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Ravens' running game 'not where it needs to be'

Running back Bernard Pierce runs into the end zone to score a touchdown in front of Texans linebacker Brooks Reed in the second half of the Ravens' 30-9 win over the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Sunday.
Running back Bernard Pierce runs into the end zone to score a touchdown in front of Texans linebacker Brooks Reed in the second half of the Ravens' 30-9 win over the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Sunday. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

OWINGS MILLS - The Ravens have two talented running backs, arguably the league's top fullback and an offensive line that is mostly the same as the one that was effective in the run game during the playoffs last season.
Yet, Baltimore's running game has been one of the least productive in the NFL through the first three games of this year.
The Ravens were without Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice Sunday against the Houston Texans, but Baltimore was struggling in the run game even before Rice got hurt.
"Our run game is not where it needs to be," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We're going to work on that. We have been working on it. We'll continue to do so, and we need to make that important.
"One thing we've seen that, philosophically, we're going to stick with it. It's something that we think is important, [and] we're going to be able to run the ball here. ... We have the people do it."
But running the ball has been an issue in each of Baltimore's three games.
Rice and Bernard Pierce combined for just 58 yards on 21 carries against the Denver Broncos in Week 1.
They combined for only 93 yards on 32 carries versus the Cleveland Browns last week.
And against the Texans, Pierce managed just 65 yards on 24 carries while handling the bulk of the workload with Rice sidelined by the strained hip flexor he suffered against the Browns.
Pierce had a 25-yard run during the fourth quarter, but he picked up just 40 yards on his other 23 carries.
Meanwhile, his backup versus Houston, Shaun Draughn, had only two yards on four carries.
The Ravens have faced three of the better front sevens in the NFL, but Harbaugh acknowledged that the lack of production is still a concern. Baltimore's team average of 2.6 yards per carry is second worst in the NFL.
"That's not going to be OK," Harbaugh said. "That number is not going to be that number for one thing. That's going to come up dramatically before the season is over - and sooner [than later]."
Harbaugh declined to get into the specifics of what the problem has been, but he did say that the offensive line has to do a better job of working efficiently together on a consistent basis.
Combination blocks were one area in particular he brought up.
"It's not just a matter of just one-on-one knocking somebody off the ball," Harbaugh said. "That's not the way it works. It's way more complicated than that up front. And like the passing game, when we talk precision, there's a precision to the run game, too.
"It's something that we don't quite have ironed out yet against good fronts, and we've got to get there."
But Baltimore appears to have a favorable matchup this week.
The Ravens are facing the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have allowed the second-most rushing yards in the AFC so far this year and are allowing 4.3 yards per carry.
There's a chance that Rice may miss the game, but Harbaugh sounded optimistic Monday when talking about Rice's potential availability. Getting Rice back in the lineup would do nothing but help the running game.
"There's no doubt in my mind that [the issues] can be corrected," Harbaugh said. "We're not getting the production from the run game that we should, but we also feel like we're on our way to getting that done. We just have to do it. You just have to go out there and get it done."

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