The Baltimore Ravens’ running back by committee has been an effective strategy.
Entering this week’s game against the Chicago Bears, the Ravens are ranked fifth in the NFL with 652 rushing yards. Baltimore has managed to have success on the ground despite not having a running back rush for 100 yards in a game this season.
Alex Collins, who was promoted from the practice squad in September, has been the biggest surprise. He leads the team and is tied for 17th in the NFL with 261 yards on 37 carries. Collins also appears to have solved some of his fumbling issues that were a concern for coach John Harbaugh.
Javorius “Buck” Allen has made the most of his increased opportunities when Kenneth Dixon was lost for the season with a knee injury. Allen has carried the ball 66 times for 232 yards, 23rd in the NFL, with a touchdown.
Harbaugh likes the dynamic that Collins and Allen bring to the team.
By alternating snaps, their fresh legs in the fourth quarter are able to wear down teams. Allen was especially productive in the final quarter last week against Oakland when he picked up a couple of key first downs to extend drives and take time off the clock. Allen is also more of a threat catching the ball out of the backfield.
“I think they all have their own different styles,” Harbaugh said. “I think ‘Buck’ is doing a great job in pass protection. You saw, he was creating some room Sunday, running physical, and doing those things. He had a couple where he just almost slipped through there for some big plays. I think he can be big in the passing game, once we get the screens going. They’re all a little bit different in their own, individual good way.”
Terrance West entered the season as the starter, but was fighting to keep his spot atop the depth chart before injuring his calf Sunday against Oakland. West, who has ran for 138 yards on 39 carries with two touchdowns, is out indefinitely.
For added depth, the Ravens signed Bobby Rainey, who spent the entire preseason with the team. Rainey had an impressive camp and ran for 42 yards on nine carries with a touchdown in the final preseason game against New Orleans. However, there was no room for him on the final roster.
The Ravens need the running game to be effective to take some of the pressure off quarterback Joe Flacco, who is having another uneven season. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has tried to strike a balance between throwing and running the ball. That has been a challenge in both of the Ravens’ losses when they were forced to play from behind.
Baltimore has a clear blueprint on how to win games: run effectively, protect the football and force turnovers. When the Ravens dominate in those three areas, they usually win.
Harbaugh was a bit dismissive of that concept earlier this week, saying the Ravens have multiple ways to win games, including throwing the ball if that’s necessary.
“It is week-to-week,” Harbaugh said. “We have to put all our focus on this next game. There really are no trends. The only trend is the next game and getting ready for the next opponent.”
Still, the Ravens ran the ball 113 times and attempted 77 passes in their three wins this season. In the two losses, they threw the ball 76 times and ran it 40. Also, Baltimore has forced 11 turnovers in the three wins and just one in the two losses
Numbers rarely lie. The key is sticking to the plan.