GLENDALE, Ariz. – As the trade deadline approaches and rumors heat up, the Ravens keep coming up in conversations about running backs. Gus Edwards “doesn’t know nothing about that,” but he played like he was trying to quash all the doubters in the 31-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Over and over, the Ravens looked to Edwards, and he delivered, accumulating first downs and touchdowns. He racked up 80 yards on the ground, including three rushing touchdowns, and added two catches for 14 yards.

It was Edwards’ best rushing performance of the season — he had not broken 65 yards previously — and his second-best receiving performance following his 80-yard catch against the Detroit Lions. The three rushing touchdowns were a career first for Edwards. It was the first time since 2019 and the sixth time in team history that a Raven had that many.

And it came at a critical time in a game in which the Ravens just couldn’t get anything going on offense.

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Ravens running back Justice Hill, left, caught four passes for 40 yards against the Cardinals. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

To start the game, offensive coordinator Todd Monken and quarterback Lamar Jackson leaned on the passing attack. Jackson threw six passes with four completions before the first attempt to run the ball. The first drive resulted in a touchdown, but the offense stalled from there.

The Ravens went into halftime with a lead after the defense gifted the offense with an interception, and Edwards finished the drive. Even so, the Ravens knew something had to change.

Prior to the game, Edwards said, they’d seen on film that the run game would be critical to beating the Cardinals. Coming into Sunday, the Cardinals had the fourth-worst run defense according to FTN’s DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average). They needed to attack that based on what they knew about the Cardinals but also based on what they knew about themselves.

“I believe we went away from the run,” Jackson said. “We were passing the ball a lot earlier in the game, and I believe we should have been running a little bit [to] just balance out our offense because last week, when we were balancing our offense, we showed strides of being great all across the board.”

Yet, when they returned from halftime, they ran the ball three times compared to eight pass attempts on the first three drives.

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“We were trying to go right at them and attack them in certain ways with their coverage,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We had some success doing it, but to get the run game going in the second half was big.”

It wasn’t until they were given great field position by another interception at the end of the third quarter that the Ravens looked to Edwards and the run game again. After an initial pass to Isaiah Likely for 13 yards, Jackson handed it off to Edwards two times in a row to finish the drive.

That second touchdown was the turning point.

After that, Edwards became the focal point of the offense. With each chance he delivered on, the Ravens gave him another. He carried four straight times on the next drive and then another four times in a row later in the fourth quarter as the team attempted to eat time. At the end of the drive, the Ravens looked to him to finish it with another 1-yard touchdown.

“To get the run game going in the second half and in the fourth quarter – to be able to take the ball down there, take up all that time and score – that was a huge drive right there, two of them, really,” Harbaugh said.

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“Gus had 80 yards [and] three touchdowns. It’s a pretty big deal.”

It was the best performance by a Ravens running back this season. And running back Justice Hill had a solid game as well, even if he finished with his second-fewest rushing yards this season. He was fourth behind Edwards, Jackson and Rashod Bateman with 15 yards on four carries, but he tied for the leading receiver with four catches for 40 yards. Confidence is high in the running back group, Harbaugh said.

“Yes, we like our running backs a lot,” Harbaugh said.

That’s not to say the trade rumors will stop. After all, the Ravens came into the season planning on having three main rushers in Edwards, Hill and J.K. Dobbins. And, as all three have proven, injuries are common at the position. Rookie Keaton Mitchell was also out with an injury for the second time this season. It could be about depth rather than the lack of a star, not that Edwards is listening.

But it just so happens that, as rumors swelled, so did Edwards’ stats.

giana.han@thebaltimorebanner.com

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