Ravens need more focus on running game

Ravens need more focus on running game
September 7, 2013, 7:00 am
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Why couldn't the Ravens contain Peyton Manning?

EARLY BIRD: Waking up with the Ravens, the only NFL team already dealing with its first defeat.

Two-minute topic: Will the Ravens run the ball effectively this season? 

A weak rushing attack was one of the many reasons for the Ravens’ downfall in Denver. Ray Rice – 12 carries for 36 yards. Bernard Pierce – nine carries for 22 yards. That’s 58 rushing yards on 21 carries, an average of just 2.8 yards per pop.

Weren’t Rice and Pierce expected to be one of the league’s best rushing tandems? Isn’t controlling the football and keeping Peyton Manning off the field the only sure way to stop him?

The Ravens’ commitment to the running game went out the window in Denver, and it hurt them. Even before the game got out of hand, the Ravens fell in love too much with the pass. Joe Flacco finished with a career-high 62 passing attempts, including 30 in the first half, long before the Ravens fell far behind. That’s way out of whack for the Ravens. Only three other times in his career has Flacco even thrown it 50 times.

If the Ravens are going to be consistent offensively, they need balance. If Rice and Pierce are going to run effectively, they need strong run blocking up front. They didn’t get it against the Broncos, and that probably influenced the play calling of offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.

The Ravens’ offensive line didn’t win enough battles up front. Any running success the Ravens had was sporadic. Rice broke one carry for 12 yards, Pierce popped one for 14, and Rice had a nice two-yard touchdown run, sprung by a nice block by fullback Vonta Leach. Other than that, the Ravens’ rushing attack was pretty much bottled up.

“I didn’t think it (the running game) was effective enough,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We need to run the ball better than that.”

Look for the Ravens to increase commitment to the running game in Week 2 against the Browns. But that does not guarantee things will improve. Starting right tackle Michael Oher left Thursday’s game with a sprained ankle, and his status for the Browns remains uncertain. Backup tackle Rick Wagner struggled in place of Oher, and the lack of depth along the offensive line was one of the Ravens’ concerns’ heading into the season

Rice is one of the NFL’s top backs, and Pierce is expected to build on his impressive rookie season. However, the Ravens need to give them more opportunities. And the offensive line needs to provide Rice and Pierce with more running room.

Morning thought: “We didn’t help our defense get any rest. They were back on the field before they could even get a drink of water.”

Ravens tight end Dallas Clark, talking about the Ravens’ offense in the second half against the Broncos.

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