At the end of one of the longest drives in franchise history, the Ravens weren’t separated by much from an opening-position touchdown on Sunday — just 2 yards on first down, then 1 yard on second down, then third down, then fourth again. down.

Over the last three years, through injuries and illness, through good seasons and through bad, less yardage success had become almost a birthright for the offense. In Lamar Jackson, the Ravens had perhaps the NFL’s greatest running quarterback of all time. In offensive coordinator Greg Roman, they had a creative run game designer. And in the trenches, they assembled blockers who were able to exploit both.

But fame got the Ravens nowhere against the Miami Dolphins. Their goal-line goose egg — four runs, 1 yard, one fumble, no points — pointed out the extent of this rash offense. From his preseason expectations. Through two weeks, the Ravens are 13th in the NFL in yards per carry (4.7) and 18th in rushing offense (109.0 yards per game). Perhaps most dangerously, they rank The ultimate in measuring the performance of Football Outsidersafter not finishing a season lower than 11th from 2019 to 2021.

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Their struggles to punctuate their 18-play drive late in the first quarter and nearly 11 minutes early in the second quarter showed not only how fragile success was, but That’s how close the Ravens were in their 42-38 loss..

On first-and-goal from the 2nd, Dolphins defensive end Emmanuel Ogba threw tight end Mark Andrews aside, and Isaiah Prospect, who was lined up in the backfield, couldn’t blast his way to the goal line. Mike Davis is running back.

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On second-and-goal from the 1, former Ravens defensive lineman Zach Seiler swam over Patrick Macari’s lunging block and took out Davis’ legs as he approached the line of scrimmage.

On third-and-goal from the 1, Miami defensive tackle Rayquon Davis freed himself enough from right tackle Morgan Moses to wrap his arms around Jackson, while inside linebacker Sam Egovin tackled Jackson short of the goal line. Activated quite quickly.

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And on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Jackson said center Tyler Linderbaum “got cut” when he delivered his undercenter exchange. The snap wasn’t “comfortable,” said Jackson, who turned the ball over and saw the Ravens’ drive end there.

“You watch our film, you’re like, ‘Oh, we could have done it, we could have done it,'” guard Kevin Zeitler said Wednesday. “It’s up to us, whoever that person is, we’ve got to get that job, whether it’s an extra second to block, get possession. [block], whatever we have to do. We’re getting close.”

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After the season-opening win against the New York Jets, offensive coordinator Greg Roman said the rushing attack lacked “one thing here, one thing there.” As the Ravens try to regroup ahead of Sunday’s road game against the New England Patriots, here are the areas where they can improve.

Production is back up

When the Ravens lost Gus Edwards to a season-ending knee injury last year, they lost one of the NFL’s best middle ball carriers, someone who could reliably handle a 2-yard loss. could convert to a 1-yard carry or a 3. -yard gain in a 5-yard gain.

When the Ravens lost JK Dobbins to a season-ending knee injury last year, they lost a versatile runner who could be as much of a threat to defenses with his lateral movement as his reach. Intestinal stimulation.

With both running backs still on the mend — Dobbins has yet to make his season debut, and Edwards has not been cleared to practice — the Ravens have looked elsewhere for answers at the position. But production did not come easily.

Running back Kenya Drake, signed just before the season, has 17 carries for 39 yards. Fourth-year veteran Justice Hill has five carries for 20 yards. Davis has seven carries for 15 yards. Together, they have gained 74 yards on 29 carries (2.6 per attempt). Jackson has 15 carries for 136 yards, Most of those are coming on his 79-yard touchdown on Sunday..

“I think we’re close,” Davis said Wednesday. “It’s just something we have to keep working on. It will come.”

The challenge is not turning something into something, or turning something small into something important. According to Pro Football Reference, no running back has broken a streak yet this season. Hill leads the group in average yards after contact, at just over 1 yard per carry.

On Hill’s 13-yard carry late in the first half Sunday, during a no-huddle drive, he ran to the sideline, where he helped make some stops, instead of taking advantage of his chances and shotgun. Dropped into the open field on the handoff. .

“We’ve got to get our running game going, and I think running back is a big part of that,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “The running back has a lot to do with how good your run game is, and we need guys to help improve our run game.”

Offensive line execution

Even a chasing crow requires more holes to hit.

According to Pro Fooball Focus, Zeitler ranks as the NFL’s No. 20 run-blocking guard through two weeks, while Ben Powers ranks among the worst.

At tackle, Macari and Moses, whose run-blocking ability was touted when he was signed this offseason, rank among the NFL’s least effective run blockers, according to PFF.

At center, Linderbaum has done well as a run blocker, ranked 11th overall by PFF, though he has struggled somewhat in pass protection.

Evaluation of offensive line play can vary, especially early in the season. According to ESPN’s player tracking data, Powers has the ninth-best run block win rate among NFL guards, while the Ravens rank seventh overall in the team-wide metric, which measures how often a defender beats his blocker, the pocket. I “win” my repetition by interrupting or running. Lane, which contains a runner or recording a tackle near the line of scrimmage.

“We have to be creative,” Harbaugh said Monday. “We’ve got to find a way to block people, because we gave up a couple of blocks. We’ve got to find a way to not necessarily get in the teeth of the defense. Sometimes you can. A lot of times, we Run the ball downfield into the teeth of the goal line defense and score and your back puts it there. But we didn’t do that in this game.

Long variation of the season

At times the Ravens have blocked enough to set up a long run, only to see the ball go elsewhere.

In the fourth quarter Sunday, Drake took an outside zone handoff in a pistol formation, looked down a cutback lane and tried his luck inside. He was fumbled for a loss of 1 yard. As Dolphins players surround Drake, fullback Patrick Rickard, who is involved in the play, raises his hands, as if surprised that Drake isn’t chasing him outside, where other blockers are in open space. I was pulling.

The Ravens’ rushing struggles caught up to them late Sunday, when a botched fourth-and-1 conversion midway through the fourth quarter helped give the Dolphins good field position. Five plays later, Miami was celebrating another touchdown, a play that cut the Ravens’ lead to 35-28.

The push and pull-on offense will continue throughout the season. If Jackson’s passing causes the defense to suffer, he could open up more space for the Ravens’ running game. Harbaugh said both the Jets and Dolphins committed numbers to stop the team’s rushing offense. Other coordinators may not be as willing to take their chances with Jackson stepping back.

If they do, the Ravens’ preference for heavy formations could lay the foundation for more explosive plays. By lining up multiple tight ends and fullbacks, the Ravens invite matchups with linebackers rather than defensive backs. And while those defensive fronts may grow in size, they will likely lose momentum. When Jackson exploded on Sunday, there was no one to catch him.

“these people [on defense] Put a lot of bodies closer to the line of scrimmage,” Harbaugh said. “That helps us make some big runs, especially touchdown runs. [against Miami]. So once you get past that second line of defense — maybe it’s two tiers, but it’s not three tiers — a guy like Lamar or any back can take the whole way. So that’s part of it. But we have to do better in critical situations.

Week 3

Ravens @Patriots

Sunday, 1 p.m

Television: Chaudhary. 45

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

line: Ravens by 2 1/2

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