-- It is only two weeks into the NFL season, and the Baltimore Ravens' offense is surrounded by questions. The most pressing is one they never thought they'd face: What happened to the running game?
The ground game -- which was tops in the NFL two years ago and was ranked ninth last season -- produced a franchise-low 14 yards in Sunday's 25-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The Ravens have rushed for a total of 91 yards on 34 carries this season.
That has been the biggest disappointment of the first two weeks for the Ravens, who are 0-2 and at the bottom of the AFC North Division as they head into their bye week.
"We've had a lot of success with a certain profile," Coach Brian Billick said. "I'm not sure that as much as we've tried to change the profile a little bit -- and I think we have enhanced it, I think we've thrown the ball a little bit better -- it hasn't been as productive. I think we can build on that, but our profile should remain the same: Play good defense and run the ball well, which we haven't done in two games. That certainly has to be a focus."
It appears unlikely quarterback Kyle Boller will be able to play on Oct. 2, when the Ravens host the New York Jets. Boller's hyperextended right big toe was examined by a specialist on Monday, and Billick conceded surgery is a possibility.
The Ravens traditionally have relied on their running game, regardless of who is playing quarterback. But this season, they have run more than three times as many pass plays (104) as rushing plays (34) in two games. Those numbers are skewed because of the nature of Baltimore's first two games; against both Indianapolis and Tennessee, the Ravens faced double-digit deficits in the third quarter and had to abandon the run in favor of throwing to get back into the game.
"If we're going to win, we're going to have to run the ball more," Billick said. "Therefore we'll have to be in games that are more controllable that we don't put ourselves in a position where we have to throw to catch up."
Running back Jamal Lewis, who rushed for the second-highest total in league history (2,066 yards) two years ago, has gained just 57 yards on 26 carries this season. He had one of his least productive days as a professional against Tennessee, rushing for nine yards on 10 carries.
The Titans gave up 206 rushing yards to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season opener, and they were determined to not let that happen again. Lewis had no room, and he was often hit by two or three defenders before reaching the line of scrimmage. Seven of his 10 carries resulted in zero or negative yardage.
Last season, Lewis occasionally expressed frustration with his production or the way he was being used. He didn't do that on Sunday; instead, he credited the Tennessee defense and said the Ravens would watch the game film and correct their mistakes.
"Honestly right now, I'm on mute right now," Lewis said with a smile. "I'm going to keep saying the same thing."
Lewis underwent surgery on his ankle in January, and he missed all of the team's offseason workouts because he was serving a federal drug sentence. He played in one preseason game, taking a total of six carries, and Billick said the Ravens would gradually work Lewis in, with the idea he would be ready for his full workload the week after the bye.
That timetable appeared to be accelerated after Lewis had 16 carries for 48 yards in the season-opening, 24-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Last week, Lewis said he was ready for his usual load: "Just let the horse run," he said. "Let me go."
"I think it's a little bit of everything. We had to gear Jamal up because of the offseason and training camp he had," Billick said when asked about Lewis's slow start. "I think Jamal is now out of training camp, past the preseason games, and he's ready for a regular season, if we can manufacture it, a 25- to 30-carry game."
Fullback Alan Ricard, who earned a reputation as a first-rate blocker due to his role in helping Lewis gain more than 3,000 yards on the ground during the past two seasons, was deactivated for the first two games. Ovie Mughelli, a third-year fullback, took his place, and tight end Daniel Wilcox was even used as a blocking back.
Ricard missed the first three games of the preseason with a calf injury, but he has been practicing and is medically cleared to play. Billick said he felt Ricard wasn't ready to be the physical presence -- "the hammer" -- the position requires.
"Alan has not been healthy, in my opinion," Billick said. "Alan is just now, with this bye week, ought to be fully healthy. That will be an asset we'll have to utilize."
The Ravens need to use every advantage they have to help an offense that has been dreadful thus far. Baltimore has scored only two touchdowns this season, and both came in the fourth quarter with the outcome of the game already decided. The offensive line has struggled, giving up nine sacks and committing eight penalties. The Ravens have committed six turnovers, two of which have been returned for touchdowns.
"I am accountable for everything that goes on with this football team," Billick said. "I take that very personally. The buck stops here, whatever other cliche you want to throw in there. I am accountable and am going to be the one that has to put us on a course to correct it."