Sluggish ground game is running low on answers
6 yards on 12 carries is a franchise low; Wallace says blame players, not coaches
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Wide receiver Mike Wallace knew the Ravens had little success running the ball in their 24-16 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon. But the extent of the offense’s futility surprised him.
Informed that the Ravens had finished with a franchise-worst 6 rushing yards on 12 attempts against the Jets, Wallace’s first reaction was: “Wow.” His second was one of sympathy for offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
“I’m glad I’m not the offensive coordinator in those situations, and you have to try and pull a rabbit out of the hat when you’re one-dimensional like that,” Wallace said after a game in which he had 10 catches for 120 yards. “I didn’t know we had that amount of rushing yards, but like I said, it’s the position we’ve put ourselves in. The coaches, it’s not their fault. It’s the players.’ ”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman after a oss to the Washington Redskins on Oct. 9. The offense had plenty of problems, but Trestman’s penchant for abandoning the running game, as he did against the Redskins, factored prominently into the decision. The Ravens’ rushing attack, though, never had been as nonexistent under Trestman as it was Sunday.
Starter Terrance West, who had 295 yards and three touchdowns over his previous three games, hurt his ankle on his first carry and finished with just 10 yards on eight carries. Rookie Kenneth Dixon and Lorenzo Taliaferro, who was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list Saturday, each had one carry for no yards. Quarterback Joe Flacco was credited with two rushes for minus-4 yards.
“I think we were in third-and-long a lot,” said Flacco. “I think we converted a couple of them, and bad things happened on the ones that we didn’t convert. It’s tough to win like that.”
The Jets entered the game with the NFL’s sixth-ranked run defense, so the Ravens knew that maintaining their momentum on the ground would be difficult Sunday. They couldn’t have expected their running game to be rendered a nonfactor. Their longest carry went for 5 yards, and seven of the running backs’ 10 carries were for 2 yards or fewer.
“You get down late and you pretty much have to throw the ball pretty much the whole fourth quarter,” tight end Dennis Pitta said. “I think that plays into the lack of rushing total as well. We have to be better running the football. That was a good front seven. We popped a couple of runs early, but we have to keep at it.”
Harbaugh and the Ravens didn’t blame Mornhinweg for the one-sided run-pass ratio (Flacco passed 44 times). Instead, they lamented the number of times the offense was forced into second- and third-and-long situations because of negative plays, or just turned the ball over.
“They stopped the run. They stuffed us,” Harbaugh said. “They’re pretty darn good with the run defense, so we tried to stick to the run a little bit at times under the end when we were down by eight and trying to get down there to score to tie it up. And then the turnovers — those are the things that stopped the drives.”
Asked about the run-pass ratio, Harbaugh said: “You’ve just got to look at the circumstances of the game. We wanted to run the ball even though they have a very good run defense. We were trying to run the football. Even in the third quarter, we came out and wanted to run the ball and we got nothing out of it. And by the time the fourth quarter came around, you’re not just going to keep pounding your head into a wall and keep running the ball there. You’re going to go at their weakness, and we thought we had a chance to do some good things throwing the football.”
Harbaugh and several players also noted the impact of left tackle Alex Lewis’ secondquarter holding penalty, which wiped out West’s 52-yard run. The Ravens would have had the ball on the Jets 4-yard line, with a couple of chances to score. Instead, Lewis’ second penalty in as many plays set up a first-and-25 on the Ravens 34. Three pass attempts later, they had to punt.
“Worst time,” West said of the penalty. “That’s what’s been killing us all year. That was huge. That could have changed the game right there.” This 52-yard run by Ravens running back Terrance West in the second quarter was called back by a holding penalty, left tackle Alex Lewis’ second infraction in two plays.