NFL Wire News

Running game comes to life in Ravens victory


The Sports Xchange

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After three straight losses, the Baltimore Ravens finally got a signature victory they hope can jump-start the rest of their season.

The Ravens took down the rival Pittsburgh Steelers using a familiar formula of a solid running attack and hard-nosed defense. When both of those units are clicking, Baltimore is traditionally a tough team to beat.

The Ravens now have an extended break before hosting Cleveland on Oct. 11. Baltimore has won seven consecutive games over the Browns at M&T Bank Stadium.

“I think we all find in life that every adversity that you walk through is the toughest one in your life when you’re in it,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “Ours is just beginning. We’re 1-3. We have to play in a little more than a week against the Cleveland Browns who are a very good football team in the division once again. We know where we’re at. We know what we have to overcome.”

Baltimore is still in the midst of playing one of the toughest schedules in the league to start the season. The Ravens started the year with two games on the west coast, a home opener against first-place Cincinnati and then a battle at Pittsburgh on a short week.

The Ravens, however, have more challenges ahead.

After a home game against the Browns, the Ravens travel west again for two straight games against San Francisco and Arizona. From there, though, Baltimore plays three straight games at home with a bye Nov. 9.

The Ravens fully believe they can be the first team since the 1998 Buffalo Bills to make the postseason after starting 0-3.

“This first win for us should catalyze us to go on to big things,” kicker Justin Tucker said. “We’re not getting ahead of ourselves. There’s a lot of stuff we can learn; just from this game. The nature of this league is that you are going to play in tight games. We played in this first quarter of the season and we’re 1-3. Any one of those games could have turned out any which way. It just so happened that tonight we made the plays we needed to make.”

In each of the Ravens’ three losses, the running game was grounded and quarterback Joe Flacco was forced to continuously throw the ball, which kept Baltimore’s defense on the field for extended periods. Against Pittsburgh, offensive coordinator Marc Trestman committed more to the run and Justin Forsett responded with 150 yards on 27 carries, including a huge 15-yard scamper in overtime. This helped Baltimore control the clock and eventually pull out the 23-20 win.

Look for Forsett and the rest of the running backs to play an even bigger role in the coming weeks.

“In the end, the run game grounded it out and put us in position (to win),” Harbaugh said.

–The Ravens simply need their running game to be the dominant part of the offense to win games. In three losses, the Ravens’ running backs averaged just 72.6 yards per game on 22 carries. Against the Steelers, Baltimore had 191 yards on 39 carries. Justin Forsett led the way with his first breakout performance of the season. Forsett carried the ball 27 times for 150 yards — more yards than he amassed in the past three games combined. He also had a big 15-yard run in overtime that helped set up the game-winning field goal.

The Ravens’ rushing attack has been a main staple of the offense in each of their successful seasons. In addition to Forsett, Baltimore also has capable backups in Lorenzo Taliaferro and rookie Javorius “Buck” Allen, both of whom have been a steady part of the rotation this season. Look for the Ravens to commit more to the running game in the coming weeks, especially since they found some success.

“I think our offensive line did a great job,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “When they have a great nose guard I think (center) Jeremy Zuttah did a great job of holding the nose guard at bay at least and holding the line of scrimmage. I think we did a good job on the backside of cutting off their defensive ends, especially Cameron Heyward. I saw he had the Ironhead black patches on. I love Ironhead Heyward. He was at Pitt when I was coaching there for a year with my dad and Mike Offree. Cutting those guys off is a challenge, and we did a good job of that.”

–With the exception of Steve Smith, the Ravens have not had many playmakers at wide receiver so far this season. However, Michael Campanaro showed his versatility against the Steelers with a couple of big plays. He scored a 9-yard touchdown on a sweep after it appeared he might get tackled in the backfield for a loss. Campanaro has also provided a spark on punt returns, helping put the Ravens in manageable field position. However, he has battled injuries over his two-year career.

Campanaro was forced out of the Steelers game with an undisclosed injury in the fourth quarter. His status for Week 5 against Cleveland is uncertain. Fellow wide receiver Kamar Aiken also had one of his better games with five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Steve Smith, who has been quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite target, left in the third quarter with a lower back contusion. Flacco was not overly concerned about the recent spate of injuries.

“It’s not my job to look to see who we have out there,” Flacco said. “It’s my job to see whoever that guy is, is open, and give him a chance to make the catch. We made enough plays down the stretch to do that.”


–PASSING OFFENSE: D. Quarterback Joe Flacco never got into a rhythm and had two costly turnovers. He completed 20 of 33 passes for 189 yards with a touchdown. His rating was 73.9. Wide receiver Kamar Aiken had one of his best games with five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: A. The Ravens’ running game finally got going and it was one of the main differences in the game. Justin Forsett had his best game this season with 27 carries for 150 yards, more yards than he amassed in the past three games combined. The offensive line was solid with creating holes. It was an encouraging performance by this group.

–PASS DEFENSE: A. The Ravens’ secondary overcame their recent struggles to put together a solid performance. Baltimore ended Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown’s streak of 35 straight regular-season games with at least five catches and at least 50 yards. He finished with five receptions for 42 yards and no touchdowns. Steelers backup quarterback Mike Vick was contained. He completed 19 of 26 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown with a rating of 95.7.

–RUSH DEFENSE: C. Facing one of the most talented running backs in the league, the Ravens did allow chunks of yardage as Le’Veon Bell ran for 129 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown. Still, the group did an effective job containing the mobile Mike Vick.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: A. Kicker Justin Tucker kicked a game-winning 52-yard field goal in overtime to provide the 23-20 victory. Tucker also made a 42-yarder to tie the game with three seconds left in regulation. Michael Campanaro was solid returning punts before leaving with an injury.

–COACHING: B-plus. The Ravens’ coaches put together a solid game plan and came away with the must-win victory. Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman committed to the run and it paid dividends. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees made the necessary adjustments with the secondary. This game should boost the team’s confidence moving forward.

Notes: Wide receiver Steve Smith (lower back contusion) was forced out of the game after a hit by Steelers safety and former Carolina teammate Mike Mitchell and another by linebacker Lawrence Timmons. He did not play in the fourth quarter or overtime. Smith took exception to the hit by Mitchell. “I got speared in the back by an ex-teammate,” Smith said. “I kind of know his character, who he is. After he hit me he said, ‘How do you like that?’ The best thing I could do without threatening him and saying that I will assault him when I see him, is I’ll say I look forward to playing him again. He’s on my lifetime hit list.”

Wide receiver Breshad Perriman is out indefinitely after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Perriman was the Ravens’ first-round pick, but he has been out since getting injured on the first day of training camp. He was expected to serve as the Ravens’ primary downfield threat. “There’s no new injury of any kind,” head coach John Harbaugh said in an interview with the team’s radio affiliate. “It’s just a slow healing ligament, for whatever reason. Very slow. They’re a little surprised, to say the least, that it’s healing this slowly, but that’s what it’s doing. It’s just going to be a matter of time.”

Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley missed several snaps against Pittsburgh in the fourth quarter and overtime with an undisclosed injury. Mosley has battled a knee injury this season, but it has not forced him to miss any games. Second-year linebacker Zachary Orr played in Mosley’s absence against the Steelers.

About The Sports Xchange

Since 1987, the Sports Xchange has been the best source of information and analysis for the top professionals in the sports publishing & information business