BALTIMORE — Not many years ago, Devonta Freeman was terrorizing NFL defenses on a weekly basis. One of the most feared running backs in the game, Freeman was a touchdown machine as he scored 22 rushing touchdowns in two seasons — including a league-high 11 in 2015.
That may as well have been a lifetime ago for Freeman, who has seen the best of his playing days move on over the years. The two-time Pro Bowl running back got a taste of his glory years in Sunday’s 34-6 blowout victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, leading the Baltimore Ravens’ dominant rushing attack with nine carries for 52 yards and a touchdown — his first score since Week 5 of the 2020 season when he was with the New York Giants.
Freeman was just one of three Ravens running backs that showed they still had something left in the tank in Sunday’s win. Latavius Murray and Le’Veon Bell — notable names from last decade — also scored a touchdown in the victory in leading a Baltimore rushing attack that totaled 187 yards and rushed for 4.9 yards a carry.
Cast aside by this league several times, Freeman found his number called upon when the Ravens needed him most. Just like old times.
“I don’t feel like I have to prove nothing to nobody,” Freeman said after the win. “I’m just trying to get better and take my game to the next level. I’m just continuing to push myself and see what heights I can reach. I’m just going for it every single day and do what I do.
“I’m still playing football. It’s a dream come true.”
Freeman’s been on several teams since being let go by the Atlanta Falcons in March of last year. A short stint with the New York Giants led to a postseason run on the Buffalo Bills practice squad followed by a month in training camp with the New Orleans Saints before landing with the Ravens in September. If J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards didn’t have season-ending injuries, Freeman may still be out of football. He’s still only 29 years old, even though that seems ancient in running back years.
Not to be undone in the Baltimore running back room, Freeman isn’t the only “old-timer” running the ball for the Ravens. Bell, also 29, recorded his first rushing touchdown since Week 15 of last season with the Kansas City Chiefs. Just called up from the practice squad Saturday, Bell had eight carries for 18 yards and a score — playing significant action in the first half before finishing out the win at the end of the game.
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Murray is the oldest one of the bench, and he’s the featured back in the rotation. At the ripe old age of 31, Murray’s 14-yard touchdown run on the game’s opening drive put Baltimore up for good, as he had two carries for 22 yards on the possession (along with two catches). Murray had nine carries for 44 yards before exiting the game with an ankle injury, one head coach John Harbaugh isn’t calling “overly serious.”
Prior to leaving the game, Murray and Freeman were splitting first-team reps and carrying the Ravens’ rushing attack against an overwhelmed Chargers defense. Freeman is more than OK with sharing the wealth between his former Pro Bowl battery mates, a running back unit 2016 fantasy football owners would die to get their hands on.
“I think it’s a good thing. We share a lot of information,” Freeman said. “I learn from them guys all the time. Learning from two great running backs, Pro Bowlers, I just take that (information) and roll with it. I try to get better every week. We all try to get better (every week).
Freeman’s found the perfect organization to resurrect his career in Baltimore. The Ravens have the formula for sustained success on the ground, starting with the dual-threat ability of Lamar Jackson. All Freeman wants to do his play his part — he’s bought in.
“There’s definitely a huge team chemistry here,” Freeman said. “There’s teams that I’ve been on before, from high school to college to that Super Bowl team in Atlanta — we were real close. That’s what we’re going to need to win every game in this league and to get to that next level. This team is all there for each other and they fight for each other.”