Carroll County Times

Ravens feel optimistic about running game

OWINGS MILLS - Privately, two Ravens offensive players told The Times the same thing in the locker room on Friday regarding Baltimore's running game, "This is the week."
Through nine games, the Ravens are yet to have a good day running the ball.
They are averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, tied with the Jaguars for the fewest in the NFL, and they haven't rushed for more than 3.3 yards per carry in any game this year.
But there was a sensible optimism from Baltimore's players and coaches throughout the week that the Ravens are finally poised to have a successful day on the ground in today's game against the Bears.
"We've been working really hard at improving in that area," coach John Harbaugh said.
"It's important for us to be a lot better than we have been."
Especially if the weather turns out to be like what the forecast is calling for.
As of Saturday afternoon, was calling for strong storms and winds in excess of 25 miles per hour today in Chicago.
Conditions like that would obviously be less than ideal for trying to throw the ball, which would put even more pressure on that Ravens running game that has been so consistently bad throughout the season.
But working in Baltimore's favor is that the Bears have as bad of a run defense as the Ravens have faced this season, at least statistically.
Chicago was allowing just 3.5 yards per carry through three games but has since lost Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton and middle linebacker D.J. Williams to season-ending injuries. The Bears have also been without seven-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Lance Briggs, and they will be once again today.
In the six games since Melton got hurt, Chicago is allowing 4.9 yards per carry.
Lions running back Reggie Bush had 244 yards on just 32 carries in two games versus the Bears during that span. The Redskins ran for 209 yards as a team. Packers rookie Eddie Lacy had 150 yards. And even Brandon Jacobs, who was out of football most of last year, had 106 yards and two touchdowns against Chicago when the Bears played the Giants in October.
Chicago is allowing 129.4 rushing yards per game, the second-most in the league.
"It's honestly not like we're getting driven off the ball," Bears defensive tackle Corey Wootton told reporters in Chicago. "It's just that we're not fitting in our gaps.
"When you're not disciplined, the thing that should be a 1-yard gain or possibly a tackle for loss turns into a 20-yard gain. That's where we need to clean that up because it's starting to become a problem."
But as bad as the Bears have been at stopping the run, Baltimore has been just as awful running, and this isn't the first game this year that presented a seemingly favorable matchup for the running game.
Case in point, Baltimore faced a Bills defense back in Week 4 that had allowed the second-most rushing yards in the AFC at that point.
But the Ravens were so ineffective running the ball during the first half of that game that Harbaugh decided to give up trying to run the ball for most of the second half.
Even last week, Baltimore was matched up against a Bengals defense that was just 15th against the run and was without Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.
Yet, the Ravens ran for just 85 yards on 30 carries, an average of just 2.8 yards per attempt.
Bernard Pierce had 31 yards on eight carries, but Ray Rice picked up just 30 on 18.
"To me, this game against Chicago sounds just like that Buffalo Bill game," said former Ravens offensive lineman Wally Williams, who provides Ravens analysis for multiple radio stations in the Baltimore area.
"This is the same scenario. I don't expect the Ravens to go in there and impose their will on the Chicago Bears' front.
"I'm on the other side. What if they don't go in there and run the ball with consistency? And I don't think they can. I really don't think this offensive line can because of what [run game coordinator] Juan Castillo has them doing. I don't expect them to do anything in Chicago."