`No easy answer' to running woes

Ravens Notebook

Pro Football

November 16, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN REPORTER

For the second time in three days, Ravens coach Brian Billick expressed his concern for the offense's inconsistent running game. Running back Jamal Lewis didn't disagree.

With 50 yards rushing in Sunday's 27-26 victory over the Tennessee Titans, the Ravens have not cracked the 100-yard mark in four of their past seven games, and their rushing offense has fallen to 25th in the NFL.

And with the offense facing an Atlanta run defense Sunday that is ranked ninth, Lewis said the Ravens need to rediscover a rhythm in the running game.

"We could've run the ball better," he said yesterday. "That's all around. It starts from the line of scrimmage to the running backs being on the same page and getting the job done. We've had problems. There's eight or nine men stacking the box. We've just got to get downhill and try to get it blocked up and try to find a way to get those guys out of there."

Some would argue that the problem has been Lewis, who has rushed for at least 100 yards just once this season and has been limited to fewer than 50 yards four times in the past six games.

But Billick said any criticism should be spread around to everyone on the offensive side of the ball.

"Got to be more physical, got to call better plays, got to design better plays, got to use better technique," Billick said. "We've got to run the ball more consistently than we're running it right now."

Lewis also noted that running became a secondary factor Sunday after the Ravens trailed by 19 points in the second quarter.

Still, Lewis was at a loss for how to get the rushing game on the right track.

"There's no easy answer," he said. "You can say that the running backs need to run the ball harder. You can say that the linemen need to block better. You can say that we need to throw for 500 yards to clear everything out, but that's not going to happen. We've just got to go out and execute and keep doing what we're doing and I think we'll get better in due time."

Injury update

Linebacker Mike Smith said yesterday that his partially dislocated left shoulder likely will keep him on the sideline for two to three weeks.

Smith, who left after five plays in Sunday's win, had his left arm in a sling and said his biggest impediment is pain.

"I really can't move it at all," Smith said, adding that he was disappointed that he couldn't play more in his first NFL start. "With something like this, you've just got to throw it to the side and get ready. That's just how life is."

In other news, linebacker Ray Lewis (bruised back) is questionable and did not conduct his customary weekly session with the media.

Wide receiver Derrick Mason (calf), tight end Todd Heap (ankle), linebacker Adalius Thomas (ankle) and defensive tackle Kelly Gregg (foot) are questionable.

However, cornerback Corey Ivy (concussion) and running back Musa Smith (what Billick described as a "body burner") returned to practice and are not listed on the injury report.

For the Falcons, three starters - defensive ends John Abraham (abdominal surgery) and Patrick Kerney (torn pectoral muscle) and cornerback Jason Webster (groin tear) - are out.

Six other starters - defensive tackle Rod Coleman (toe), free safety Chris Crocker (hip), tight end Alge Crumpler (ankle), linebacker Edgerton Hartwell (knee), defensive tackle Grady Jackson (knee) and offensive tackle Todd Weiner (knee) - are questionable.

No change for Billick

Billick said he has no plans to rein in his emotions, including criticizing officials. Billick was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct during the third quarter of the Titans game, and the team was penalized 15 yards.

"I'll just keep paying the fine," Billick said. "I'm going to keep dog-cussing them the way I've been dog-cussing them. Ninety-nine percent of them are OK with that, and we're OK. Evidently, I got the 1 percent that's a tad sensitive."

End zone

The Ravens re-signed guard Ikechuku Ndukwe, who was waived Sunday to make room on the active roster for linebacker Dennis Haley. Ndukwe and rookie linebacker Jim Cottrell, who was cut from the team Sept. 2, were placed on the practice squad. To make room for them, the Ravens released offensive tackle Mike Kracalik and defensive tackle Nick Leaders. ... Defensive end Trevor Pryce was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for blocking Titans kicker Rob Bironas' 43-yard field-goal attempt with 43 seconds left in Sunday's game. edward.lee@baltsun.com

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