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The 15: Ravens' Top Rushing Moments

November 15, 2013

Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach for whom the Super Bowl trophy is named, once said that the running game embodies the essence of football.

Although that may still be true, given the game's innate brutality, it's the passing game that scores points, sells tickets and brings teams into contention for a championship. The quarterbacks and wide receivers make the most money -- and the cornerbacks who cover them have the most swagger.

But as long as football continues to be played, teams must maintain some semblance of balance if the game is to resemble what it once was, as the football-savvy fans of Baltimore know.

During three decades in Baltimore, the Colts franchise used its top draft pick on a running back 11 times. The Ravens have done so once out of 18 drafts, getting one of their best first-round picks -- and that's saying something -- when they selected eventual franchise rushing record holder Jamal Lewis in 2000.

Thanks to plenty of good runners -- not to mention blockers such as former Colt Jim Parker and former Raven Jonathan Ogden -- this is a town that knows how to run to glory.

1. Jamal Breaks NFL Record -- When the Ravens opened their 2003 home schedule, their stadium had a new name (M&T Bank Stadium) and their field had a new surface (SportExe Momentum Turf). Lewis made the most of it, rushing for a then-NFL-record 295 yards -- scoring touchdowns of 82 and 63 yards in the process -- as the Ravens throttled the Cleveland Browns, 33-13. Later that season, he ran for 205 yards in Cleveland to complete a 500-yard season against the Browns.

2. Rice Cooks Pats -- On the first play from scrimmage of the Divisional Round playoff game in January 2010 at New England, a team that had had the Ravens' number to that point, Ray Rice found a left-side hole, darted toward the left and rumbled 83 yards for a touchdown, the largest run in team history. That play started a 21-point first-quarter blitz, which broke the Patriots' backs and eliminated them from the postseason.

3. Hi, Roomie! -- While at the University of Tennessee, Lewis was a roommate of linebacker Al Wilson, and the two got re-acquainted in Baltimore during the Ravens' first-ever playoff game, a 2000 Wild Card Weekend contest against Denver. Bursting through the hole, Lewis ran over Wilson and had nothing but grass between him and the west (Russell Street) end zone on a 27-yard run, which helped the Ravens on their way to a Super Bowl XXXV championship.

4. Double Trouble For Dallas -- When the Dallas Cowboys were ready to say goodbye to their Texas Stadium home in 2008, they reportedly requested the Ravens as a de facto homecoming opponent. Breaking open a close game during the fourth quarter, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain broke off long touchdown runs (77 and 82 yards, respectively) during the nationally televised game to lead the Ravens to a 33-24 win.

5. Wacko For Flacco -- We ranked this one this high for two reasons: it was rare, and few people -- if any -- expected it. During the 2008 home opener, rookie quarterback Joe Flacco was driving the Ravens into the west end zone when he called an audible, ran to his right and then went up the sideline for a 38-yard touchdown run, which contributed to a win against Cincinnati during his first game in the NFL.

6. Get Out Of My Way! -- With the Ravens needing a win at Oakland to make the 2009 playoffs, McGahee -- who scored 31 rushing touchdowns during four seasons with the team -- broke off a 77-yard run to help secure the playoff-berth-clinching win. On his way to the end zone, he brushed aside a Raiders defender with an impressive swipe, clearing his last obstacle to pay dirt.

7. Bam! There He Is -- The troubled Byron "Bam" Morris, who ran into more legal issues off the field than tacklers on it, rushed for 176 yards on 36 carries in a daylong rain at what is now FedEx Field in Landover in 1997 as the Ravens won their first-ever meeting with the Washington Redskins. The grind included carrying the ball plenty on a still-standing team-record 20-play drive, which ended in a touchdown.

8. Bow To The Priest -- Undrafted running back Priest Holmes paid a big dividend during the Ravens' first-ever win at Cincinnati, running for 227 yards on 36 carries as the Ravens won, 20-13, in November 1998. Holmes stayed with the team long enough to be a backup on the 2000 Super Bowl-winning team before leaving as a free agent and achieving fame with the Kansas City Chiefs.

9. Win In The Cards -- In 2011, Rice had his best statistical season with 1,364 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. Three of those scores were needed during an October win against the visiting Arizona Cardinals, for the Ravens had fallen behind the 1-5 team, 24-3, during the second quarter. But when Rice capped off long touchdown drives with first-and-goal scores from 1, 1 and 3 yards out, he helped tread the comeback path to the 30-27 win.

10. Willis Finds Pay Dirt -- A highlight (lowlight?) of the 2007 season was a team-record nine-game losing streak, which led to the eventual firing of nine-year head coach Brian Billick. McGahee, then playing his first season as a Raven, scored a rushing touchdown during a team-record seven straight games that year, including a 46-yarder in front of his former fans in Buffalo, N.Y.

Issue 191: Ravens 2009: Ray Rice
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox

11. Better Than Average -- Rice's 166-yard effort against the Detroit Lions during a home blowout win in 2009 wasn't the most impressive stat line he has ever posted. This game was great because of two factors: it came in a daylong driving rain, and Rice accumulated the yards in 13 carries. That translated into a 12.8-yard per-carry average, setting the team record by 2.4 more than McGahee's 10.4 yards-per-carry performance against Oakland (see No. 6).

12. Graham Cracks Eagles -- Like Lewis, Jay Graham was a bulky University of Tennessee running back who could hit the point of attack hard. His best game as a Raven came on a windy day at Memorial Stadium in November 1997, when he ran for 154 yards on 35 carries against the Philadelphia Eagles. But kickers Matt Stover and Chris Boniol couldn't handle the winds, and the game ended in a 10-10 tie, the only such result in Ravens history.

13. The First One -- Even though he won't be remembered as a runner, Vinny Testaverde -- the Ravens' first-ever starting quarterback -- notched the first rushing score in team history on Sept. 1, 1996, when he ran up the middle into Memorial Stadium's north (open) end zone for a touchdown during the team's debut game, which ended in a 19-14 win against the Oakland Raiders.

14. Running In Earnest -- Longtime NFL veteran Earnest Byner -- now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' running backs coach -- had to convert a fourth-and-1 play against New Orleans at Memorial Stadium in 1996 if the Ravens were to come back from their early season bye and even their record to 2-2. He did better than that, busting through a left-side hole for 42 yards to clinch the 17-10 win. Byner had 149 yards on 24 carries that day.

15. Piercing The Giants -- Providing a possible glimpse into the future, current backup Bernard Pierce ran for 123 yards -- including an electrifying 78-yard jaunt that led to a field goal -- as the Ravens snapped a rare December losing streak with a blowout win against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in 2012. Pierce has shown the youth and agility that are needed at the position, given the relatively short shelf life of most backs.

Correction: This article previously stated that former Ravens running back Earnest Byner was serving as the Tennessee Titans' running backs coach. He currently holds that position instead with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, having done so since the start of the 2012 regular season. PressBox regrets the error.

Issue 191: November 2013