Ravens offense heads to Buffalo still trying to get in a groove

Ranking 30th in the NFL in total yards, 25th in rushing and 20th and passing, the Ravens still seem to be searching for any kind of an offensive groove.

That’s going to happen when you trade away a wideout the caliber of Anquan Boldin, have a center as established as Matt Birk retire and lose a vertical threat as dangerous as Jacoby Jones to injury.

The offensive struggles are magnified by the fact that an overhauled defense has found its groove so fast. The offense hasn’t been so lucky.

Last week, the Ravens finished with just 236 yards, a season low, while relying on their defense and special teams to score 14 of their season-high 30 points.

“We have to just continue to improve, and I think you’ll see our production go up a little bit more,” offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. “I think you’re going to see guys get a little bit more comfortable with one another, in terms of what we’re doing. We face a tough team this week that is going to present a unique challenge for us. We have got to get better. We have to better than we were last week, that’s for sure.”

Baltimore heads to Buffalo averaging just 77.3 yards on the ground and 231 through the air for 308.3 total yards per game. Part of the run-game struggles can be attributed to Ray Rice being out last week, but the team wasn’t moving the ball via the rush even when he was healthy.

That has left the Ravens at a little bit of a loss, as running has been the team’s offensive specialty for years, especially since Rice entered the league in 2008. Many players have said it seems the team is close to breaking some big runs, but just hasn’t been able to do it yet. So far this season, Baltimore is averaging a paltry 2.6 yards per rush.

“We need to run the ball better. We need to clean a couple things up, and when you look at the film, we’re really close,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “We’re blocking things well. It’s just a little thing here or there, but a lot of those runs are so close to hitting. If we continue to do what we do and just mix it up a little bit like we did in the second half of that game, then we’ll start hitting some runs.

“A lot of yards per carry in the NFL gets so much affected by having a 30-yard run here, having a 20-yard run here, and that’s really what we haven’t been able to do yet. We haven’t been able to get any chunks to really get to the point where, when you see the end of the game statistics, those yards per carry and the total yards are up a little bit because we just haven’t hit for any chunks yet. When we start to do that, then I think those stats will start to go up a little bit.”

This week, the Ravens won’t be going up against one of the NFL’s elite defensive units as they did a week ago versus the Texans.

The Bills (1-2) rank 28th in the NFL with 417.3 yards allowed per game, including 155 rushing yards per contest, which ties for 30th in the league.

Whether Rice is back in action or the Ravens go with backup Bernard Pierce again, this could be a good opportunity for the team to get its running game on track.

Guard Marshal Yanda seemed confident that the Ravens will be able to cure those woes.

“For the most part, you watch the film, even last week, and gosh we had a lot of good blocks,” Yanda said. “It seemed like maybe there was a block here and a block there ... We just need to keep working hard together, and I think we’re going to get it, that’s for sure. We’re definitely going to get it.

“We just need to keep working hard and stay with it, stay confident and know that we are going to get it, because we did a lot of good things versus the Texans in the run game, but it didn’t really show up statistically wise. But we’re definitely moving in the right direction, and everybody is on board, so we’re just going to keep working hard every day.”

Running the ball hasn’t been the only issue on offense, as the Ravens have gotten off to slow starts each of the last two weeks.

Baltimore was shut out in the first half by the Browns before scoring 14 points after halftime to win 14-6 two weeks ago. Last week, the Ravens trailed 6-0 before scoring 17 points in the second quarter, only three of which came from the offense. Baltimore scored just one offensive touchdown in the 30-9 victory, producing its best drive of the game on the opening possession of the second half.

“We need to start faster. It was field position this last game,” coach John Harbaugh said. “You look at each game and each situation. Then it’s execution. We’ve had penalties that have caused us some problems at times that didn’t come up so much in the third quarter. We’ve played well in the third quarter the last two games, but it was a problem in the first game. So you chase all those things.

“We want to start the game well, and we want to start the half well. We want to finish the first half and the second half well. So, we’re chasing all that. And we’ll try to start faster this week; that would be a good thing.”