Ravens’ decision to abandon running game proves costly

OWINGS MILLS — Coach John Harbaugh did not offer much of an explanation for why the Ravens didn’t run the ball more in their 17-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday.

It proved to be a head-scratching and costly strategy.

The Ravens had the NFL’s top rushing attack in the regular season — averaging 163.8 yards per game — but they ran the ball for a season-low 16 times — eight by quarterback Lamar Jackson — for 81 yards against a Chiefs team that allowed 182 yards rushing  to the Buffalo Bills the previous week.

The running backs received six carries — three apiece for Gus Edwards and Justice Hill.

“It was that kind of a game, I’d say,” Harbaugh said when asked why they didn’t run more. “That’s the way it worked out. [That’s] the way the game went.” 

The Ravens’ previous season-low was 24 rushing attempts in a 33-31 loss to the Browns in Week 10 at M&T Bank Stadium.

In their 14 wins, including the postseason, the Ravens ran for a season-high 42 times twice, amassing 251 yards in a 23-7 victory against the Jaguars in Week 15, and running for 229 yards in a 34-10 victory over the Texans in the AFC divisional playoff game.

The 16 rushing attempts against the Chiefs were well below their season average of 32.4 per game.

It was an inexplicable decision considering Kansas City allowed 4.5 yards per attempt during the regular season — ranked 24th in the NFL.

Jackson said the Ravens were forced to throw the ball because they trailed most of the game. However, the defense held the Chiefs scoreless in the second half and Baltimore never trailed by more than 10 points.

The Ravens also never committed to running the ball inside the red zone, where they committed two turnovers — an interception by Jackson when he threw into triple coverage and and a fumble by wide receiver Zay Flowers before he crossed the goal line.

“We could have run the ball,” Jackson said. “We were down, and we just tried to put points on the board, tried to get the ball down the field, and we’ve just got to make something happen.” 

The Ravens didn’t attempt to set the tone by running the ball even though they had some early success. Edwards had a 15-yard run in the first quarter, but he did not get another rushing attempt for the rest of the first half. The Ravens had only one designed run on first-and-10 for the entire second half. None of the running backs had back-to-back carries.

Some of the Ravens players said Kansas City was determined to stop the run, but the Chiefs were not even tested.

Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken was not available to the media.

“The Chiefs game-planned like we game-planned,” right tackle Morgan Moses said. “We block [for] what’s called. At the end of the day, we just fell short of some things today. That’s what it is. Hats off to them. They game-planned. They were the better team today, and hats off to them.” 

Here is a breakdown of the Ravens’ rushing statistics in their 14 victories

Week 1: Ravens 25, Texans 9
Carries: 32; Yards: 110, Touchdowns: 3

Week 2: Ravens 27, Bengals 24
Carries: 37; Yards: 178, Touchdowns: 1

Week 4: Ravens 28, Browns 3
Carries: 33; Yards: 131, Touchdowns: 2

Week 6: Ravens 24, Titans 16
Carries: 39; Yards: 139, Touchdowns: 0

Week 7: Ravens 38, Lions 6
Carries: 27; Yards: 146, Touchdowns: 2

Week 8: Ravens 31, Cardinals 24
Carries: 29; Yards: 130, Touchdowns: 3

Week 9: Ravens 37, Seahawks 3
Carries: 41; Yards: 298, Touchdowns: 3

Week 11: Ravens 34, Bengals 20
Carries: 31; Yards: 157, Touchdowns: 2

Week 12: Ravens 24, Chargers 10
Carries: 35; Yards: 197, Touchdowns: 1

Week 14: Ravens 37, Rams 31 (OT)
Carries: 26; Yards: 139, Touchdowns: 0

Week 15: Ravens 23, Jaguars 7
Carries: 42; Yards: 251, Touchdowns: 1

Week 16: Ravens 33, 49ers 19
Carries: 26; Yards: 102, Touchdowns: 1

Week 17: Ravens 56, Dolphins  19
Carries: 32; Yards: 160, Touchdowns: 2

AFC Divisional Playoffs: Ravens 34, Texans 10
Carries: 42; Yards: 229, Touchdowns: 2

Here is a breakdown of the Ravens’ rushing statistics in their 5 losses

Week 3: Colts 22, Ravens 19
Carries: 37; Yards: 186, Touchdowns: 2

Week 5: Steelers 17, Ravens 10
Carries: 25; Yards: 125, Touchdowns: 1

Week 10: Browns 33, Ravens 31
Carries: 24; Yards: 106, Touchdowns: 2

Week 18: Steelers 17, Ravens 10
Carries: 25; Yards: 106. Touchdowns: 0

AFC Championship: Chiefs 17, Ravens 10
Carries: 16; Yards: 81. Touchdowns: 0

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