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Ravens find 3 is better than 1 when running the football

(AP Photo/Gary Landers, File)

By DAVID GINSBURG

AP Sports Writer

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Perhaps the one positive aspect of the Baltimore Ravens' sputtering offense is the running game, in which three different backs have helped offset the NFL's lowest-ranked passing attack.

Alex Collins leads the group with 206 yards rushing and is averaging a robust 8.2 yards per carry. Javorius Allen has 159 yards, and Terrance West has run for 121 yards and two touchdowns.

As a result, the Ravens (2-2) own the league's ninth-ranked run game.

"We're doing a good job there," quarterback Joe Flacco said Wednesday. "Having multiple running backs is huge because in this league, you very rarely have a guy for 16 weeks who's going to be able to carry the full load. So the fact that we have a few guys that get in there and do it should be big for us coming down the stretch."

It's actually important now, because Flacco has thrown only four touchdown passes in four games with six interceptions.

Collins uses speed and quickness to hit the hole in a hurry and slither out of tackles. West is more of power runner, and Allen possesses the qualities of the other two in addition to being a threat as a receiver. He's tied for the team lead with 16 catches and took one into the end zone in Week 2 against Cleveland.

"It's three guys that have a little bit different skill sets, do some different things well," coach John Harbaugh said. "We try to game-plan them in there and keep people off balance."

West started the first three games, but Allen has more carries than the other two. Collins received his first NFL start last week and finished with 82 yards, including a 50-yarder that set up Baltimore's lone touchdown in a 26-9 loss to Pittsburgh.

He did, however, lose a fumble for the second time in three games. Both fumbles led to touchdowns for the opposition, and that's something Harbaugh won't tolerate.

"We're working on the way he carries the ball, technique-wise," Harbaugh said. "I don't think we have any fumblers. Once you feel a guy is a fumbler, you're pretty much done with him."

As a rookie with Seattle last year, Collins had 31 carries, 11 receptions and two fumbles. He started this season on Baltimore's practice squad, moved up in Week 2 after Danny Woodhead was put on injured reserve with a pulled hamstring and now leads the NFL in yards per carry.

Collins' focus Sunday on the road against Oakland (2-2) will be to make yardage and hold onto the football.

"You just can't dwell on it. Can't think about the mistakes," he said. "I have a job to do out there, and my teammates are depending on me."

Collins ability to make something out of nothing is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes, when he's twisting for that extra yard, the ball pops loose.

"With Alex, it's the way you hold the football," Flacco said. "When you're fighting for extra yards, you have to know when to call it quits and get what you've got."

Two weeks ago, West lost a fumble that Jacksonville turned into a touchdown. He started the first three games, but last week he came off the bench and lost seven yards on four attempts.

Asked if he was disappointed with the lack of action, West replied, "No. Whatever the play call is, I just accept it and go on. I'm just trying to win."

Three backs sharing the load isn't ideal for a Fantasy Football player who likes the Ravens, as West is the only player on team with a rushing touchdown.

"I think they'll all have touchdowns before it's over," Harbaugh said. "That would be the plan."

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Updated October 4, 2017

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