The Ravens have run for more than 200 yards in each of the last two games.
Consequently, they were both victories.
That running game will be pivotal again this week against the Atlanta Falcons and their high-powered offense.
The Ravens do not want to get into a shootout against the Falcons. So, Baltimore will need to establish the running game early and set the tone.
In the two games since the bye, Baltimore’s ground attack has risen from 27th to 11th in the NFL.
That’s a game plan that suits the offensive line.
“I feel like our offensive line loves running the ball,” said running back Gus Edwards. “They get pumped up out there when we’re running the ball and we get positive yards. They’re jumping around, they’re rolling on, they’re looking over at the sidelines saying, ‘Continue going!’ So, I feel like they love it. I love it, too, obviously. So, yes.”
“Gus the Bus” has played a key role in the resurgence of the running game. He made his first start Week 12 against Oakland in place of the injured Alex Collins (foot) and finished with 118 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. The undrafted rookie became the first Ravens player to have consecutive 100-yard games since Justin Forsett in 2015.
Jackson also keeps teams on their heals with his ability to scramble for long yards out of the pocket. While Jackson threw the ball better against Oakland, the Ravens do not want to try and keep pace with Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who leads the NFL with 3,683 passing yards. He also thrown 24 touchdowns with just five interceptions.
Atlanta receiver Julio Jones is the league’s top receiver with 1,305 yards with three touchdowns.
The Falcons, however, are ranked just 25th against the run, allowing 123.7 yards per game.
“For us, it’s been something that, over the last couple weeks, we haven’t been pleased with our own run defense and our run offense,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “That’s something internally, that the line of scrimmage has to be right for us to play the kind of football that we like. But, like in most games, the gap control, the tackling, those are things that we can control, and that’s where we have to be rock-solid to do that. It only takes a play or two here or there to get out of whack, and a player jumps out of his gap and kind of over-tries in some aspects.
“So, I think the real discipline is rock-solid run defense. And I’ve been impressed watching the Ravens’ defense [stay] really square and strong in the run game as well. So, it’s definitely a topic that is important to us and one that we’re spending a lot of time on this week,” he said.
This is another pivotal game for the Ravens, who are 6-5 and currently hold the sixth and final playoff spot.
Jackson is prepared to put his team in position to win the game, either with his arm or legs.
“We just do whatever it takes to win,” Jackson said. “We are going to try to balance it out, because we have wonderful, great receivers – great hands – guys that run great routes. We’re going to do whatever it takes to win. We’ll see what the game plan gives us.”