Push panic button on Ravens' run game

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
8:15
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Running back Ray Rice said no one should push the panic button on the Baltimore Ravens' struggling ground attack. He's wrong. It's time to sound the alarm after the Ravens' disappointing 23-20 loss at the Buffalo Bills.

There was nothing wrong about the Ravens not being overly concerned when they could not run the ball against Denver, Cleveland and Houston. But the Ravens cannot say "it's going to get better" after failing to run the ball against the Bills.

Buffalo has the third-worst run defense in the league. The Bills have given up more yards rushing than any other team in the league since 2009. In other words, the Bills stink at stopping the run. The Ravens, though, showed they stink worse at running the ball.

Once known for a physical running game, Baltimore gained an embarrassing 24 yards on the ground. That's 131 yards less than the Bills defense's average in the first three games. New York Jets running back Bilal Powell, not exactly a Hall of Famer, ran for 149 yards against the Bills just seven days ago. Rice couldn't break a run longer than seven yards.

The most telling part about all of this is no one complained that the Ravens only ran the ball twice in the second half. The Ravens finished with nine rushing attempts. That's the fewest in the 18-year history of the Baltimore Ravens. No Ravens team had ran the ball fewer than 12 times in a game before, and that includes the pass-happy Brian Billick.

"When you get behind, it's hard to pound the rock," said Rice, who indicated his hip injury wasn't a factor in the performance.

It's not like the Ravens were behind by four touchdowns. The Ravens never trailed by more than two scores in the second half. By no one calling for the Ravens to run the ball more, it says to me that no one has confidence in the running game right now. It's like everyone agreed that the Ravens should throw the ball 31 times after halftime because they knew the running game was done.

"We're not running the ball well. We've got to run the ball better," coach John Harbaugh said. "You saw the difference in the first half with (Buffalo). They're running the ball for four, five yards at a time and putting themselves in manageable third downs, and we're not doing that. That's tough on everybody. That's tough on the passing game, on our quarterback. We've got to get to the point where we can execute in the running game.

Last week, Harbaugh said it's more complicated that the Ravens drive defenders off the ball. Still, on Sunday, the offensive line couldn't budge the Bills. It doesn't matter if you have Rice or Jamal Lewis in the backfield. You're not going to consistently gain yards if there is no where to run.

"We maybe have to become a little more physical," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We’re just not good enough right now. That’s probably as simple as I can make it."

The Ravens have been held under three yards per carry in each of their first four games. They're averaging 64 yards rushing per game.

It's time to hit the panic button. But, as everyone saw Sunday, hitting isn't exactly a strength for the Ravens offense right now.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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