AFC North: Bernard Pierce

Ravens vs. Steelers preview

October, 31, 2014
10/31/14
8:00
AM ET

The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers renew one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries on Sunday night at Heinz Field. Both teams are 5-3 and a half-game out of first place in the AFC North. The Ravens beat the Steelers, 26-6, when the teams met in early September and they will try to sweep their bitter rival for the first time since 2011.

ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley and ESPN Steelers reporter Scott Brown take a closer look at the 8:30 p.m. ET game.

Brown: Jamison, how will the Ravens compensate for the loss of Jimmy Smith at cornerback and how bad is the timing for the Ravens to face Ben Roethlisberger when they are so thin at cornerback?

Hensley: To characterize losing Smith as “bad timing” is an understatement. It’s atrocious. Smith, who is sidelined with a foot injury, is not only the Ravens’ best cornerback but he’s also among the top five cornerbacks in the NFL. The Ravens have no one who can replace his combination of size, speed, aggressiveness and intelligence. Even the most optimistic supporter of the Ravens couldn’t think Dominique Franks, who was out of football for the first five weeks, can fill the void left by Smith.

The only way the Ravens can lessen the blow is with their pass rush. When Roethlisberger threw 522 yards and six touchdowns, he was hit twice by the Colts. The Ravens’ top three pass-rushers -- Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Pernell McPhee -- have combined for 14.5 sacks and 23 quarterback hits. Over the last five meetings with Roethlisberger, the Ravens have sacked him 10 times. If they can put that pressure on Roethlisberger, it will give him less time to find the open receiver.

While a lot of the focus has been on Roethlisberger, how have his weapons improved in the passing game? With the Ravens being without their top cornerback, will it be tough for them to match up with the Steelers?

Brown: The Steelers and Roethlisberger have to be salivating over the prospect of attacking the Ravens’ secondary. No Smith and a defense that is thin at cornerback has to reckon with a receiving corps that has changed considerably since the Ravens soundly beat the Steelers in Baltimore. Justin Brown, who lost a fumble inside the Ravens’ 20-yard line early in the teams’ Sept. 11 game, isn’t even in the picture at wide receiver right now.

Rookie Martavis Bryant, who has been a revelation in his first two NFL games, and reliable veteran Lance Moore will play against the Ravens after not dressing the first time the two AFC North rivals played. Those two along with Markus Wheaton should make the Ravens pay if they focus too much attention to two-time Pro Bowler Antonio Brown. Brown, meanwhile, opens things up for the other receivers, including tight end Heath Miller, who is coming off his third career 100-yard receiving game.

Baltimore ran the ball effectively against the Steelers on Sept. 11 and it looks like Justin Forsett has really emerged for the Ravens. Has he been one of the NFL’s biggest surprises this season and how are the roles defined in the Ravens’ backfield?

Hensley: It would’ve been difficult for anyone to predict this type of production from Forsett. In training camp, he was the No. 4 running back behind Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro. Halfway through the Ravens’ season, Forsett is fourth in the NFL with 571 rushing yards. The Ravens needed Forsett to step up after Rice was cut and Pierce struggled to stay healthy. What stands out about Forsett is his vision to find the running lanes in the zone blocking scheme and determination to break tackles. The reason the Ravens signed Forsett was his familiarity with Gary Kubiak’s offense after playing in Houston two years ago. He has remained atop the depth chart by averaging 5.5 yards per carry, the third-best average in the league.

Forsett is the primary ball carrier and gets about 70 percent of the snaps. His work could be affected this week by a knee injury that kept him out of Wednesday’s practice. Pierce had been the Ravens’ back when they get in the red zone. But he was a healthy scratch last Sunday after averaging less than three yards per carry in three of five games. So, Taliaferro has become the top backup and scored two red zone touchdowns in Cincinnati.

The run game has been one of the most improved areas on offense, along with the Ravens’ line. Joe Flacco wasn't sacked in the first meeting, but the Steelers were able to get a lot of pressure Sunday on Andrew Luck. Should the Ravens expect a significantly better pass rush on Sunday night?

Brown: That depends on whether the Steelers can get a big lead early against the Ravens. The Steelers’ defense fed off the offense’s fast start Sunday and an early 21-3 lead forced the Colts to throw, throw and throw some more. Indianapolis had just 10 rushes in its 51-34 loss to Pittsburgh and two of those were scrambles by Luck. Making the Colts one-dimensional on offense allowed the Steelers to really go after Luck and they hit him a lot.

The Steelers probably won’t be as fortunate against the Ravens. They struggled to stop the run when the two rivals played earlier this season and teams with zone-blocking schemes have given the Steelers fits. Unless the Steelers jump out to a big lead early for the second consecutive game they will get a steady dose of Forsett and Taliaferro. That alone should temper the pressure they are able to put on Flacco.

Coach John Harbaugh made a comment earlier this week about how the Ravens are comfortable playing at Heinz Field. What did you make of that comment and can it be traced to the Ravens winning in Pittsburgh in 2010, 2011 and 2012?

Hensley: That’s exactly what Harbaugh meant by that comment. He was saying that the Ravens know what it takes to win in Pittsburgh. You can’t blame Harbaugh for taking a confident stance, especially considering the circumstances. It was just a week ago when the Ravens sat atop the AFC North after winning five of their previous six games. Now, after losing in dramatic fashion in Cincinnati, the Ravens could potentially drop to last place with a loss in Pittsburgh. By saying the Ravens are comfortable at Heinz, Harbaugh is telling his players that they can win in Pittsburgh because they’ve done it before.

The Ravens beat the Steelers earlier this season by keeping them out of the end zone. While the Ravens rank second in the league in fewest points allowed, the Steelers defense uncharacteristically ranks 16th in yards allowed and 21st in points given up. Do these numbers truly reflect how the defense is playing?

Brown: Unfortunately for the Steelers, they do. There were questions about the defense, and that was before the Steelers lost starting outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and cornerback Ike Taylor to significant injuries. Cornerback Cortez Allen, whom the Steelers signed to a five-year, $25 million contract right before the start of the regular season, has struggled so much that the fourth-year veteran has been demoted twice in the past two weeks.

The Steelers have also had issues stopping the run and an offense that can stay balanced is going to give them problems. The defense has shown signs of improvement and it has generated consistent pressure on the quarterback as well as takeaways during the Steelers’ two-game winning streak. If that continues against the Ravens the Steelers have a great chance of improving to 7-4 with games against the lowly Jets and the two-win Titans next up on the schedule.

BALTIMORE -- Here are three predictions that I guarantee (well, feel very strongly) will happen Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens (4-2) play host to the Atlanta Falcons (2-4) at M&T Bank Stadium.

Flacco
 1. Joe Flacco will lead the winning drive in the fourth quarter. This is more of a gut feeling because the game has the makings of being a trap one. The Ravens are coming off a blowout win in Tampa Bay, and they have a big game at the first-place Cincinnati Bengals the following week. The Falcons come to town on a three-game losing streak. That's why this game will be closer than what many think. Matt Ryan led the last-minute drive against the Ravens in the last meeting. Flacco repays the favor here with his first fourth-quarter comeback at home this season.

2. Lardarius Webb gets his first interception of the season. Jimmy Smith got his first pick last Sunday, and Webb will get his chance to do the same against the Falcons. Ryan has thrown four interceptions to the right side of the field this season, which is tied for the fifth-most in the league. That's a favorable stat for Webb, who defends that side. Also, unlike Tampa Bay's Mike Glennon last week, Ryan is smart enough not to test Smith. Most of Ryan's passes will be directed at Webb and the Ravens' No. 3 cornerback (presumably Dominique Franks). Webb hasn't had an interception since last season's finale in Cincinnati.

3. Bernard Pierce scores a couple of touchdowns. The Falcons have given up a league-worst 12 rushing touchdowns this season. How bad is that? No other team has allowed more than seven. In fact, the Falcons have given up 11 rushing touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line. When the Ravens get that close to the end zone, they typically turn to Pierce. While Pierce hasn't been a big part of the Ravens' offense recently, he still tops the team with six carries from inside the 10-yard line. He has more size than Justin Forsett, which likely plays into the Ravens' strategy here.

How did my predictions fare last week?

Prediction: Flacco will throw multiple touchdown passes. Result: Couldn't have been more right on this one. Flacco threw five touchdowns ... in the first 16 minutes, 3 seconds.

Prediction: Jimmy Smith will get the Ravens secondary's first interception of the season. Result: Right again. Smith picked off Glennon's pass on the Buccaneers' opening series.

Prediction: Torrey Smith will have his best game of the season. Result: Smith scored touchdowns on the first two series and finished with a season-high four catches.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked Monday whether he was comfortable sticking with the hot hand at running back or if he preferred one back to step up to become the featured runner.

Harbaugh
"I don't really care. It doesn't matter," Harbaugh said. "I just want yards. I want us to be averaging 4.5 to 5 yards per carry, and 5 yards a carry is what will lead the league. To do that, we have to rip off some long runs. And let's be good with three different guys. That's what we need to do."

The Ravens' running back by committee is working. The Ravens rank No. 9 in the NFL with an average of 4.7 yards per carry, and they're doing it by being the only team with three backs who have over 30 carries.

Justin Forsett, who has started the past three games, is the leading rusher with 297 yards. But Harbaugh made a point to say that he wants more carries for Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro. You get the sense that Harbaugh liked what he saw out of Pierce, whose four runs went for 13, 12, 3 and 3 yards.

"We'll roll those guys in there," Harbaugh said. "I'd like to see Bernard get a few more snaps. I'd like to see Lorenzo get a few more snaps. It would sure help if we get a few more snaps. If we get more snaps, then everybody is going to get more chances. You earn the right to run more plays. We have to earn that right by executing."

The Ravens had a season-low 15 carries in Sunday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Their plan was to start the game by throwing the ball, using screens and bootlegs to get the Colts' defense moving. The Ravens wanted to wear that defense down and then go back to the run. In the Ravens' eyes, there just weren't enough plays to do so.

"The biggest problem we had is not the number of runs or anything like that, it's not converting," Harbaugh said. "When you go 1-for-11 on third downs and turn the ball over, which is what we did in the first half, that combination means you don't get many plays."

The Ravens finished with 57 plays, which was four fewer than they've had in any game this season.

"It's kind of hard to get a lot of runs under your belt when you don't have many plays under your belt," Harbaugh said. "That's what we needed to do. We knew we needed to keep that defense on the field. The bottom line is we let them play the way they wanted to play. They kept on the field offensively and they got off the field defensively. That's the one thing we didn't want to have happen. We just weren't good enough to make it happen our way."
The Baltimore Ravens started Bernard Pierce for the first two games of the season and then turned to Justin Forsett for the past two games when Pierce wasn't at full strength.

So, who should get the start Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts?

SportsNation

Who should be the Ravens' starting running back?

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Discuss (Total votes: 3,347)

Forsett leads the Ravens with 255 yards rushing with a combination of speed and powerful running, but he never has started more than five games in his previous seven-year career.

Pierce has shown flashes of being a legitimate starting running back in the league, but he has a history of being injury prone.

The other option is going with rookie fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro, who has more size than Forsett and more productive runs than Pierce. The Ravens typically don't rely on first-year runners, but Taliaferro has 149 yards rushing and two touchdowns in his past two games.

The Ravens really can't make a wrong call on any of these backs. It's the reason why the Ravens rank No. 9 in the NFL in rushing (134.5 yards per game). So, it's a good problem for the Ravens to have.
Observed and heard in the locker room after the Baltimore Ravens' 38-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers:

Smith
Steve Smith's parting shot: Smith stressed a businesslike approach to his reunion with the Panthers. He just couldn't help himself on the final question. "I'll give you a one-liner: That film was a coaching session. They're going to be coaching how, at 35 years old, a man ran around boys like they were schoolyard kids."

No time to react: Quarterback Joe Flacco said there was no roller coaster of emotions on the 61-yard touchdown pass that deflected off Owen Daniels and landed right to Smith. "I didn't have enough time to react in a negative way that we didn't complete it because it happened so quickly and he was running for the end zone with the ball," Flacco said. "One of the craziest plays you'll see, one of the craziest touchdown passes you'll see. But I'll take it."

Harbaugh praises Forsett's physical play: Coach John Harbaugh was extremely complimentary of Justin Forsett after the running back's first start for the Ravens. "He's making yards after the hit on his own," Harbaugh said. "I remember reading Woody Hayes' book when I was a kid, and he called it a 'string of pearls' -- how many tacklers can you leave in your wake. That kind of is the measurement of a great back. And Justin is playing that way." Running back Bernard Pierce, who had started the first two games of the season, wasn't 100 percent with his thigh injury. That's why Pierce didn't receive a carry.
The Baltimore Ravens' struggling secondary received some good news Thursday when cornerback Jimmy Smith was a full participant in practice.

Smith, who is dealing with knee and ankle injuries, did not practice Wednesday. He has been the Ravens' best defensive back this season.

Running back Bernard Pierce (thigh) had a full practice for the second straight day. He missed his first NFL game last Sunday after starting the first two games for the Ravens.

Four Ravens didn't practice: lineabcker Terrell Suggs (thigh), defensive end Chris Canty (knee), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee) and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe.

The Ravens expect Monroe to miss the next few weeks, and undrafted rookie James Hurst will start at left tackle. The team also signed defensive end Lawrence Guy on Wednesday, a sign that the Ravens are concerned about Canty's status for Sunday.
CLEVELAND -- No one expected the running back position to be one of the deepest on the Baltimore Ravens after the team parted ways with Ray Rice. But you could make that argument right now.

Three games into the season, the Ravens have watched three running backs not only lead the team in rushing but gain at least 70 yards in a game. The latest surprise came in Sunday's 23-21 win over the Cleveland Browns, where rookie fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro ran for 91 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries.

[+] EnlargeLorenzo Taliaferro
Jason Miller/Getty ImagesRookie Lorenzo Taliaferro got his first action of the season and didn't disappoint, averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
The Ravens' situation at running back will become more complicated if Bernard Pierce can return next week after sitting out Sunday with a thigh injury. But this is really a good problem to have from the Ravens' standpoint.

Sure, trying to figure out the Ravens' featured back each week is a nightmare for fantasy owners. As far as the Ravens' needs, this has been the best-case scenario because all three running backs have been so productive.

The Ravens now have confidence that Pierce, Taliaferro or Justin Forsett can carry the load when called upon. They've seen it against the Bengals, Steelers and Browns.

In all likelihood, Pierce remains the Ravens' starter when he returns. But that doesn't mean he finishes the game for the Ravens.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh previously said he will go with the hotter back. And the hottest back on the field Sunday was Taliaferro. It makes you wonder why he didn't get a touch in the first two games.

"I think the results speak for themselves with Lorenzo," Harbaugh said. "He was running downhill, physical and was hard to tackle. That is an element that is a big plus for an offense."

The odds of the Ravens starting Taliaferro next week are not strong. The Ravens' history is not to put too much pressure on rookie running backs, although it's tempting to go with Taliaferro based on his decisiveness and ability to finish off runs.

A major reason why the Ravens will probably keep Pierce as the starter is he's bigger than Forsett and has more experience than Taliaferro. The downside is Pierce's injury-filled track record.

Harbaugh said he hopes Pierce's thigh injury is a short-term one.

"We thought we'd get him into the game, but it didn't work out," Harbaugh said. "We should have a good chance of getting him back next week."
The Baltimore Ravens signed undrafted rookie running back Fitzgerald Toussaint on Saturday, which could be an indication the team is unsure of Bernard Pierce's availability for Sunday's game at the Cleveland Browns.

Pierce
Pierce, who has started the first two games of the season, is questionable with a thigh injury. He was limited in Thursday's practice and had full participation on Friday. Pierce has never missed a game in his NFL career despite battling numerous injuries.

If Pierce is unable to play, the Ravens would start Justin Forsett and use rookie fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro as the primary backup. Forsett has rushed for 126 yards, which leads the Ravens, and one touchdown. Taliaferro has yet to receive a carry.

Toussaint would provide depth at running back. He flashed his explosiveness in the preseason finale with several big runs and finished with 103 yards at New Orleans.

Undrafted out of Michigan, Toussaint was on the Ravens' 53-man roster for the season opener but was among the team's inactives.

The Ravens released wide receiver Deonte Thompson to make room for Toussaint on the 53-man roster.
Baltimore Ravens starting running back Bernard Pierce is listed as questionable for Sunday's game at the Cleveland Browns despite having full participation in Friday's practice.

Pierce, who is dealing with a thigh injury, was added to the injury report on Thursday when he was limited in practice. He has now been listed on the injury report on a dozen weeks (including being listed as questionable four previous times), but he has never missed a game in his NFL career.

The Ravens started Pierce for the first two games of the regular season, and he's expected to remain the starter since the team released Ray Rice. If Pierce is sidelined, the Ravens would start Justin Forsett and go with rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro as the backup.

It's looking like cornerback Lardarius Webb (back) will play his first game of the season after being listed as probable. He was inactive for the first two games, but he was listed as questionable each time.

Quarterback Joe Flacco is listed as probable after having full participation the past two days. He missed Wednesday's practice with an illness.

RAVENS INJURY REPORT (WEEK 3)

Doubtful: DT Timmy Jernigan (knee, did not practice Friday)

Questionable: RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)

Probable: QB Joe Flacco (illness), CB Lardarius Webb (back), OT Eugene Monroe (knee), CB Asa Jackson (concussion)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Running back Bernard Pierce was added to the Baltimore Ravens' injury report after he was limited Thursday with a thigh injury.

Pierce, who has started the Ravens' first two games of the season, has never missed a game in his three-year NFL career. But there have been durability concerns about Pierce, who has been listed on the injury report 11 times. His most recent injury was a concussion heading into the season opener.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (illness) and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe (knee) both had full participation after missing Wednesday's practice. The only player who didn't practice was defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee).

RAVENS INJURY REPORT

Did not participate: DT Timmy Jernigan (knee)

Limited participation: RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)

Full participation: QB Joe Flacco (illness), CB Asa Jackson (concussion), OT Eugene Monroe (knee), CB Lardarius Webb (back).
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- For the first time since 2008, the Baltimore Ravens are starting a season without knowing who will be their featured running back.

The release of Ray Rice on Monday puts a major question mark in the Ravens' backfield. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he doesn't have to make a decision on who'll be the team's top back in Thursday night's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers or the other 14 remaining games on the schedule. The play of the running backs will provide the answer for him.

[+] EnlargeJustin Forsett
AP Photo/Nick WassJustin Forsett is likely to get the start on Thursday after gaining 70 yards on 11 carries in Week 1.
"You go with guys that are making plays at those positions," Harbaugh said, "probably more so at running back than any position, when you have a number of guys kind of in the same spot.”

As I touched upon Monday, the Ravens will likely go with a running back by committee approach because there is no established starter. The three tailbacks on the roster -- Justin Forsett, Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro -- have a combined nine NFL starts. That's a stark contrast to Rice's 80 career starts.

Forsett is the favorite to start Thursday night after he gained 70 yards on 11 carries in the season opener and played most of the snaps in the second half. Harbaugh explained that Forsett got the chance because Pierce fumbled in the second quarter, but Forsett's production kept Pierce on the sideline.

"It’s just [that] Justin was rolling," Harbaugh said. "He was making good decisions; he was picking up pass protection. We had confidence in him at that time more so than the other running backs."

Pierce remains in the Ravens' plan at running back despite being benched for the entire second half Sunday, Harbaugh said. Of all of the Ravens' backs, Pierce figures to be the back who ends up with the most carries by the end of the season.

He has more size than Forsett and more experience than Taliaferro, a rookie fourth-round pick. It should be noted that Pierce's fumble was the first of his career; he previously had a stretch of 265 carries without one.

"You don’t lose faith in a player because of a bad play," Harbaugh said. "Bernard is still on his way to becoming, I would say, a very good player, and I’ve been saying that all along. I have the utmost confidence in him. He’s going to fight and battle. He’s not going to be perfect -- none of us are -- but Bernard Pierce is a big part of what we’re doing, just as are Justin [and] Lorenzo [Taliaferro] as well.”

The Steelers have just as many question marks regarding their run defense. Pittsburgh allowed 183 yards rushing to the Browns on Sunday, and Cleveland's top two backs (Terrance West and Ben Tate) combined for 141 yards on 22 carries (6.4-yard average).

"If you saw our run defense last week, you know that we have respect for anybody’s ability to run the football," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We have a lot of work to do in that regard.”
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh declined to name a starting running back after the team released Ray Rice on Monday.

Forsett
 Asked who would start Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Harbaugh said, "Bernard Pierce, Justin Forsett -- they’ll both play a lot. Lorenzo Taliaferro will be a big part of it, too."

If you didn't pick up on it, Harbaugh named every tailback on the roster. As I wrote earlier, Forsett earned the right to start against the Steelers after gaining 70 yards on 11 carries in the season opener.

But, since no one in the backfield is an established starter, Harbaugh will likely go with the hot hand each game. The approach is probably a running-back-by-committee, so Harbaugh would be right in naming everyone a starter.

Forsett, though, deserves the first shot after showing more burst and elusiveness than the Ravens' other backs. The question mark with Forsett is how long he can hold up considering he's a small back at 5-foot-8 and 197 pounds.

He's only made seven starts in his seven-year career. The last came four years ago.

"I’m ready to seize the moment," said Forsett, who is comfortable with Gary Kubiak's offense after playing in Houston in 2012. "My job is to go out and perform when my number is called. I’m excited about [the] opportunity. Hopefully [there will] be some great things to come on Thursday night.”

Pierce
 Pierce deserves another chance as well. He was benched in the second quarter Sunday after fumbling, but it was his first career fumble.

The Ravens don't have enough depth at running back to keep Pierce standing on the sideline. A third-round pick in 2012, Pierce showed flashes in his rookie season (averaged 4.9 yards per carry) before struggling last season (2.9-yard average).

On the depth chart in the team's weekly press release (which is unofficial), Pierce is listed as the starting running back.

Pierce said he doesn't know whether he'll play against the Steelers because he doesn't control that. But he does think he can turn his season around if he gets on the field.

"I’ve just got to make sure first things first, protect the ball," he said.

The Ravens' ground game is among the biggest keys of the game after the Steelers couldn't slow down the Cleveland Browns' running backs. The Steelers allowed 183 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 30 attempts (a 6.1-yard average).

Rapid Reaction: Baltimore Ravens

September, 7, 2014
9/07/14
4:18
PM ET
BALTIMORE -- A few thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 23-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium.

What it means: The Ravens lost their first season opener at home since 2005 in heartbreaking fashion, falling short of knocking off last year's AFC North champion. The Ravens were close to another comeback but Joe Flacco was sacked twice to end the game. Baltimore had driven down to the Bengals' 16-yard line before Flacco couldn't get a pass off on his final two dropbacks. Flacco finished 35 of 62 for 345 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Emotional swing: After the Ravens went ahead 16-15 on an 80-yard touchdown catch by Steve Smith, the Bengals answered with a 77-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green late in the fourth quarter. The Ravens' secondary let the team down. Green ran past cornerback Chykie Brown, who replaced the injured Lardarius Webb, and then faked out safety Darian Stewart to walk into the end zone for the game-winner.

Stock watch: Down -- running back Bernard Pierce. He was benched after fumbling at his own 20-yard line in the second quarter. The Bengals converted that turnover into their fifth field goal of the game. Pierce, who was starting in place of the suspended Ray Rice, finished with 14 yards rushing on six carries.

Poor time management: At the end of the first half, Joe Flacco drove the Ravens down to the Bengals' 15-yard line before making a crushing blunder. Taking the snap with 8 seconds left in the first half, Flacco rolled out of the pocket instead of throwing the ball away. By the time he threw it out of bounds, time had run out and the Ravens didn't get a chance at a field goal.

Game ball: Running back Justin Forsett. The seven-year journeyman took advantage of Pierce getting benched and ran for 70 yards on 11 carries. His first touchdown since November 2012 moved the Ravens to within 15-7 in the third quarter. Forsett likely earned the start for Thursday night's game.

What's next: The Ravens have a quick turnaround, playing the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday in Baltimore. The Ravens have lost two of their past three meetings to Pittsburgh.
BALTIMORE -- Just like last year, the Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco are off to a slow start.

The Ravens went into halftime trailing 15-0 because of too many mistakes on offense. There were three dropped passes by wide receivers, a fumble deep in Ravens territory by running back Bernard Pierce and an awful time-management blunder by Flacco.

In the first half, the Ravens were out-gained 192-97, and Flacco has completed 10 of 23 passes for 78 yards.

Pierce, who is starting in place of the suspended Ray Rice, managed 14 yards on six carries. But late in the second quarter, he got the ball stripped away at the Ravens' 23-yard line, which led to the Bengals' fifth field goal.

The Ravens then put together their most productive series of the first half. Flacco drove the Ravens' down to the Bengals' 15-yard line before making a crushing mistake. Taking the snap with 8 seconds left in the first half, Flacco rolled out of the pocket instead of throwing the ball away. By the time he threw it out of bounds, time had run out and the Ravens didn't get a chance at a field goal.

This isn't exactly how the Ravens envisioned starting the Gary Kubiak era on offense.

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