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Harbaugh says Ravens' running game needs improvement

Baltimore Ravens slumped to 56 rushing yards in loss to Broncos

By Aaron Wilson

The Baltimore Sun

4:18 PM EST, December 18, 2012

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The Ravens' running game got stonewalled by the Denver Broncos' athletic front seven Sunday.

During a 34-17 defeat at M&T Bank Stadium as the Ravens lost for the third week in a row, the run was an ineffective play as the Ravens finished with just 56 rushing yards on 19 carries for an average of 2.9 yards per carry.

One week removed from a season-high 186 rushing yards during a 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins when Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice gained 121 yards and scored a touchdown, Rice was limited to 38 yards on a dozen carries.

"We need to run the ball better," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "We need to be able to run the ball against the front, any front, and that's something that we have to do a betterjob with."

The running game was largely abandoned as Baltimore fell behind 17-0 by halftime. After running the ball 14 times for just 41 yards in the first half, there were only five more runs and 15 more yards after halftime. Plus, backup running back Bernard Pierce was forced out of the game with a concussion.

"We didn’t do really good," Rice said Sunday. "We didn’t come out, we didn’t execute."

The Ravens rank 22nd in the NFL in rushing, averaging 105.1 yards on the ground per contest.

The Ravens didn't gain a single first down until a 14-yard Pierce run midway through the second quarter.

The Ravens attempted to run the ball on first downs to begin the game, but Rice, who has rushed for 1,031 yards and nine touchdowns, and Pierce mostly got stuffed for minimal gains.

“Our goal is always going to be to mix the ball on first down," Harbaugh said. "We probably could have mixed in more passes there on first down on that stretch, no question. But you want to be committed, and you want to try to get something going in the run game, too. If we get a few more yards in the run game, then those second downs and those third downs, you have a little better of a chance of accomplishing converting on third down. Third-and-8, third-and-9, third-and-10 is a little bit tougher. That’s a balance, but sure, that’s something that we can do a little better job of balancing.”

As for the offensive line, Harbaugh defended their performance in pass protection.

The Ravens allowed three sacks and nine quarterback hits, but two of the sacks were late in the fourth quarter with the Broncos knowing that Baltimore was going to be throwing the football to try to rally back into the game.

Pro Bowl outside linebacker Von Miller had no sacks with two quarterback hits, and defensive end Elvis Dumervil had one sack and two quarterback hits.

"We knew we had to find a way to minimize the damage done by those two defensive ends," Harbaugh said. "We did that to a large extent. We didn’t have a sack until late when we were kind of in desperation mode, and we were just trying to make a statement maybe. Those sacks are on me, because that’s the way I wanted to play the game at the end.  So, I don’t put that on the offensive line."

awilson@baltsun.com

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