McClellan: Better gap control smothers the run

McClellan: Better gap control smothers the run
December 7, 2012, 9:15 am
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SportsTalk Live: Key to Ravens win is third down

In three of the last four games, the Ravens have held opponents to less than 100 yards rushing.

Hardly anyone would’ve thought that possible when they allowed a franchise-record 227 to the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 14. In that game, the Ravens lost linebacker Ray Lewis to a triceps tear and cornerback Lardarius Webb to a season-ending knee ligament tear.

Defensive end Pernell McPhee and tackles Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody and Ma’ake Kemoeatu have missed games because of injuries since then, too. But suddenly, with fewer healthy pieces, the Ravens have turned the corner.

The reason? Gap control.

"Yes, its that simple. If you eliminate all the gaps where else can you run? You just got to make the tackle," linebacker Albert McClellan said. "Once you get disciplined with the gap schemes and pretty much make the tackle there’s nothing else to do."

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has shuffled the deck, moving end Arthur Jones inside and Ngata outside. He’s also shifted where linebacker Terrell Suggs lines up and uses different combinations.

"It’s just a matter of picking out somebody’s strength over his weakness and trying to put your players in the best position to make them look good," McClellan said. "All the injuries, it’s a little difficult. But in order to be good in this game you got to be able to adapt to any situation. … Adapting is real big."

The Ravens are at the Washington Redskins on Sunday. With quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Redskins run the Pistol offense which is rarely seen outside of the college ranks. In Week 2, the Ravens were faced with Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy and gave up nine plays of 20 yards or more.

It was their first loss, 24-23, back when the Eagles were actually good.

"Going back to the Philadelphia game, have your eyes on what your responsibility is," Pees said. "You can’t do a bunch of things that you might do against a pass team, a lot of counters and all that stuff. You have to be very disciplined, and the biggest thing is know your responsibility and have your eyes on it. The biggest thing with this guy, which we didn’t do well in the second game against Vick is all of the sudden, he starts moving around back there and everybody is watching him instead of watching or playing the zone that you need to be in."

Griffin has combined with tailback Alfred Morris to rush for more than 1,800 yards and 12 touchdowns. They're every bit as lethal.

"That’s what the offense is out trying to do, make schemes to make it difficult for us to see, get out of our gaps, make it easier for them to make blocks and make it hard for us to make a tackle," McClellan said. "It’s all about those angles. … RG3 is pretty fast. Just like any other quarterback, you got to find out his strengths, his weaknesses and attack."