Ravens Explain Run Game Woes

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The Ravens' rushing attack was one of the league's best last year. With a returning starting offensive line and the same top two running backs, that was expected to continue, or even improve.

That hasn't been the case so far this year.

Much like in 2013, Baltimore is near the bottom of the league in key rushing metrics. They're averaging just 72.7 rushing yards per game (tied for 27th) and 3.3 yards per carry (28th).

In Sunday's 28-24 loss to the Bengals, the Ravens ran 18 times for just 36 yards (2 yards per carry). Their longest run was for 9 yards.

On Monday, Head Coach John Harbaugh said it's difficult to compare the Ravens' run game to last year to determine what the problem may be.

"We've just got to get better at what we're doing, all across the board," he said. "That's part of the process of a football season."

Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett has just 124 yards on 39 attempts (3.2 per carry). He has just one run of 20 or more yards after leading the league in that department last season.

Forsett has hard a particularly tough time even breaking through the line of scrimmage. He's been stopped for a loss or negative yardage on 16 of his 39 rushes.

"We've got to have a sense of urgency, but you can't panic," Forsett said. "We've got to keep working. And when it hits, it's going to hit and we'll be that explosive team that we know we can be in the run game."

The Ravens' rushing problems are having a ripple effect on the rest of the offense.

Quarterback Joe Flacco said the Bengals came out in a two-high shell, which he says is a pretty conservative defense that limits room for deeper routes.

"What that does is it says, 'OK, let's run the ball and try to get them out of that stuff,'" Flacco said. "If you can do that and get them out of it, then you can start getting some of your play-action plays on first and second down and getting some chunks."

The problem is the Ravens never ran the ball well enough to get the Bengals out of that defense. Flacco said the Ravens "wasted" the first half "trying to run our offense, and we just weren't good enough at doing it."

"We didn't make them uncomfortable. We didn't do anything to get them off of their heels," Flacco said.

The Bengals' defensive line, featuring Pro Bowler Geno Atkins and fellow mauling defensive tackle Domata Peko feasted on the Ravens up front.

"Geno Atkins is probably one of the best defenders I've ever played against," guard Kelechi Osemele said. "You play the game to play against guys like that, and he was the better man."

"We just need to run the ball better," added Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda. "I feel like we haven't gotten it going yet, and we need to just figure it out and get better. And it needs to start right now."

Last year's offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak, brought with him a stretch-zone run scheme that he has had great success with over the years. The Ravens went from dead last in yards per attempt (3.1) in 2013 to tied for sixth (4.5) last season.

When Kubiak departed for Denver, Head Coach John Harbaugh vowed to keep the same system in place under new Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman.

Forsett and backup Lorenzo Taliaferro said the run game scheme indeed hasn't changed. The only difference in personnel is that James Hurst has stepped in for left tackle Eugene Monroe (concussion) in the past three games.

"We're running the same stuff and have the same guys in there. It's just not clicking the way we want it to right now," Forsett said. "I think it's little details."

The Ravens will review the tape and try to get the running game on track. It won't be much easier in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers are allowing just 87.3 rushing yards per game, 10th-fewest in the league.

"I'm going to look at the film and look at ways I can do better moving guys off the ball. We kind of just need to do it that way. We've got to look at, internally, what can I do better?" Osemele said.

"I feel like we have a good team and we have tough men that are man enough to admit when they can do better, and be better, and I think we're going to do that."

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