Saturday, November 17, 2001

OWINGS MILLS, Md. And then there were two.

Terry Allen’s broken hand on his first carry Monday night against the Tennessee Titans leaves the Baltimore Ravens with two healthy backs Jason Brookins and Moe Williams who give them any confidence.

If one counts fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo as a ball carrier, then the Ravens have 21/2 running backs. Although their ground game ranks 22nd in the NFL, the Ravens do not plan to bring in any more running backs.

“We’ll go with where we are at,” coach Brian Billick said this week as Baltimore prepared for tomorrow’s game against the Cleveland Browns at PSINet Stadium.

Allen, whom the Ravens signed as a free agent Aug. 11, is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a fractured left hand. He broke it diving on a fumble.

For now, the Ravens’ rushing attack is primarily in the hand of Brookins, although Billick said Williams will have an increased workload. Brookins, who played in five games for Rhein Fire in NFL Europe this summer, is the team’s top rusher with 365 yards on 91 carries, a 4.0 average, and three touchdowns.

However, Brookins drew Billick’s wrath during Monday’s 16-10 victory over the Titans when he missed several key blocks and allowed quarterback Elvis Grbac to be sacked. Billick lectured his first-year running back out of tiny Lane College on national television after one blown assignment.

“I’m getting better [at pass blocking], but [Titans defensive end] Jevon Kearse hit the corner on me on Monday night and people are like, ‘He can’t block,’” Brookins said. “That guy was around the corner before I could even get set. Those are the things that I’m going to have to pick up on.”

Remember Aug. 8 if the Ravens (6-3) fail to reach the Super Bowl. That was the day running back Jamal Lewis went down with a season-ending knee injury. Lewis was a huge reason the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV. As a rookie, he rushed for a team-record 1,364 yards on 287 carries (4.6 average). In the postseason, Lewis added 338 yards on 103 carries and four TDs. All told, he combined for 2,038 yards rushing and receiving.

Before his injury, Allen, a four-time 1,000-yard rusher, had missed the previous two games with a sprained ankle. But even when healthy, the 33-year-old former Washington Redskin has been far from spectacular.

Allen had really one standout game, accounting for 108 of the Ravens’ 207 rushing yards in a 26-7 drubbing of the Titans on Oct. 7. Baltimore’s longest run from scrimmage this season is just 26 yards, by Allen against Cincinnati on Sept. 23. For the season, Allen has 357 yards on 100 carries and two TDs.

With five of the next seven games at home, Grbac believes the Ravens’ running game will improve.

“When you go on the road, It’s difficult to run the ball because teams really have the advantage on what they are doing with stunts and blitzes,” Grbac said. “Crowd noise is always a factor with communication up front. With us being home for pretty much the next two months, I guarantee you that our offensive line will play better and the running game will be better.”

Note Defensive end Rob Burnett will be inactive tomorrow because of a calf injury. Second-year man Adalius Thomas, who is third on the team with 10 special teams tackles, will start for Burnett and platoon with tackle Kelly Gregg in certain defensive alignments.

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