In the pass-happy NFL, the Baltimore Ravens have found success by keeping the ball on the ground.
The Ravens (7-4) totaled 366 yards rushing in their last two games, impressive victories over Tennessee and New Orleans that provided some valuable momentum heading into Sunday's matchup with San Diego (7-4).
"We always try to run the ball as much as we can and as effectively as we can," coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday. "It's probably who we are."
Justin Forsett carried 20 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns against the Titans, then topped that with a career-high 182 yards and two scores at New Orleans.
On a franchise that once featured Jamal Lewis, Ray Rice and Priest Holmes in the backfield, Forsett became the first player in Ravens history to rush for at least 100 yards and two touchdowns in consecutive games.
"This time of the year, you have to be able to run the football. You want to be able to control the clock," Forsett said. "We've got a dominant front and we're able to wear guys out when it comes down to the fourth quarter. At the back end of the season, it's difficult to stay with us."
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco loves throwing the ball. Lately, however, he's been quite content with handing off to Forsett, stepping back and admiring the running back's work.
"It's great him to see him playing the way he's been playing," Flacco said.
After throwing 45 times in a loss to Pittsburgh, Flacco attempted only 27 passes against Tennessee and 24 at New Orleans.
"It's been great," Flacco said. "I'd love to throw 50 times a game if everything's perfect, but that's usually not why you're throwing 50 times. This week (against the Saints) we were executing on a lot of levels and Justin had a great game."
So did the offensive line. For the big guys up front, it was far easier to push ahead rather than drop back into pass protection.
"I definitely like run blocking more, and I think getting the running game going early really makes everything else easier," right tackle Rick Wagner said. "It's just a great opportunity to get off the ball and show what we've been doing at practice."
Forsett has already reached career highs in carries and yardage. With 97 more yards, the 5-foot-8, 197-pounder will reach 1,000 for the first time in his seven-year career.
His 155 rushing attempts are more than in his three previous seasons combined.
"It's been great, man, just getting an opportunity to show what I can do every week," Forsett said. "As we get closer to the end of the season, these games are more important. I'm trying to run with this opportunity."
The Ravens couldn't have scripted a better start against the Saints. Forsett set the tone with a 38-yard run on Baltimore's first play from scrimmage, and by halftime he had 115 yards on just 13 carries.
With the running game clicking, the play-action passes became far easier for Flacco. He completed 18 for 24 throws for 243 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions and a lofty 120.7 quarterback rating.
"I think from early on you could tell we were going to have a pretty good day running the ball, and it exceeded everybody's expectations," Flacco said. "We ran the ball really well and when we threw the ball, we got some good yardage in chunks. I took advantage of things that way."
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