Baltimore Ravens' Stagnant Ground Game Continues to Sink Struggling Offense

Curt Popejoy@@nfldraftboardContributor ISeptember 21, 2015

Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett (29) runs past Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Oakland , Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

The Baltimore Ravens came up just short in their 37-33 shootout loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. This game was a slugfest that came down to the final drive, with Baltimore coming up just short.

With the loss, the Ravens fall to 0-2, and at least some of this disappointing start can be attributed to their struggles in the run game.

If Baltimore thinks it can win with quarterback Joe Flacco throwing the football 45 times a game, it is likely to be watching the playoffs rather than participating in them. The Ravens have plenty of talent in the offensive backfield, with even more this week than last.

The trio of Justin Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Javorius Allen is rather formidable. Forsett bounced between three different teams before finding a home in Baltimore in 2014. He finished the season with 1,266 rushing yards and looked ready to roll for 2015.

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 20:  Justin Forsett #29 of the Baltimore Ravens runs through the block of the Oakland Raiders in the second quarter at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 20, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

However, against the Raiders, the Baltimore coaching staff did a poor job of utilizing Forsett and the rushing attack in the second half. It was almost inexplicable, as the run game was working well in the first half, and Baltimore and Oakland played to a draw at halftime.

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Just so you all understand, here is where Forsett was statistically in the first half, per Comcast SportsNet's Bo Smolka:

Halftime stats: Flacco: 17-23, 231 yards, 2 TDs, 134.5 rtg; rushing: Forsett 8-57; receiving: Gillmore: 4-79, 2 TDs, Smith 4-102 #RavensTalk

— Bo Smolka (@bsmolka) September 20, 2015

Not a huge amount of touches, but clearly the Ravens were running with a sense of commitmentand better still, efficiency. Forsett was working hard, getting yards when they weren’t always there and finishing plays.

Now fast-forward to the end of the game keeping in mind that the Ravens defense was completely inept. So much so that Oakland racked up 37 points and 448 yards of offense.

Going into the second half, the run game would have seemingly been a focus. But it wasn’t.

Ben Margot/Associated Press

Forsett finished the game with 15 carries for 68 yards. That means seven carries for a lowly 11 yards after halftime. Simply unacceptable for a team still struggling to find players at wide receiver.

Now, this isn’t a direct shot at Forsett. Not entirely, anyway. Nevertheless, perhaps it was premature to anoint Forsett as a true feature back after one good season.

After all, the league was quick to say now-Philadelphia Eagles running back DeMarco Murray was the best back in the NFC in 2014 while with the Dallas Cowboys. Now, two games into his tenure with Philadelphia, he has 21 carries for 11 yards.

Whether it is with Forsett, Taliaferro, Allen or some combination of the three, Baltimore has to get the run game on track. Down the stretch of the regular season, Baltimore is going to have five of its last six games outsidelikely in bad weatherand three of those are divisional games.

If this has only been on Sunday, no reason to panic. However, Forsett struggled in the first week as well, with only 43 yards on 14 carries.

The Ravens' 0-2 record makes for very long odds that they even make the playoffs, but if by some miracle they are still in the mix in late November, continuing to be inept on the ground at that point won’t help their case.