Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ravens Notebook: Rice, McGahee tandem piling up yards

Ravens hold Larry Johnson to 20 yards

BALTIMORE -- Even with the aerial show the Baltimore Ravens put on during a victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, they haven't abandoned their trademark smash-mouth running game.

The running back tandem of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee provided more than enough yards to keep the Chiefs honest during the Ravens' 38-24 win Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium as Baltimore rushed for 198 yards and two touchdowns.

Rice rushed for 108 yards on 19 carries, including a 22-yard run on a sweep down to the Chiefs' 1-yard line that set up Pro Bowl fullback Le'Ron McClain's touchdown plunge.

"A hundred yards doesn't come easy," Rice said. "We were getting five or six yards at a time and then those five or six-yard runs started turning into 15-yard runs and 10-yard runs and 20-yard runs.

"That's what good teams do. On top of all the good passing, you can look at our running game and say we did pretty good."

McGahee caught a touchdown in the first half and rushed for a fourth-quarter touchdown to cap the Ravens' scoring, gaining 44 yards on 10 carries.

The former Pro Bowl runner endured the worst season of his career last year statistically as he dealt with knee, ankle, rib and eye injuries and didn't mesh well with the coaching staff.

Now, he's definitely a part of the offense again in a complementary role behind Rice.
"They took care of me in training camp, I'm glad they did that," McGahee said. "With me and Ray rotating in and out, it keeps them off-balance. We're unstoppable."

CONTAINING LJ: The Ravens definitely hadn't forgotten that Chiefs running back Larry Johnson was the last runner to eclipse the century mark against them.

Johnson rushed for over 100 yards in a 20-10 Baltimore win on Dec. 10, 2006.

The Ravens' rebuttal was a convincing one as Johnson rushed for only 20 yards on 11 carries.

The Ravens own the longest current streak in the NFL of not allowing a 100-yard rusher, a 36-game streak.

"We kind of owed him one," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "To win, you need to shut down the run. We also wanted to keep that streak alive, so we did what we do best. We anchored down and stopped the run."

Johnson's longest run was just seven yards.

"It was great that we were able to keep Larry Johnson contained and make them a one-dimensional offense," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said.

And the Chiefs finished with just 29 rushing yards on 17 carries, an average of 1.7 yards per attempt.

Our No. 1 goal is to stop the run," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "He was the last one to run for 100 yards. He's a stud. We were looking to stop those guys."

HE'S BACK: Nose guard Kelly Gregg recorded four tackles and two assists, tying middle linebacker Ray Lewis for the most tackles.

It marked Gregg's first regular-season game back on the field after missing last season when he underwent microfracture knee surgery.

"It's good to be back," Gregg said. "I was down and out. These guys, they always talked to me last year and kept me going. I'll tell you, it's just good to get back and get a win with these guys. Just go lights out and hopefully good things will happen.”

FIRST TIMERS: The Ravens are excited about their improvements in the offensive line.
It was the first regular-season start in Baltimore for six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk and rookie right tackle Michael Oher.

"I'm thrilled to be a part of this offense, a part of this team," Birk said. "The best thing I like about this offense is we work. We've got guys that want to work, want to be great."

A first-round draft pick from Ole Miss, Oher actually seemed to fare better than left tackle Jared Gaither.

He seemed to maintain his composure and had some good blocks on running plays as he ran interference for Rice and McGahee.

"I did all right, but my technique can get a lot better and I can discipline myself a lot better on some things," Oher said. "It’s all correctable.

“Our coach stays on us about a lot of things, playing fast. I wouldn’t say the speed was that overwhelming.”

Meanwhile, Gaither had some issues keeping up with Chiefs pass rusher Tamba Hali.
Hali had five tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.

"He's definitely a great player and a great defensive end," Gaither said. "He did well. He was a tough matchup."

NOT IMPRESSED: Despite the Ravens generating a franchise-record 501 yards of total offense, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron wasn't entirely pleased.

He was looking for greater efficiency even though Baltimore converted all four red-zone opportunities and converted 10 of 17 third downs for a 59 percent efficiency.

"We're trying to score, score and take care of the football," Cameron said. "I think we still left a lot of points out there. I'm not a big yards guy.

"I'm concerned about scoring points and taking care of the football. It wasn't a record for points, was it?"

What pleased Cameron the most was how the Ravens came through in the clutch with three consecutive scores to close out the game.

"I'm excited because our guys made drives at the end," Cameron said. "Our guys scored on the last three drives. That's the most impressive part to me."

MOVING THE BALL: How impressive was the Ravens first -quarter scoring drive? Seven different Ravens ran or caught a pass in the 13-play, 70-yard drive.

Cameron credited Kansas City’s special teams with pinning the Ravens back.

Dustin Colquitt, one of the NFL’s best, shanked a punt for 28 yards, but still averaged 47 yards a kick.

“They did a great job making us go a long way,” Cameron said. “I don't know how long those drives were. Their kicking game, their punter, did a good job in making us go, 65, 70, 80 yards--and score from that length consistently."

HIT IN THE WALLET COMING?: Johnson is expecting to be fined by the league office after being penalized for roughing the passer when he lightly grazed quarterback Brodie Croyle's helmet from behind with his forearm.

"I probably will," said Johnson, who registered a career-high two sacks. "You're going for the strip and your arm is going over. I thought I hit him in the neck.
"I talked to the official and if you get a piece of the helmet, you're getting a flag. That's just the way it is. They're going to err on the side of caution. You have to accept that."

INJURY UPDATE: Starting inside linebacker Tavares Gooden left the game in the third quarter with a mild right knee sprain and was helped off the field by two trainers.
X-rays were negative, though, and no ligaments were torn.

After going to the locker room to be examined, Gooden returned to the sideline to ride on an exercise bike. However, he didn't return to the game and was replaced by Jameel McClain.

"It looks like it's going to be okay," Harbaugh said. "It looks like a sprain, we'll see."

Strong safety Tom Zbikowski left the game with a concussion in the first half and didn't return, but it's not considered to be serious.

Special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo didn't aggravate his sprained right toe, but did bruise his knee. He limped off the field, but returned.

"I banged the outside of my knee," Ayanbadejo said. "In the NFL, we don't like to wear pads. I came off the field and made sure the doctor looked at it immediately and made sure all of my structures are sound. It was like a charley horse on the bone."

In his first full game back since returning from a strained heel, Suggs left the game for a short time in the first half when he collided with free safety Ed Reed.
"Me and Ed Reed hit each other in the head," Suggs said. "It's liable to happen like that, but I got right back in there. No biggie. I was a little woozy. I was a little dazed, but I just shrugged it off."

McGAHEE RUNS AND CATCHES: McGahee’s first-quarter touchdown was the 40th of his career, but just his second score on a reception.

“I always knew I had the ability to catch the ball,” McGahee said. “I just never had the opportunity to take advantage of it.”

McGahee thinks that quarterback Joe Flacco has improved enormously in his second year.

“He’s more confident,” McGahee said. “He knows what he’s doing.”

QUICK HITS: A moment of silence was observed before kickoff in memory of former Ravens quarterback Steve McNair, who was murdered in July in Nashville, Tenn. by his girlfriend. ... The Ravens deactivated tight end L.J. Smith (pulled hamstring), John Beck (third quarterback), running back Jalen Parmele, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (sprained medial collateral ligament), offensive tackles Oniel Cousins (sprained ankle) and Tony Moll, nose guard Brandon McKinney and rookie outside linebacker-defensive end Paul Kruger. ... The Chiefs deactivated quarterback Matt Cassel (sprained left medial collateral ligament), quarterback Matt Gutierrez, cornerback Brandon Flowers (shoulder), running back Dantrell Savage, center-guard Andy Alleman, tight end Jake O'Connell and linebackers Turk McBride and Pierre Walters. ... Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps was on the Ravens' sideline before the game. ... Harbaugh's father, Jack Harbaugh, was on the sidelines. "He calmed me down one time," Harbaugh said. "He's got a good big picture of the game and a good feel for the game. I think it's important to take that perspective if it's down there. He would have wanted to run the dive option." ... Former NFL offensive coordinator Al Saunders is helping the Ravens on a consultant basis. "Al is in a consulting kind of role," Harbaugh said. "He has become a valuable part of what we're doing." ... The 38 points represents the most the Ravens have scored in an opening game in franchise history.

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