Late in the first quarter of Thursday night's 27-23 preseason win over the Atlanta Falcons, the Ravens put the ball in the hands of running back Ray Rice, hoping to finally establish some semblance of a rhythm on offense.
On first down, Rice ran off left guard for a 3-yard gain. On second, he ran behind the other guard for 5 yards. But on 3rd-and-2, Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux invaded the backfield and stuffed Rice for a 5-yard loss. That series summed up the Ravens' night in the running game, particularly their first team.
Rice rushed for just 10 yards on eight first-half carries and was twice tackled a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. Overall, the Ravens rushed for 61 yards on 26 carries -- a poor average of 2.3 yards per carry.
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“We didn’t run the ball real well,” coach John Harbaugh said after the game. “Give credit to their defense, but we didn’t run the ball well. That was a negative.”
Through two preseason games, the Ravens have rushed for 189 yards on 61 carries -- an average of 3.1 yards per carry -- and have picked up just seven first downs on the ground.
They only have two runs for more than 10 yards -- one was Bernard Pierce's well-blocked 20-yard touchdown run against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week -- and Damien Berry leads the Ravens with 50 yards, but it took him 17 carries to get them. Rice, meanwhile, has just 17 yards on his 11 carries.
“We definitely need to get better, but it’s the preseason,” he said. “All 32 teams are working on things. Nobody goes in with a magical game plan, you know, like we’re going to run guys over.”
Rice is right. It’s the preseason, so there is no need to panic. But a little concern is understandable considering that the Ravens offensive line, from the starters to the lesser-known third-stringers, has not been pushing defenders around in the running game. It is something to keep an eye on in the next couple of weeks against the Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams.