With $120.6 million quarterback Joe Flacco dropping back to pass on 31 consecutive plays last week, the Baltimore Ravens hardly looked like the team Dannell Ellerbe remembered from his years playing for them.
“When you give a quarterback that money, you want him to throw the ball, I guess,” Ellerbe said.
Despite the Ravens’ recent propensity for the pass, Ellerbe said he and the Miami Dolphins will be braced to stop the ground game when the teams meet today.
The Ravens ran the ball all the way to a Super Bowl title in 2012, and Ray Rice has been a 1,000-yard
rusher each of the past four years. But this season Baltimore (2-2) ranks third-worst in the NFL at 2.6 yards per carry, and Rice has totaled only 89 yards while hampered by a left hip injury.
In last week’s loss at Buffalo, the Ravens had a franchise-record low nine rushing attempts. Flacco threw 50 passes — and a career-high five interceptions. Rice carried five times for 17 yards and didn’t catch a pass.
“We need to get Ray involved in every single way — pass game, run game,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We want to do that every week, and obviously we did not do a good job of that last Sunday.”
The Ravens are in a tough spot. They need Flacco to avoid turnovers (five interceptions against the Bills) and for the running game to wake up.
The Dolphins (3-1) were sent back to earth by New Orleans last weekend, and a previously staunch defense was exposed, particularly in pass coverage. Plus, quarterback Ryan Tannehill is getting hit too much, on pace to set a team record for being sacked and perhaps threaten the league mark of 76.
NEW ENGLAND (4-0) AT CINCINNATI (2-2): Other than Tom Brady, the one player the Patriots probably couldn’t afford to have go down is nose tackle Vince Wilfork. He did against Atlanta with a torn Achilles tendon, so New England will be without the heart of its improved defense.
Expect the Bengals to respond with a heavy dose of former Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie Giovani Bernard running the ball.
Brady has never lost to the Bengals (2-2) and the Patriots have won six straight regular-season road games.