Baltimore running back Ray Rice slammed off the left side and rambled 36 yards on the first play from scrimmage during the Ravens' season-opening 35-7 win over the Steelers last year.
The play was part of Baltimore's zone blocking scheme that's given the Steelers fits over the years, including the handful of times they've faced it this year — Oakland, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Washington and Kansas City.
Both times the Steelers allowed more than 100 yards rushing this year was against zone blocking scheme teams — Raiders (119) and Chiefs (142). Last year, they struggled against zone running teams as well in losses to Baltimore (170) and Houston (180).
The version the Ravens have had the most success with is the “outside zone fullback lead power,” which is designed for Rice to follow the lead block of fullback Vonta Leach.
It's a play the Ravens have used a lot this year in helping Rice rush for 657 yards and seven touchdowns.
“It's a copycat league, and everybody likes to run it,” Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said.
The zone running scheme became popular because of the success offensive line coach Alex Gibbs had in Denver during the late 1990s.
The biggest upside is that the assignments don't change for zone scheme teams because of the defensive front. And the scheme isn't easy to defend, thus explaining its popularity as half of the 32 NFL teams run some version of it.
The scheme tests the whole width of the defensive front. The offensive line forces the defense to maintain gap control and control the blocker at the same time.
The Ravens have been doing that with a lot of success lately.
They line up in a strong left formation with wide receiver Torrey Smith split to the left and Anquan Boldin to the right. Leach sets up in the slot to the right of quarterback Joe Flacco.
Leach motions from left to right and sets up behind left tackle Michael Oher right before the snap.
At the snap, the entire offensive line — Keleche Osemele, Marshal Yanda, Matt Birk, Bobbie Williams and Oher — slides to left and engages a defender. Yanda cuts the nose tackle, creating a backside crease while Oher double teams the right defensive end and slides off to get the inside linebacker.
Tight end Ed Dickson chips the right outside linebacker and scrapes off to block the strong safety. Leach fills the hole and cleans up Dickson's initial block on the linebacker.
Rice wants to run behind Leach in the hole between the tight end and tackle but has the option to cut back.
The running back is not running to a hole. Instead, he is looking for a crease. The Ravens can run the play from the playside tight end to the backside tackle, usually to equal success.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers trying to get missing defensive pieces on field
- In reworking contract, Steelers WR Brown gets hefty pay raise
- Steelers notebook: New kicker Scobee relishes opportunity
- Steelers’ Tomlin disappointed by Bryant suspension
- Bryant suspension opens doors for other Steelers’ receivers
- RB Williams believes he’s making seamless transition to Steelers
- Steelers trade 6th-round pick for Jaguars kicker Scobee
- Steelers notebook: LB Harrison believes Goodell will prevail in Brady ruling
- Steelers WR Bryant’s suspension upheld
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin mum on Bryant suspension
- Steelers ink QB Vick, new teammates OK with signing