Can an immovable object impede an unstoppable force? Philosophers have debated it for years. Football fans will get to see that debate play out Sunday when the Ravens' top-ranked rush defense clashes with the New York Giants' No. 1 run offense at Giants Stadium.
It's a matchup that has football analysts salivating, and while the participants involved are taking a toned-down approach, even they can appreciate the intrigue surrounding the game.
"One thing you can't take away from them is they're doing a great job with their offense and letting all three backs really establish their mentality," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. "They like to run the ball; we like to stop the run. So, bottom line, football is going to be football."
Both sides are emphatic they will succeed.
"We love it when people say we can't do something," New York center Shaun O'Hara said during a conference call. "I think that is when this team rises up. Again, Baltimore is going to be another great challenge for us, and we certainly know what kind of defense they run and the type of personnel that they have. So, again, it is going to be another physical game."
Countered Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata: "You've got to believe what you're saying, and we believe we can stop anybody, and they believe they can run on anybody. So we'll see how it goes."
Though there are other matchups on the field that could factor into Sunday's outcome, it's rare for two opposing units to be the best in one particular category. The Giants rank first in the NFL in rush yards per game (168.9), yards per carry (5.2) and runs of at least 20 yards (15). Twelve of New York's 28 touchdowns this season have been produced by the running attack.
The Giants have rushed for 200 or more yards in four games, including 200 against the Dallas Cowboys and 219 against the Philadelphia Eagles in back-to-back weekends.
Using a three-back rotation of Brandon Jacobs (the NFL's fourth-leading rusher with 806 yards and nine touchdowns), Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw, New York has gained 100 yards on the ground in eight of nine games.
Establishing a ground plan is critical because it relieves some of the pressure on quarterback Eli Manning and sets up the league's 16th-ranked passing attack.
"We know it's going to be tough, but we've got to try to be physical so we can get into some of our play action and we can get into some third-and-manageable situations by running the ball and setting that up," Manning said. "You never know what kind of game it's going to turn into and what's working, but we feel confident. Whether it's throwing or running, we've just got to be efficient and play smart."
Offenses have struggled to be efficient against the Ravens, who rank first in average yards (65.4) and yards per carry (2.9) and are tied for first in rushing touchdowns surrendered (one) and runs of at least 20 yards (one). The defense has gone 28 consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher and has permitted just 18 100-yard rushers since 1999, fewest in the NFL. The most an opposing offense has gained on the ground against the Ravens is the 76 yards by the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 13.
Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce said the unit takes pride in its tradition of stopping the run.
"It comes from the fact that we can do it," he said. "It comes from the fact that you watch how we play the run, and that's the thing our coaches harp on. [They say:] 'If you guys want to play fun football, you've got to do the dirty work first, and that's stopping the run. Then you guys can get after the quarterback, [get] interceptions and all those types of things if you stop the run.' And we've been good at that around here for a long time."
So which unit will emerge victorious? It's hard to say, but Lewis said the Ravens' defense can't be overly concerned with what the Giants do. The onus is on the Ravens to carry out their schemes, Lewis said.
"The only test is we like to stop the run, and that's the bottom line," he said. "We're the best defense in football doing that. So if there's a test, the test is just going and upholding what you're already built to do."
No. 1 vs. No. 1
The Giants rank first in the NFL in these offensive categories:
Rushing yards per game: 168.9
Yards per carry: 5.2
Runs of at least 20 yards: 15
The Ravens rank first in the NFL in these defensive categories:
Rushing yards allowed per game: 65.4
Yards per carry: 2.9
Rushing touchdowns surrendered: 1 (tie)
Runs of at least 20 yards: 1 (tie)
Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 13
Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM
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