There was no doubt that Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals was a must-win for the Baltimore Ravens. With the Ravens coming into the game at 0-2 and the Bengals sitting atop the AFC North at 2-0, this game was crucial. Unfortunately for the Ravens, much like last week against the Oakland Raiders, Baltimore came out on the short end, 28-24.
The difference between last week and this one is at 0-3, the Ravens are now in serious trouble. Looking back at the history of the NFL, per USA Today, only five teams in NFL history have started the season 0-3 and made their way to the playoffs.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but when you factor in the competition in the AFC, as well as the problems this team has, the Ravens have a tough task ahead. The class of the AFC remains the New England Patriots, sitting at 3-0, and five other teams presently sit above .500. The bigger issue is that the Ravens are the only winless team left in the AFC, so all other 15 teams are ahead of them in the playoff hunt.
What’s wrong with the Ravens? First and foremost, the rushing offense for Baltimore has stunk. Sunday against the Bengals, starting running back Justin Forsett was invisible. The same back that rushed for 1,266 yards in 2014 has yet to top 70 yards in his first three starts. Against Cincinnati, Forsett mustered a measly 13 yards on 10 carries.
Going into Sunday’s game, Forsett had a history of success against AFC North teams, as pointed out prior to the game by Ravens writer Garrett Downing.
RB Justin Forsett averaged 91.2 yards from scrimmage in AFC North games last year. Ravens want to get him going today.— Garrett Downing (@gdowning14) September 27, 2015
Unfortunately, 29 yards of total offense makes one wonder why he has fallen off. The easy answer is the absence of former offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Kubiak’s zone run scheme fit not only Forsett perfectly, but was also playing to the strength of this offensive line. Kubiak has since moved on to the Denver Broncos, and things have gone haywire. Ravens guard Marshal Yanda accepted responsibility for that as a unit after the game.
Yanda: We need to run the ball better. We need to just figure it out and get better. It needs to start right now.— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) September 27, 2015
This is a sentiment echoed by Baltimore Sun beat writer Jeff Zrebiec on Twitter.
Ravens run blocking, so good last year, has been poor. Forsett can't get going at all. Creating way too many 3rd and longs.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) September 27, 2015
This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens passing attack. And when I say passing attack, I mean Flacco throwing the football to wide receiver Steve Smith over and over again. Smith had another big game with 13 receptions, 186 yards and two touchdowns. As great as that is, the lack of a run game and other options for Flacco forced multiple drives to stall out.
It was also groundhog day for the Ravens defense. A week after letting Raiders quarterback Derek Carr put together a late comeback, Baltimore did the same against the Bengals. The Ravens defense gave up 383 passing yards and three touchdowns to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, with 227 of those yards and two of those touchdowns going to wide receiver A.J. Green.
Last Sunday, Carr threw for 351 yards and two touchdowns, with 111 yards and one of those going to rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper. In both games, the Ravens defense was unable to hold on in the final drives and allowed game-winning touchdowns through the air.
At this point, the Ravens not only have to focus on every game one week at a time, but also hope for some luck around them. This Thursday, Baltimore gets a Pittsburgh Steelers team that will be minus quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, so this might be as good a chance as any in the next month for them to get back on the winning track.