Only five opposing running backs (the Cleveland Browns’ Isaiah Crowell, New York Jets’ Matt Forte, Philadelphia Eagles’ Ryan Mathews, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell and Cincinnati Bengals’ Rex Burkhead) reached the 100-yard mark last season against the Ravens, who will reacquaint themselves with the first one to do so Sunday at 1 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium.
Crowell gained 133 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries in a 25-20 loss to the Ravens on Sept. 18, 2016. Eighty five of those yards came on a run up the middle in the first quarter, but middle linebacker C.J. Mosley has not forgotten how Crowell played against a defense that finished the season fifth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (89.4).
“A downhill runner,” Mosley said Wednesday of the 5-foot-11, 225-pound Crowell. “He can also be a perimeter runner, but he’s definitely a big-play guy. Last year, the first time we played them, he got an 80-yarder on us. He can break tackles. So we’ve just got to make sure that we gang-tackle. That’s with all of their running backs because they’ve got a lot of playmakers and they do a great job scheming up their runs for them.”
Crowell finished last year with four 100-yard outings, including a career-high 152 yards in the finale against the Steelers, and seven touchdowns. But in a second meeting with the Ravens on Nov. 10, the 24-year-old rushed for only 23 yards on nine attempts. In Sunday’s opener against the Steelers, Crowell was limited to 33 yards on 17 carries.
Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer said the offense has to do more to free up Crowell.
“He’s one of the best backs in this league, and I think in the first game, we would have liked to have given the ball to him and seen some more success,” Kizer said in a conference call. “So it’s our job now to prepare as much as we possibly can to get the ball into his hands and allow him to make the plays that he makes, and I think that comes in the passing game as well. A checkdown to him that might look like four yards can easily break for 30, and we saw that once in this game before, and we’d like to see that a couple more times per game.”
End zone: The Ravens announced that two of their all-time best players, Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis, will be in London next week to take part in events before the team’s game Sept.24 against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium. Ogden, Lewis and former Jaguars Mark Brunell and Fred Taylor will participate in a fan forum and be featured as the respective team’s legends. … Defensive coordinator Dean Pees revealed that only one of the defense’s five sacks in Sunday’s win against the Bengals was the result of a blitz.