mean, what a competitor.

"He’s trying to find a way to get the first down. That’s tough sledding against a linebacker like London Fletcher."

QUICK HITS: When asked to compare the Ravens-Steelers rivalry to the Ohio State-Michigan series that Harbaugh grew up with, he declined to entertain the idea. "More or less, it’s irrelevant," he said. "It’s the next one up. It’s really important." … Officials informed Harbaugh that he couldn’t challenge Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell’s fumble because they had already determined that his forward progress had been halted. "When they rule it dead, when they determine that they’ve blown the whistle because forward progress has been stopped, there’s no challenge about possession," Harbaugh said. "Basically, he’s down by forward progress. He’s down by the whistle at that point, so you can’t challenge that. Once they make that determination, it’s a judgment call. It’s over at that point." … A Miami of Ohio graduate, Harbaugh singled out Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: "They’ve got a quarterback who went to a great college."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
Photo by Sabina Moran.

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson


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