BALTIMORE (AP) — The Green Bay Packers are running more this season. The Baltimore Ravens have become enamored of the pass.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers remains a huge part of Green Bay’s offense, and the Ravens haven’t forgotten about running back Ray Rice. It’s just that both teams are trying to be less predictable, a process that will continue Sunday when the Packers travel to Baltimore for the first time since 2005.
In last week’s 22-9 win over Detroit, Rodgers threw 40 passes and the Packers (2-2) rushed 33 times, including 23 attempts by Eddie Lacy.
“This year we’re changing some of those preconceptions about us,” Rodgers said. “We’re in the top five in the league in rushing yards per game. Eddie was a yard away from being our third different 100-yard back this year, where we had 40-plus games before that without a guy who rushed for 100 yards. Obviously, teams are playing us a little more to pass because we have here in the past, but I think we can do some good things in the running game.”
The Ravens used to be all about the run, but this season Rice has yet to reach the 100-yard mark and Baltimore ranks 27th in rushing. Two weeks ago, the Ravens attempted a franchise-low nine runs in a loss to Buffalo, and quarterback Joe Flacco thus far is averaging 40 passes a game.
Baltimore (3-2) is passing more often because, well, it has to. The running game is averaging a meager 2.8 yards per carry, even though the Ravens had a season-high 133 yards on the ground on 40 carries last week in Miami.
“Now we feel like we’re headed in a (direction) where we know our running game is only going to get better from here,” Rice said. “It felt good to just keep putting our foot on the pedal.”
It’s all about doing what works.
“Production is way up, and it gives us a chance to be more balanced,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “At the end of the day, I think it’s really helped our football team.”
Here are five things to know about the Packers-Ravens matchup:
WATCH OUT FOR SUGGS: Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs is having a terrific season. He’s had at least one sack in every game and had 17 tackles against Buffalo.
“You have to account for him on every play, and that’s the respect that he commands because of what he’s done in his career and obviously what he’s done this year,” Rodgers said.
The feeling is mutual. Suggs said of Rodgers: “He’s a champion. He’s definitely one of the best quarterbacks in this league.”
HOME RUN: The Ravens have won 13 straight home games against NFC foes and are 35-7 in five-plus seasons under John Harbaugh.
That does not bode well for Green Bay, 0-2 on the road this season.
“We lost two games against two good opponents, San Francisco and Cincinnati,” Rodgers said. “But we turned the ball over a bunch of times.”
Green Bay had a combined six turnovers in those two defeats.
MATTHEWS OUT: The Packers will be without four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews, who broke his right thumb against the Lions and will be lost for a month.
He will be replaced by Mike Neal, with help from Nick Perry.
“They’ll be the same defense,” Harbaugh said. “They’ll put a very good player over there. He’s a young guy. He’s a physical rusher off the edge. I’m sure he patterns himself a little bit after what Clay does.”
JONES RETURN, MONROE DEBUT?: The Ravens hope to have star receiver and kick returner Jacoby Jones back following a four-week absence with a knee injury. Jones has been practicing the past two weeks, but his status for Sunday likely will be a game-time decision.
Also, left tackle Eugene Monroe should be ready to go after coming to Baltimore last week from Jacksonville. He will replace Bryant McKinnie, whose production has been spotty this year.
LONG BALL: Rodgers threw his 12th career touchdown pass of at least 70 yards last week, most in the league since the start of the 2008 season.
“We’ve got to make sure we get their receivers on the ground and don’t allow those big runs after the catch,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said.
Flacco, with the speedy Jones and Torrey Smith as targets, has five completions of more than 40 yards.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)