Since the Ravens’ 16-6 win against the San Francisco 49ers on Thanksgiving night, the offense has been applauded for staying with the run even though it gained less than 100 yards against San Francisco.
Striking a balance between running and passing the football has been a universal sentiment in the NFL, but Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said the times are changing.
“Traditional thinking says all that matters. And then you watch Green Bay and New England, and they’ve won championships, and you think, ‘The traditional way, well, that doesn’t really hold true,’” Cameron said during his weekly briefing Thursday. “Now maybe that holds true for us. The bottom line is, we want to run the ball. We like to be physical. Everybody knows how we like to play. But at the same time, we all know that that isn’t all there is. Look at around the league. Guys like Joe Flacco and the quarterbacks in this business, they can throw the football at anyone and execute at a [high] level. … We love having balance. We can run it, we can throw it, we’ve got to execute, no matter which direction we decide to go, do whatever it takes to win every individual game. I think a little traditionally, but also look around. It’s not about running the football to win championships. That’s not a slam dunk anymore.”
Against the 49ers, the Ravens committed to the run, rushing the ball 14 times on 25 first downs, gaining 53 yards. The offense handed the ball off another 13 times on 19 seconds downs, accumulating 38 yards.
On Wednesday, running back Ray Rice was especially complimentary of the decision to be patient against the 49ers’ top-ranked rush defense.
“It’s great to stick with it because No. 1, those are live reps that you can’t take back,” Rice said. “And I’m not saying those are practice reps. Those are live reps that you come in and coach [against] and you obviously get better at it. The more and more your line has to block in situations, the more and more you get better at the run. But at the same time, if you look at what happened last week, time of possession, putting our defense out there fresh was a great scenario for us.”
Staying committed isn’t difficult because of the trust in the players, according to Cameron. But being adaptable is also key.
“We always want to run the football,” Cameron said. “That’s part of our DNA. That’s what we want to do. Sometimes good defenses don’t allow you to do that, and so you can’t be stupid either. We’ve got a ton of trust in Joe, we’ve got [wide receiver] Anquan Boldin, we’ve got tight ends, we’ve got people we can throw the football to. The drive the other night that everyone’s talking about, I think it was like 13 passes and four runs [actually 12 passes and four runs]. So it all fits together. There’s times when you’re going to run it a lot. But we also know in this league, the teams that are scoring points consistently have to execute in the passing game.”