Slug­gish ground game is run­ning low on an­swers

6 yards on 12 car­ries is a fran­chise low; Wal­lace says blame play­ers, not coaches

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS INSIDER - By Jeff Zre­biec jeff.zre­biec@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/jef­fzre­biec­sun

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.

KARL MER­TON FER­RON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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