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Ravens' run-stopping streak will be tested by Texans' Arian Foster

Timmy Jernigan heard about the streak Wednesday. C.J. Mosley didn't know the Ravens hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 24 games until Thursday, though the news brought a smile to his face.

These such streaks — which span seasons, personnel, and coaching regimes — have become part of Ravens franchise lore. Stretches of 46 and 39 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher ended in 2001 and 2009, respectively, but there's little fanfare inside the locker room as a third run is built.


"That just goes to show how much pride guys have in this program," the rookie defensive tackle Jernigan said. "Dominating is natural; that's the standard around here. It isn't something that happens every now and then. No, it's expected week in and week out, year in and year out. It's just what we live by."

A Houston Texans offense that has rushed a league-high 474 times and must choose between unproven quarterbacks Thaddeus Lewis and Case Keenum will represent the season's greatest threat to that streak. The Texans will rely heavily on running back Arian Foster, who has run for over 100 yards in seven of 11 games this season and averages 102.5 yards per game.


Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy was the last to break the 100-yard mark against the Ravens, with a 120-yard performance at M&T Bank Stadium on Oct. 23, 2013.

That same week, San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore ran for over 100 yards against the Arizona Cardinals. The Ravens and Cardinals had carried the longest active streaks into late November, until Arizona yielded 101 yards to Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson in Week 13.

Coach John Harbaugh inherited what became a 39-game streak without allowing a 100-yard rusher that was snapped by the Cincinnati Bengals' Cedric Benson in 2009. In between that streak and this one, the Ravens have allowed 14 runners to break the 100-yard barrier.

Foster has gone over 100 yards twice against the Ravens in the that span, and he ran for 98 yards in another game against them. Including the playoffs, he'd be the first player to ever rush for over 100 yards three times against a Harbaugh-coached Ravens team.

"They have one of the best backs in football," Harbaugh said. "He's always giving us all kinds of trouble."

Foster has averaged 4.9 yards per carry this year and has eight runs of 20 yards or more. But the Ravens have made a point of not allowing big chunks of yardage in the running game.

Just 22 of the 323 running plays against the Ravens have gone for double-digit yardage this season, and outside of a pair of reverses by New Orleans wide receiver Joe Morgan and Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, the longest was a 22-yard scamper by Cleveland Browns rookie Isaiah Crowell.

When opponents even sniff the second level of the Ravens' defense, the players usually hear about it.


"Once we give up that 5-yard run, you see all the coaches yelling and screaming at guys to tighten it up," strong-side linebacker Courtney Upshaw said. "That's what we really focus on, and if we continue the streak, that's what we do."

Keeping multiple defenders around the runner has been a strength of the Ravens' third-ranked rushing defense, which has allowed 84.3 yards per game. No opposing running back has topped 68 yards against the Ravens this year.

"It's really all about pursuit," said Mosley, the rookie inside linebacker who leads the team with 117 tackles. "When one guy makes a tackle, everybody runs to the ball, and that's going to be a big thing this week because Arian Foster is a very athletic back who has great balance and probably one of the best stiff arms in the game. When one person hits him, the next man has to go to him, too, because he's going to be able to break plays."

Defensive end Chris Canty believes that ability to get yards after contact and in the second level of a defense is one of Foster's best attributes.

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"You don't see guys get a lot of clean shots on him," Canty said. "He doesn't take a lot of big hits, and he always gets extra yardage, yards after contact, that kind of thing. … We're going to make sure we understand where he's at, and [that] everybody on the field on defense is at the point of attack when he's touching the ball."

Considering the Texans' quarterback uncertainty, the Ravens know Houston's focus will be a consistent running attack against a defense that's still without suspended defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.


Canty said the run defense is "certainly not what it is when [Ngata] is in the lineup," but has been "OK" since Ngata's suspension ahead of Week 14 for unauthorized use of Adderall. The Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars had early success running the ball the past two weeks, but both largely abandoned the run in the second half instead of further testing the Ravens' resolve up front.

The Ravens expect Houston will use the run to try to open up passing opportunities for whichever quarterback starts Sunday, with hopes that will also neutralize a pass rush that ranks third in the NFL with 45 sacks.

"Anytime that you have a quarterback situation that's in flux, the quarterback's best friend is the running game," Canty said. "It's easy to turn around and hand the ball off to a special running back like [Foster]. We understand that that's how things go in this league."

To Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees, needing to slow Foster is a priority regardless of the Texans' quarterback situation.

"You're going to get [Foster] no matter who would have been the quarterback, so you have to be able to stop the run against this team," he said. "That's really [how] it has always been against Houston, and it's not going to change any on Sunday."