Is the Ravens’ run defense becoming an issue at a critical time?
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is averaging 142.6 yards per carry in his last five games. If the Ravens can’t stop Bell during the Ravens-Steelers Christmas afternoon showdown in Pittsburgh, Bell could run the Ravens right out of a playoff spot.
Ryan Mathews of the Eagles gashed the Ravens’ run defense Sunday for 128 yards on 20 carries. So are the Ravens concerned? Not enough for defensive end Lawrence Guy to lose confidence.
“We’ll figure it out watching the film and get it right,” Guy said. “I could tell you this, it’s not going to happen again.”
However, Bell isn’t easy to contain, and the Ravens’ defense may be feeling the impact of a demanding season. The team’s leading tackler, inside linebacker Zach Orr, kept playing Sunday after suffering a stinger, but Orr has carried a heavy workload. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has been playing with a torn biceps for weeks.
The Ravens are still ranked second in the NFL against the run, yielding 82.1 yards per game, trailing only the Cowboys (80.9). However, the Ravens’ front seven was neutralized by the Eagles, who provided Mathews with gaping holes to run through.
“I think they did a good job of scheming us up and just blocking us,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “It’s a stretch-zone scheme, and they were doing a great job of reaching out guys and cutting us off on the backside. We’re going to have to work on that, because we could see that next week (against the Steelers)."
Surely, the Steelers noticed the success the Eagles had running the football. The Ravens believe they are capable of containing Bell. But their run defense needs to be far better than it was on Sunday.
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