Run­ning game in line for an over­haul

‘3.3 yards per carry is not what we’re look­ing for,’ Har­baugh says af­ter win

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jeff Zre­biec

For 31⁄ quar­ters Sun­day, the Ravens’ run game failed to gain much trac­tion. Run­ning backs Justin Forsett and Ter­rance West got to the sec­ond level of the Buf­falo Bills de­fense a cou­ple of times, but the Ravens re­lied mostly on their pass­ing game to move the ball.

How­ever, 1 yard away from a game-ic­ing first down, quar­ter­back Joe Flacco handed the ball off to West, who mus­cled his way up the mid­dle for a 3-yard gain. The run al­lowed Flacco to kneel on the fi­nal three plays and the Ravens to cel­e­brate a sea­son-open­ing 13-7 vic­tory.

“Those are the best runs, when you take a knee,” Ravens coach John Har­baugh said Mon­day.

Af­ter an off­sea­son in which the Ravens stressed the im­por­tance of fix­ing their run­ning game, the team took some sat­is­fac­tion in its abil­ity to close out the game on the ground. Lead­ing by six, the Ravens had the ball at their own 36-yard line with 4:29 re­main­ing. Five runs later — three by West, one by Forsett, and a jet sweep by wide re­ceiver Mike Wal­lace — the Ravens had killed much of the clock and ex­tin­guished any hope for a come­back from Buf­falo. Sun­day, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Ravens by 7

How­ever, the Ravens’ to­tal body of work on the ground left plenty of room for im­prove­ment. The Ravens fin­ished with 83 rush­ing yards on 28 at­tempts. Take Flacco’s three kneel-downs and one scram­ble out of the equa­tion, and they av­er­aged 3.3 yards on 24 car­ries. Only five teams av­er­aged fewer yards per at­tempt over open­ing week­end than the Ravens, and one of them was their op­po­nent.

“Three-point-three yards per carry is not what we’re look­ing for,” Har­baugh said. “At times, I thought we had some good runs. We held the ball for 12 min­utes in the fourth quar­ter. The last time, it was by the run game. I thought we had some real cre­ative runs in there, some real schemed-up runs. We may have run [the out­side flip] five times in the game and we ran it in the end, and Justin made their best player miss on the edge, and I think he got the first down. Be­fore that, we had the jet sweep to Mike Wal­lace. Our guys ex­e­cuted those plays beau­ti­fully.

“The nuts-and-bolts runs, we were hit and miss. Some of it is their front. Some of it is us not ex­e­cut­ing, not block­ing, not run­ning to the right spot, all those kinds of things. We just have to get bet­ter. There’s no magic for­mula. We just have to be­come re­ally good at it and run against the right fronts at the right time and ex­e­cute.”

The Ravens play­ers were off Mon­day. When they re­turn to team head­quar­ters to­day, they’ll ac­cel­er­ate prepa­ra­tions for Sun­day’s game against the Cleve­land Browns while go­ing to work on some of the prob­lems the team had against Buf­falo.

There was lit­tle fault to find with the Ravens de­fense. The group kept Bills quar­ter­back Ty­rod Tay­lor un­der wraps and held Buf­falo to 160 yards of to­tal of­fense and 11 first downs. Of­fen­sively, the Ravens made the game’s big­gest play through the air, with Flacco con­nect­ing for a 66-yard touch­down pass with Wal­lace. Be­yond that, get­ting into an of­fen­sive rhythm proved chal­leng­ing, which wasn’t en­tirely sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing that sev­eral of­fen­sive starters missed all of the pre­sea­son or most of it.

“We have to pick it up next week on of­fense,” Wal­lace said af­ter Sun­day’s game. “We made some plays, but we’re not near where we want to be. It’s not go­ing to be hard for us to find things to get bet­ter at, be­cause I don’t think we did a great job, but at the same time, we have hard-work­ing guys who know ex­actly what we need to do, and I think we’ll get it done.”

In his first reg­u­lar-sea­son game since tear­ing his ACL and MCL last Novem­ber, Flacco was un­der siege through­out and sacked four times by the Bills. The of­fense

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Ravens re­ceivers Mike Wal­lace, front, and Bre­shad Per­ri­man toss game gloves to fans af­ter Sun­day’s vic­tory. Wal­lace’s 66-yard touch­down re­cep­tion was the game’s big­gest play.

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