In my Tuesday column for b, I wrote about the importance of keeping Ray Rice heavily involved in the Ravens' game-planning, whether it is done by stuffing the ball into his belly or by chucking the ball to him on check downs and screen plays (I also whined some more about fantasy football). One reason mentioned was how the ground game can make life easier on quarterback Joe Flacco.
Flacco proved in Pittsburgh and Atlanta that he can be more than a game manager when he needs to be, and the Ravens didn't assemble the Boldin-Mason-Houshmandzadeh triumvirate to simply serve as big-name downfield blockers. But Flacco and the Ravens experienced a great deal of success in 2008 and 2009 by pounding defenses on the ground then throwing it over the heads of defenders when they were worn down, disheartened and looking for shelter in the locker room.
That's how the Saints, a pretty good defensive team, looked when chasing after Rice on Sunday.
"The run game helped us win this game today," center Matt Birk said after the 30-24 win. "But it’s one game, and next week you’ve got to do it all over again. But certainly, like I said before, we’re at our best when we’re balanced on offense, so establishing the run game is important for us.”
As I've said all season, balance is the key. I wasn't suggesting the Ravens rip all the pass plays out of their playbook and put all their wide receivers on the inactive list going forward. The Ravens will have to make plays through the air to win the Super Bowl -- and they can -- but giving the ball to Rice, Willis McGahee and the occasional carry by Le'Ron McClain should be the top priority.
Yes, I know matchups dictate how you should attack a defense. But I'm a big fan of teams saying, "Hey, this is what we do and we do it well. You know it's coming. Now go ahead and try to stop us."
Harbuagh seemed to agree with that sentiment at his Monday conference, and the following quote makes me think that he and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron might have had a heart-to-heart about what he wants the -- God, I hate using this word -- identity of the Ravens offense to be.
"I’m OK with being a rough, tough, physical football team. I think you have to be able to run the ball. I’m OK in a game throwing it 50 times and being physical in pass protection, and being physical with catch and run and all that. But I’m really OK with knocking people off the ball. I think that opens up everything. But I also think making big plays in the passing game opens up everything too. So, to me, that’s kind of what being balanced is. If you can create dimensions -- the width and the depth of the field -- and attack people that way, that’s, to me, how you can really be effective and make everything better. But, running the ball, it probably starts with that.”
As it should.