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Return of the Run Game

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Return of the Run Game

There is an expression in football that more games are lost than won. The Steelers would probably agree with this. There is no question that the missed field goals by ex-Steeler kicker Josh Scobee helped the Ravens win last Thursday night. That said, the Ravens put themselves in a position to take advantage of those misses with the running game returning when they needed it most.

The beauty of the zone run game was on full display in Pittsburgh (especially in the 2nd half). While Javorius "Buck" Allen and Lorzeno Taliafero both contributed to the success of the run game, it was Justin Forsett who stole the show. Forsett had four runs over ten yards (11, 11, 22 and 33). Let’s look at five of his runs that illustrate how well he and the Ravens ran the ball against the Steelers.

Justin Forsett ran with power, vision and balance

1st Quarter, 5:35, 1st & 10, ball on the BAL 48

11 yard gain by Justin Forsett

The Ravens come out in 21 personnel (2 TEs, 1RB, 2 WRs) with both TEs aligned on the offensive right side. This appears to be an outside zone (OZ) run to the weak side (i.e. away from the 2 TEs). Forsett shows good leg drive and balance on this run. Left guard (LG) Kelechi Osemele is able to come off of his combo block with Center (C) Jeremy Zuttah on defensive linemen (DL) #93 and works up to the linbeback (LB) #51. Left tackle (LT) James Hurst gets an adequate cut block on the backside on DL #97 and TE Nick Boyle is able to drive LB #94 outside giving Forsett one less player to avoid when he cuts upfield.

1st Quarter, 5:04, 1st & 10, ball on the PIT 41

11 yard gain by Forsett

The Ravens use 11 (1TE, 1RB and 3WRs) personnel on this run. They had a ton of success running out of this personnel grouping. They align TE Maxx Williams on the offensive’s right side and 3 wide receivers on the left of the formation.

This formation pulled LB #51 out of the box. He aligns closer to WR Marlon Brown who is in the slot on the left of the formation. That left LB #94 as the only LB in the box and C Zuttah was able to work up to him after his combo block on DL #93.

Again, Forsett runs through a tackle attempt from the backside defenders. If TE Williams was able to kick out or cut one of the backside defenders (OLB #48 or CB #41), Forsett might have had an even bigger gain.

The Steelers tried to respond by alignment but the Ravens stayed one step of ahead

3rd Quarter, 10:19, 2nd & 7, Ball on the BAL 23

33 yard gain by Forsett

The Ravens are in 11 personnel again, but this time TE Boyle is aligned left with 2 WRs to his side and 1 WR on the opposite side of the formation.

The Steelers counter with their nickel personnel (2 LBs, 5 DBs). Like the first play I broke down above, this appears to be an OZ run to the weak side.

The Steelers have their nickel DB #22 and strong safety (SS) #20 aligned over the TE. I think they might have been expecting a pass and could’ve been blitzing. I say this because when the ball is snapped, LB #94 runs towards WR Brown (aligned slot left) as if he has him in coverage. The other LB #98 played the frontside of the zone run. I think my favorite part of this play is the ‘butt block’ by LT Hurst. Forsett cuts inside that block (guess we can call it that) and doesn’t see a Steeler defender until he reaches the free safety who plays playing the deep middle.

4th Quarter, 7:10, 2nd & 1 on the BAL 26

5 yard gain by Forsett

By now you’ll notice the 11 personnel, just flipped to the other side. The TE is aligned right with 2 WRs on his side and 1 WR on the opposite side of the formation.

Although this is only a 5 yard gain, it’s a good example of the in-game chess match between offensive and defensive coordinators. The Steelers appear to be overplaying the OZ run to the strong side by their alignment. They have 4 defenders aligned to the right of C Zuttah, but only 2 defenders on the left.

Instead of running OZ out of this formation (as they had most of the game), the Ravens get double team blocks on DL #91 and #97 and use LT Hurst to kick out OLB #95. Forsett scrambles up the middle for 5 yards and SS #20 has to come up and make the tackle or he would’ve had a bigger gain.

The offensive line won their 1-on-1 match-ups

4th Quarter, 6:37, 1st & 10 on the BAL 21

22 yard gain by Forsett

11 personnel again, but this time the TE Williams is aligned left with 2 WRs on his side and 1 WR on the opposite side. Again the Steelers appear to be expecting the the OZ run to the TE side and respond by aligning 4 defenders to the left of the C Zuttah, with only 2 on his right side.

The Ravens counter by running OZ to weak side (away from the TE). C Zuttah seals DL #91 to the outside and LG Kelechi Osemele comes off his combo block on DL #97 and works up to the LB #51. These two blocks created a huge alley for Forsett to run through.

While these plays make it look like a great individual performance by Forsett (and he was awesome!), the Ravens did a nice job in this game of using personnel, formation and play calling to keep the Steelers run defense off balance.