C.J. Mosley did not sugarcoat what he thought of the Ravens' run defense in their 27-26 win Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"A smack in the mouth," the inside linebacker said.
While the Ravens turned back Philadelphia's 2-point-conversion attempt to cement their victory and set up a significant Christmas Day rematch with the Pittsburgh Steelers for AFC North supremacy, their inability to slow Eagles running back Ryan Mathews must be concerning.
With 20 carries for 128 yards and one touchdown, Mathews became only the third opposing running back since 2013 to reach the 100-yard mark at M&T Bank Stadium, joining the Green Bay Packers' Eddie Lacy and the Steelers' DeAngelo Williams.
Mathews is the third player this season to rush for 100 yards against the Ravens; the Cleveland Browns' Isaiah Crowell (18 rushes for 133 yards and one score) and the New York Jets' Matt Forte (30 attempts for 100 yards and one touchdown) also did so.
Eagles rookie Byron Marshall added 22 yards on nine carries Sunday, and Kenjon Barner gained 6 yards on three rushes before leaving in the second quarter with a right hamstring injury. Philadelphia's 169 rushing yards were a season-worst mark for the Ravens.
Mathews credited an offensive line that started a backup left guard and a fourth-string right tackle with opening running lanes.
"It's getting on a roll," he said. "Guys were excited to run the ball. It's a tough challenge, and like I said, the line was playing great today."
Philadelphia's success was partly predicated on the ability of its offensive line to get downfield and block Ravens linebackers. Mosley finished with a team-high 13 tackles, but he and fellow inside linebacker Zachary Orr frequently had to shed an offensive lineman to get to the running back.
"I think they did a good job of scheming us up and just blocking us," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It's a stretch-zone scheme, and they were doing a great job of reaching our guys and cutting us off on the backside."
The Ravens have faced teams that employ zone-blocking tactics, but safety Eric Weddle said the Eagles caught the defense off guard.
"It was a different scheme of running, and their offensive linemen are just athletic," he said. "They're fast, so they tend to get on your side. They get your leverage on you, move you side to side, and it's not so much power football. It's side to side, and let Ryan cut off it. They had some good scheme runs that we weren't prepared for."
Just as important was Mathews, who at 6 feet, 220 pounds is a large, physical back with the vision to find the holes created by his blockers.
"They've definitely got great backs, but we played some outstanding backs all year," Mosley said. "Usually we adjust it up, and those types of things. We had our plays here and there, but we know what we've got to do next week. [The Steelers] watch film just like we do, and we've got to be ready for that so that we don't put ourselves in that same situation."
The Ravens rarely get pushed around on the ground: They had allowed just 75.5 yards per game in their first 13 games this season. Cornerback Jerraud Powers said Sunday's performance should serve as a wake-up call.
"I think it's more of a humbling experience," he said. "I think we've been dominating the run all year. … For somebody to come out here and ground and pound, because it wasn't like he had a big 60-, 70-yard run … I think it humbled us and makes us want to go back and clean up some issues that we've probably been letting slide in the last few weeks."
Powers said he and teammates should anticipate a fiery Dean Pees in meetings this week. The Ravens and their defensive coordinator need to correct their mistakes before meeting Pittsburgh running back Le'Veon Bell, who has averaged 142.6 yards and scored five rushing touchdowns in his past five starts.
Defensive end Lawrence Guy said the run defense will be a top priority this week during practice.
"We pride ourselves on run defense," he said. "So that's one of the things we're going to have to go back and watch the film and figure out how to stop it. … It will be one of those things where we will clear it up watching film and get it right. I can tell you this: It's not going to happen again."