A look at the Ravens' run defense

OWINGS MILLS -- Although accomplished running backs Curtis Martin and Priest Holmes earned the final word in confrontations with Baltimore this fall, the Ravens' defense feels they're entitled to a few mulligans.

Holmes and Martin are the only two runners to gain 100 yards or more against Baltimore (6-3), rushing for 125 and 119 yards, respectively. The Ravens have the sixth-ranked run defense, allowing 105.2 rushing yards per game.

"We gave up two 100-yard rushers last season and we've given up two 100-yard rushers this year, so I think we're allowed two with this defense," said outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, noting that Miami's Ricky Williams and San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 105 yards apiece last year. "If it happens again, I guess we ain't the Baltimore defense that everybody thinks we are."

In an overtime win over the Jets, Martin ran directly at linebacker Ray Lewis. He adeptly read center Kevin Mawae and fullback Jerald Sowell's blocks for two scores as the Jets spread the field with four wide receivers because of a shorthanded secondary.

"Anytime you spread our defense out like that, they pull your linebackers out of the box, of course, they're going to run," Lewis said. "With a back like Curtis Martin, you just let him pick his holes."
The Ravens have the fourth-ranked overall defense, giving up a season-high 178 rushing yards to Kansas City. The Jets rushed for 156 yards on 36 carries, averaging 4.3 yards.

"Our run defense has been solid for the most part," cornerback Chris McAlister said. "We knew there were some things we had to get corrected up front. Like any other game, you always have the possibility of having plays where they'll be able to gash us."

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said the Jets' alignment prompted him to employ his traditional 3-4 on just 10 out of 64 snaps. The Ravens sacked Quincy Carter five times, and Martin did most of his damage early.

"Their offensive linemen were getting to Ray very quick," Suggs said. "It's kind of hard when you have big 300-pound guys on you all the time. We've got to keep them off of Ray."

Baltimore faces off with the reeling Dallas Cowboys (3-6) on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. Dallas rushes for 98.4 yards per game, ranking 23rd in the NFL.

Eddie George is the Cowboys' leading rusher with 411 yards on 122 carries (3.4 average). George hasn't eclipsed 100 yards, and was limited to 39 yards on 11 carries in a 49-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
In the Ravens' playoff loss to Tennessee in January, George rushed for 88 yards on 25 carries.

"I don't think he was that big a factor on the win," Suggs said. "It's always a big-brother, little-brother thing with Eddie George. We have to let him know he's the little brother."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times and RavensInsider.com

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