Run Game Crucial to Any Success Photo Credit: Baltimore Ravens

Street Talk Run Game Crucial to Any Success

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On Oct. 15, 2000, the Baltimore Ravens had the ball on the Washington Redskins’ 1-yard line with just 10 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Ravens had not scored a touchdown in the previous two games, so it became a foregone conclusion that quarterback Tony Banks would hand the ball off to Jamal Lewis to end the skid.

Instead, Banks inexplicably threw a pass that was intercepted by Redskins linebacker Kevin Mitchell in the end zone. After the play, Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden slammed his helmet to the ground on the sidelines and chastised the coaches for not running the ball in an eventual 10-3 loss.

Lewis had just 16 carries for 34 yards that day. Priest Holmes ran the ball four times for 25 yards.

That’s a scenario the team is hoping to avoid this season.

Coach John Harbaugh has said numerous times in the offseason that the Ravens need to establish a more effective running attack. Last season, Baltimore ranked 28th in the NFL, averaging 91.4 yards per game.

That number is misleading because neither offensive coordinator, Marc Trestman, who was fired in October, nor Marty Mornhinweg committed to running the ball. Baltimore ranked 30th in the league with 367 rushing attempts.

That is expected to change this season.

The Ravens hired Greg Roman as the senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach to help boost the running game. In four of his five full seasons as an offensive coordinator with Buffalo and San Francisco, Roman’s rushing attack ranked in the top five of the NFL.

The players are certainly clamoring for the running backs — Terrance West, Danny Woodhead and Buck Allen — to have more opportunities to make plays.

So far, they’ve been pleased with the initial game-planning.

“I’m excited,” right guard Marshal Yanda said about the running game. “We’re all excited. It’s a fresh start and I think … The word I think of is ‘commitment.’ I think we’re going to be committed to it more this year than we ever have. We understand, too, that we’re going to have to pass the ball, too. I tell the offensive line that it doesn’t matter to us in the end – you can’t look at it that way.”

running game

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA Today Sports

The Ravens touchdown drought in 2000 would eventually reach five games. They went 2-3 over that stretch led by the defense. Baltimore would eventually win the franchise’s first Super Bowl that season.

Baltimore could be facing a familiar scenario this season where the defense has to forge a path to victories. The offense needs to avoid costly mistakes and establish an effective running game to maintain an edge with time of possession.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs was pleased to hear the team is committed to running the ball more. He knows the defense can be special this season, especially with a running game that can help control the clock to keep players fresh.

“I love that. I love that,” Suggs said about the potential for more running plays on offense. “Every time, they do something, every time they do something – Greg [Roman] – everytime I see Marshal out there, I am smiling and giving him the thumbs up. They know they will hear from me if it is something I don’t really approve of, but they have been getting a lot of thumbs up.”

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will be seeing his first live action since 2016 in the opener Sunday against the Bengals. He acknowledged the importance of establishing the run in a tough road game. An effective running attack could also open more opportunities downfield.

Baltimore has not won in Cincinnati since 2011.

“We want to go out there, and we want to run the ball, and we want to hurt people down the field and put points on the board,” Flacco said. “Just because we have a couple of new guys and there have been some injuries and things like that, your expectations do not change. The expectation is to go out there and play winning football. That is to go out there and put as many points on the board until the 60 minutes are up.”

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Todd Karpovich

About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich

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