October 10, 2014

The Baltimore Ravens struggled to move the ball in Week 5, but no one has experienced that problem against their next opponent.

Joe Flacco and the Ravens' trio of running backs will try to get back on track Sunday as the Buccaneers return home after being exposed in three straight road games.

Last Sunday's 20-13 loss in Indianapolis featured season lows in yards (287) and points from the Baltimore offense as it got away from the running game with a season-low 15 attempts, though those yielded a season-best 6.0 yards per carry. In its previous three games, all wins, the Ravens (3-2) averaged 33.0 attempts and 148.0 yards.

They seem set on continuing to use three backs with Justin Forsett, Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro sharing the load for a running game that's averaging 4.69 yards per carry a season after finishing last at 3.14.

Coach John Harbaugh is more concerned with sustaining that average, which is tied for eighth in football, than he is with who gets the carries.

"I want us to be averaging right around 5 yards, or close to 4.5-5 yards a carry," Harbaugh told the team's official website. "Five yards a carry would pretty much lead the league. Let's be between 4 and 5 yards a carry - closer to 5 if we can, because we're running it that well. To do that, we have to rip off some long runs, and let's be good with three different guys. That's what we need to do."

Three turnovers certainly cut into any sustained offense against the Colts after Baltimore gave the ball away a total of three times in its first four games. They forced four, though, and hold a plus-2 differential for the season.

The Buccaneers' 11 turnovers are tied for second most in the NFL.

Tampa Bay (1-4) is seeking its first home win, but it'll likely need some serious defensive improvement to get it. The Bucs are surrendering 31.2 points per game, which is better than only Jacksonville, while their 412.4 yards allowed rank 30th. Most of that damage has come in the last three games, as they've allowed an average of 39.0 points after giving up a total of 39 in their two home losses.

New Orleans racked up 511 yards and rallied from 11 down in the fourth quarter to beat Tampa Bay 37-31 in overtime last Sunday.

Mason Foster could return to help turn things around. The linebacker has been out for the defense's rough stretch with a shoulder injury suffered Sept. 14 against St. Louis.

"We felt pretty good about that," coach Lovie Smith told the team's official website. "He was able to do everything (Wednesday) and of course that's a good sign. Whenever you can get your Mike linebacker out there ... it's like your quarterback. ... Mason really knows the defense. Communication has been a problem for us a little bit."

Linebacker hasn't been much of a problem for Baltimore. The Ravens rank third in points against at 16.0, and have been helped greatly by rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley. The Alabama product is the Ravens' leading tackler through five games and had 14 tackles and an interception against the Colts.

Baltimore's pass defense has been suspect at times, ranking 27th in yards per game (269.2), and Tampa Bay's passing game has improved with Mike Glennon taking the snaps.

The second-year quarterback took over for the injured Josh McCown in Atlanta on Sept. 18, and he's thrown for an average of 275.5 yards and had a total of four touchdowns and two interceptions in two starts since as Tampa has gone 1-1.

Though the Bucs beat Pittsburgh in Week 4 and nearly took down the Saints, they committed 15 penalties for 113 yards against New Orleans. They've been penalized 35 times for 273 yards in the past three games.

"We are not where we want to be and our record says that," Glennon said. "Maybe we are getting better, but better isn't good enough if you aren't winning. We need to keep working and to keep staying together, and I am sure those wins will come."

That could be helped along by the potential return of Mike Evans after the rookie receiver missed last week with a groin injury.

The Tampa Bay receivers won't have to deal with Baltimore cornerback Asa Jackson, who was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return after severely spraining a toe against the Colts. Lardarius Webb, however, played just his second game of the season in Week 5 after battling a back injury, and Jackson's absence could allow Webb to make his first start.

The Bucs have won their last three games against the AFC while the Ravens have done the same against the NFC. Baltimore won the most recent meeting at home in 2010 and won 27-0 at Tampa back in 2006.

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