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Ever since linebacker Ray Lewis joined the Ravens 13 years ago they've boasted one of the most suffocating defenses in the NFL. But now, they've added a potent ground game to help keep Lewis and his defense fresh.

Former University of Miami star running back Willis McGahee isn't even the primary reason for Baltimore gaining 2,376 rushing yards and a franchise-high 20 rushing touchdowns. The emergence of second-year 260-pound dynamo Le'Ron McClain has rendered McGahee, who had 105 yards in the Ravens' 27-13 victory over the Dolphins in the regular season, a disgruntled backup with 671 yards and seven TDs.

"[McClain] can make you miss; he can run you over," Dolphins defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. "He's a very productive guy and just gives them a big guy back there, really a fullback playing tailback."

McClain gained 902 yards on 3.9 yards-per-carry to go with 10 rushing touchdowns. In the final five games of the season McClain averaged 23 carries and 89 yards, and he scored four TDs.

"They are going to bash you, run the ball, do play action and try to get you to bite up on the run to throw the ball," said linebacker Channing Crowder. "They aren't going to sit back in five wides and throw the ball because they don't have the personnel to do it, so if you can stop their run, you can pretty much control the game."

The Dolphins are 9-0 when controlling the time of possession, however, the Ravens lead the NFL with a 33:10 average.

The Dolphins' 10th-ranked run defense didn't have nose tackle Jason Ferguson for most of the first game against Baltimore.

"That's a big part of our defense in the middle," safety Yeremiah Bell said. "It shores up everybody's gaps. When you got Ferg in there you know he's going to hold his gap so it makes it easier for us to run and get around things on the second level."

Coaching rarity

Sunday's matchup of rookie coaches between Tony Sparano and John Harbaugh is just the second in the playoffs since the 1970 merger. In a 2000 wild-card game the Jim Haslett-led Saints beat the Mike Martz-led St. Louis Rams 31-28.

"To me it's business as usual," Sparano said of his preparation habits. "For six or seven weeks right now if we didn't win we'd be worried about next season. ... I don't think you deviate."

Hot ticket

Those who haven't bought tickets to Sunday's game might be out of luck. The game was announced as a sellout earlier this week and George Torres, senior director for Dolphin Enterprises, said other than scattered seats, no more tickets are expected to become available this weekend.

A Ticketmaster search Friday showed single seats available in the upper level.

"We're sold out and it will be very, very hard to find a ticket," Torres said.

Special correspondent Kevin Clark contributed to this report.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 3, 2009

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