Harbaugh: No regrets over abandoning run

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh made two things clear in the aftermath of the 23-20 loss at the Buffalo Bills:

It was his decision to abandon the run, and he would do it again in the same situation. The Ravens' plodding running game was the hot topic at Harbaugh's news conference Monday -- eight of the 17 questions asked had something to do with the ground attack -- and he did not back down from the decision to run the ball a franchise-low nine times, including twice in the second half.

"That's my call all the way," Harbaugh said. "I just felt like we weren't running the ball well enough to win the game running the ball. Looking back on it, I feel the same way. After watching the tape, I feel we did exactly the right thing to try to win that game. No second-guessing myself on that. That was my decision. That's the way we went with it. If you feel like we should have run the ball more in the second half, I definitely respect that opinion. But it didn't look that way to me. So, that's what we did."

I do not fault Harbaugh's decision because the run game was going nowhere (the team was averaging 2.6 yards per carry). The Ravens also were 15 yards away from kicking the potential game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter, so the pass-heavy attack put Baltimore in position to pull off the comeback.

Where I differ with Harbaugh is the Ravens' ability to turn this ground game around. The Ravens are averaging 64 yards rushing per game, which ranks 28th in the NFL. There have been no signs of life from the Ravens' running game and that includes Sunday's game against the second-worst run defense in the NFL.

It's a strange turn of events for the Ravens because this is essentially the same offensive line that helped the Ravens average 134.8 yards rushing in the playoffs. The Ravens have not cracked 100 yards rushing as a team this season.

The only change on the offensive line has been second-year center Gino Gradkowski replacing 15-year veteran Matt Birk.

"He's done a good job physically," Harbaugh said of Gradkowski. "It hasn't been too often where Gino has been pushed around. He's done a good of job of holding the point. I talk to him all the time, I think he can come off the ball better. I think sometimes he's a little tentative with his footwork and wants to stay in front of people. Go ahead and come off the ball and move people a little bit. He's capable of doing that."

Harbaugh added, "It's a difference between Gino and Matt with the calls. I think we're feeling that in there right now. Gino is a really smart guy but Matt had been at it a lot of years. So, that's something that we're working through."

The other big change was adding Juan Castillo, the former offensive line coach and defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, to be the Ravens' run game coordinator. Harbaugh, though, said the Ravens aren't doing much different blocking-wise with Castillo.

"It's the same offense," Harbaugh said. "We still run the same plays. We still have the same philosophy. There's always a few wrinkles and that's why I brought Juan in because I was excited about things I knew he was going to bring to the table and bring into our program. And those things are part of what we're doing. We're not the same team we were two months ago, and we're going to be a different team two months from now. I'm most interested in what kind of team we are six days from now when we go down to Miami."

Harbaugh dismissed the notion that the health of running back Ray Rice, who returned after missing one game with a hip injury, was a factor in the Ravens struggling to run the ball against the Bills.

"The issue is what it always is. We just got to get better," he said. "We have to go to work and improve the things we can improve and make good decisions on what we choose to do and how we choose to scheme it. So, yes, we can game plan better and we can set formations up better to put our guys in position. I think our running backs can do a better job of running to the right sopt and trusting the offensive line."

Harbaugh added, "But the bottom line is it has nothing to do with style or technique. It's finding what our guys can do well with this group and doing it well. I'm very confident in every one of our coaches. We'll find a way to work it out. It's a process. It's going to be a year-long process."