Ravens Update

Ravens: Seahawks' Lynch poses a physical challenge

Marshawn Lynch bulldozed the Dallas Cowboys' defense a week ago, running roughshod over their front seven with a series of bruising runs. The Baltimore Ravens are taking measures to ensure the Seattle Seahawks' veteran running back doesn't punish them in a similar manner. Despite missing three games this year due to injuries, Lynch leads the Seahawks with 398 rushing yards and four touchdowns. And the former Cal star is coming off his top performance of the season when he rushed for a 135 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

Lynch commands respect in the Ravens' locker room. Just ask All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

"He's quick, he's fast, but Marshawn Lynch is a complete football player," said Lewis, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He has every ability to make any run, any cut. I think the exciting part about him is that he plays with a certain passion.

"He always plays with a chip on his shoulder. He's just one of those guys. We understand the challenge that we have this week." Statistically, the Seahawks' running game looks overmatched against the Ravens' second-ranked run defense.

The Seahawks are averaging only 88.3 rushing yards per contest and rank 30th in the league while the Ravens are allowing only 86.8 rushing yards per game.

The recent emergence of Lynch as a more important component of the offense has changed the equation for the reeling Seahawks (2-6) heading into Sunday's game against the Ravens (6-2) at CenturyLink Field

Against the New York Giants last month, Lynch rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. And it was Lynch who steamrolled the New Orleans Saints during the playoffs last season, expelling them from the postseason in an upset win as he rushed for 131 yards on 19 carries. He punctuated the win last January with a 67-yard touchdown run where he busted through the majority of the Saints defense and delivered a powerful stiff-arm to cornerback Tracy Porter on his way to the end zone.

"Marshawn Lynch is one of the premier backs in the National Football League," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a violent runner, he can make you miss, he's elusive. He took over the game last year in the playoff game against the Saints.

"He absolutely took the game over. He's capable of doing that in any game, especially out there with that crowd. So, we'll have our hands full with him and their offense." The Seahawks don't have much of an offense, mustering fewer points (28) than penalties (29) during the past three games.

Now, they are beginning to emphasize the run more with Lynch operating as the focal point. "He's our guy, you know?" Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "He's got a great attitude that he brings every day, great spirit about him. Plays hard, plays tough, wants to be great. He's had to be patient as we've had our struggles putting this thing together, with the new guys, but he's hung in there.

"He's a hard guy to get down. He's got great shake and bake, an elusive ability, and he runs tough, too. So, he's a good football player, and hopefully we'll grow with him. We are finally feeling it. We are seeing some more consistent movement forward, and we are getting more aggressive."

Traded to the Seahawks last year after falling out of favor with the Buffalo Bills and being replaced by Fred Jackson, Lynch hasn't rushed for 1,000 yards since gaining 1,036 yards during his second season in the NFL in 2008. Lynch's best season was as a rookie in Buffalo when he finished with 1,115 yards and seven touchdowns.

That was the year he rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries during a 19-14 win over the Ravens in Buffalo.

"He's a downhill guy, runs extremely hard," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "We competed our ass off against him and he just kept bringing it. He's definitely an elite back." Lynch runs with a physical style, choosing his path decisively and attacking linebackers. "He is a big, strong, physical guy," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "We have to do a great job of setting the edge with him like always and stopping the run."

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew is the lone running back to hit the century mark against Baltimore this season, rushing for 105 yards on 30 carries And Arizona Cardinals runner Beanie Wells gained 82 yards and scored one touchdown against Baltimore. The Ravens limited Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall to 45 and 52 yards while sweeping the season series, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson to 53 yards, St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson to 23 yards, New York Jets running back Shonn Greene to 23 yards and Houston Texans running back Arian Foster to 52 yards.

The Ravens are zeroing in on another target for Sunday as they'll clash with Lynch with thoughts of how he dismantled the Saints in their minds. "That's kind of my point about defining him as a complete running back," Lewis said " He's just one of those guys who is never going to quit. He's always going to fight until the end. He's also one of those running backs who likes to finish on the other side. He doesn't like you to hit him, he likes to hit you."

Notebook: Washington still considered a dangerous return man

OWINGS MILLS – It hasn't been a banner season for Seattle Seahawks kickoff returner Leon Washington. He's averaging only 22.7 yards per kickoff return to rank 12th in the NFC and his longest return is only 43 yards.

Heading into Sunday's game against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, the Baltimore Ravens are going to take Washington as seriously as the most dangerous return specialists in the NFL.

Why?

A year ago, Washington returned three kicks for touchdowns to boost his production to seven for his career. Only Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl return man Joshua Cribbs has more returns for touchdowns on the league's all-time charts with one more than Washington.

"He's the same guy," Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "I believe he's second in the history of the National Football League in touchdowns scored by kickoff return. So, he certainly has our attention. We have a lot of respect for him.

"He's a fine player. So, anytime you get a skilled athlete in space, there's an opportunity for the return team to make a play. So, he's a fine player."

The Ravens' special teams have allowed a franchise-record 107-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to New York Jets running back Joe McKnight earlier this season, and an 82-yard punt return for a score to Arizona Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson.

Allowing 34.3 yards per kickoff return, the Ravens rank last in the league in kick coverage. A former Jets starting running back, Washington is a versatile return man with tackle-breaking ability.

"I think it helps him a lot," Rosburg said. "It's always been my opinion that running backs have a better feel for kick returns than a lot of receiver-type guys that do that, because they see plays set up every time when they take the ball from the backfield. Kickoff return, being more of a pattern-blocking, it's a point of attack and how to adjust. I think he's a real good example of that."

REED, SUGGS SIDELINED THURSDAY: Ravens Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (knee), All-Pro free safety Ed Reed (shoulder), and running back Anthony Allen (hamstring) didn't practice Thursday.

Both Suggs and Reed weren't listed on the Wednesday injury report. At this point, neither is expected to miss Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks. The following players were limited: linebackers Brendon Ayanbadejo (concussion) and Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring, groin), wide receiver Lee Evans (left ankle) and tight end Kris Wilson (calf). Evans experienced no setbacks Wednesday and practiced for the second day in a row Thursday he tries to get back in the lineup following a six-game absence.

"It went well," Evans said. "It was the best I've felt in a while. So, I'm going to try to build on that today, do a little bit more today, see what happens. Yesterday was positive.

"It definitely felt good. I feel like a football player again. I got to run around a little bit. We've still got a hill to climb, but it's good to get that stuff out of the way and progress." Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk (neck) returned to practice with full participation after not practicing Wednesday. Cornerback Chykie Brown (knee) was removed from the injury report

Meanwhile, Seahawks linebacker David Vobora (concussion) didn't practice again. Tight end Cameron Morrah (toe, knee) and wide receiver Sidney Rice (foot) was upgraded to limited.

And quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral) was upgraded to full from limited. Tight end Cameron Morrah (toe, knee) and wide receiver Sidney Rice (foot) was upgraded to limited. And quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral) was upgraded to full from limited.

R. LEWIS TO MEET INJURED FAN: Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis is scheduled to meet Saturday in Seattle with an injured former youth football player who sustained a serious brain injury five years ago.

Zach Lystedt, a big fan of the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, suffered a brain injury in 2006 in a middle school football game after a concussion.

Subsequently, Lystedt, his family and members of the medical, business and community, lobbied the Washington state legislature for a law to protect youth athletes from returning too soon from an injury.

Now, the Lystedt Law has been passed in 31 states. Lystedt is in a wheelchair, has issues speaking and is still working toward recovering from his injury.

The Seahawks and Lystedt's family worked with the Ravens to set up this meeting with Lewis, a 12 time Pro Bowl selection.

WORK IN PROGRESS: The Ravens are still hoping to get more out of primary kick returner David Reed. Reed had a fumble against the Pittsburgh Steelers that was recovered by fullback Vonta Leach following his 45-yard return. He finished the game with a 32.3 average on four kickoff returns. For the season, Reed is averaging 30.2 yards per kickoff return to rank third in the NFL.

"David had a couple of fine returns," Reed said. "He also put the ball on the ground, and he also missed a return that we had set up for him. So, it's a work in progress. It's real typical when you watch the game from a different perspective than in the video room.

"David gets a lot of credit for the return. Those returns were really well-blocked, the ones that he got. There was another one that he didn't run very well that was also really well-blocked, and then he puts the ball on the ground."

HITTER: The Ravens are extremely happy with strong safety Bernard Pollard. He has recorded 28 tackles, one sack, a forced fumble and five pass deflections. And Pollard led the Ravens with seven tackles in their 23-20 win over the Steelers. What does Pagano see on the video from Pollard?

"A guy wreaking havoc," Pagano said. "Obviously, you know he has been playing with the injuries. He is one of the toughest guys we have in there, and everybody in our locker room would tell you that. Big, physical presence down in the box. He is a threat, every time we put him down there, for the offense. They have to account for him as far as a blitzer coming off the edge or coming inside. He has been doing a great job for us in the run game."

However, Steelers tight end Heath Miller managed to catch five passes for 73 yards against Pollard. "Pass game-wise, he matches up well with tight ends," Pagano said. "I know the guy last week caught a few on him, but there were a few push-offs, this, that and the other, but didn't give up big plays. So, he is doing a great job."

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