Baltimore Ravens rookie running back J.K. Dobbins shares his thoughts on making the playoffs.
The Ravens didn’t break their NFL single-season rushing record, like running back Gus Edwards said they wanted to, but the encore performance wasn’t too shabby.
The team ran for a franchise-record 404 yards in its 38-3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and finished the regular season with 3,071 yards. The effort came just 23 yards short of breaking the league’s all-time single-game mark of 426, set by the Detroit Lions in 1934, but the Ravens became one of just four teams since 1950 to rush for 400 yards in a game.
Coincidentally, the Bengals own the Super Bowl era rushing record with a 407-yard day against the Denver Broncos on Oct. 22, 2000.
Last season, the Ravens rushed for 3,296 yards, breaking the previous mark set by the 1978 New England Patriots.
“It’s an amazing feeling. I’m so happy to be here; I’m so happy to be a Raven,” said rookie running back J.K. Dobbins, who had 13 carries for 160 yards, joining Michael Vick and Maurice Jones-Drew as the only players to reach those benchmarks since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. “Because we’ve got a whole bunch of great O-linemen, great playmakers outside, quarterback is great, everyone is great. It’s just showing how hard we’ve worked. That’s what the 400 yards shows — that we’ve been working so hard. And to be honest, I feel like we could still take another step. But it’s great to be on this team.”
While the Ravens didn’t match last season’s rushing record, the 2020 season has served as an evolution of the running game that could set the team up better for a playoff run this time around.
The offense entered the season with four legitimate options in the backfield, in addition to Lamar Jackson, who last year ran for 1,206 yards, an NFL record for a quarterback. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman labeled it a “good problem” before training camp opened.
But a few games into the year, the Ravens seemed to have trouble rationing carries in the overcrowded backfield. Between Dobbins, Edwards and Mark Ingram II, who played a leading role in last season’s record-setting effort, carries could be few and far between at times.
After an ankle sprain that sidelined Ingram midseason, the Ravens turned to its younger backs in Dobbins, whose dynamic potential had yet to be fully tapped into, and Edwards, whose steady running was being boosted by a newfound burst.
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Unlike the 2019 season, the Ravens faced attrition to the core of its running game. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 8 and tight end Nick Boyle, perhaps the best blocker at his position, was lost for the year with a knee injury two weeks later.
The Ravens, using seven offensive line combinations in the regular season, maintained their league-leading rushing offense, with schemes that prioritized outside runs and countered opposing defense’s tendencies to overload the middle of the field.
The running game seemed to get better as the team’s late-season playoff push continued, with the Ravens rushing for over 200 yards in four of their final five games. Like 2019, the offense finished with three 700-yard rushers: Jackson (1,005), Dobbins (805) and Edwards (723). With 97 rushing yards Sunday, Jackson secured his second straight 1,000-yard season, the first quarterback in league history to accomplish such a feat. Dobbins’ nine touchdowns set the franchise rookie record.
And by the time the last minutes of the fourth quarter were coming off the clock Sunday, with Ingram plowing ahead for hard-earned yards in a blowout victory, you might not have been able to tell any difference between this season and the previous one, other than the yard total.
“You just see what our offense can do up front; the dominance to get 400 yards rushing with a stacked box,” outside linebacker Matthew Judon said. “I don’t think any play it was ever an empty box, unless we came out and emptied [empty backfield], and then [the Bengals] still had about seven [defensive players] in the box. So, it’s just crazy. The stuff that Lamar can do — plays break down, he scrambles, he gets yards, he picks up first downs. J.K. was electric. He had a -yard touchdown. Gus in the first half was toting the rock and had about 50 yards at halftime on hard runs.
“You have to give credit to the people up front making the holes, but then the ball carriers are finishing runs. You let Mark Ingram get in there, and he got a little juice back going forward into the playoffs. So, what our offense can do is amazing, and it helps us. As long as that clock ticks, and they’re running the ball, it helps us.”