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Baltimore Ravens Get Ground Game Back on Track in Wild Win over Steelers

Curt Popejoy@@nfldraftboardContributor IOctober 2, 2015

Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett (29) runs the ball in an NFL football against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Don Wright/Associated Press

If you decided to stay up past your bedtime on Thursday night, you got to see a wild finish, and a 23-20 overtime win over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. This game was back and forth for over four quarters and it came down to a 52-yard field goal by Ravens kicker Justin Tucker to seal the victory.

However, for all the praise that will be heaped on Tucker (as it should be), what could be lost in all this is that the Ravens seem to have found new-found commitment to the run game, and it paid off. According to ESPN Stats and Info, running back Justin Forsett had one of best games of his career.

Justin Forsett (BAL): 27 rushes are a career high; 150 rushing yds are 2nd-most in career (182 last season at Saints)

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 2, 2015

As a team, Baltimore called 36 run plays, and finished with 191 yards on the ground. Prior to Thursday night’s game, Baltimore was ranked No. 28 in the league in rushing with a measly 72.7 yards per game. None of that mattered against a physical Pittsburgh defense, as Baltimore’s offensive line created lanes for Forsett to run through and he exploited them at times. They weren’t much good in pass protection, but came through in the clutch.

Marshall Faulk of the NFL Network was in agreement that on a night when quarterback Joe Flacco and the passing game was under duress, Forsett and the offensive line powered the offense.

"Flacco was off. Justin Forsett and that o-line took care of business." - @marshallfaulk pic.twitter.com/2B5HSxUtk5

— #BALvsPIT (@nflnetwork) October 2, 2015
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Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

It was good to see the Ravens committing to the run game, even when it struggled. And before we laud Forsett’s effort too much, we need to keep things in perspective. The Ravens offensive line did a tremendous job in controlling the line of scrimmage. The Steelers front got pushed around, and that gave Forsett opportunities he hadn’t seen so far this season.

Nevertheless, the reality is that there are still things he can do better. Other than a couple of carries on a single drive in the first half, Forsett continues to lack the power to fight through tackles and get those tough yards. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with being a “run to daylight” type of back. But if he’s not going to amp up the tenacity and toughness when the line doesn’t do its job, he’ll continue to lose reps to Lorenzo Taliaferro and Javorius Allen.

Ravens final HB snap count: Justin Forsett 63, Lorenzo Taliaferro 10, Javorius Allen 7

— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) October 2, 2015

A great example of this was in the overtime period. Forsett had five carries for 15 yards. Not great, but when you consider that one carry went for 12 yards, and another for -3, you get a little better understanding of just how fuzzy the math can be. However, Baltimore found a way to run the ball for the first time this season, and it led to their first win.

Their playoffs hopes are on life support at this point, but fighting back. If the Ravens want to continue to remain relevant in the AFC, they will need more performances like Thursday night out of this offensive line and running backs, especially if teams continue to batter Flacco, and limit this hobbled passing attack.