Ravens running back Justin Forsett heard the whispers of doubt, naysayers convinced he was running out of steam at the end of his breakthrough season.
And the perception bothered him.
Forsett had a minor knee injury and then he turned his ankle against the Houston Texans.
Following three consecutive 100-yard games against the Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers, including a career-high 182-yard game against the Saints, Forsett rushed for 71 yards, 48 yards and a season-low 19 yards in games against the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans.
"I guess people have been saying, 'You're wearing down and not having success," Forsett said. "I guess it comes with a preconceived notion about what a shorter back can do. I guess I still have some critics. The only thing I can do is talk with my pads."
During the Ravens' 20-10 win over the Cleveland Browns and their last-ranked run defense in a regular-season finale that earned the team a playoff berth, Forsett issued a rebuttal of sorts by rushing for 119 yards on 17 carries as he averaged seven yards per carry. That included a 32-yard run.
"Yeah, not bad for someome wearing down," Forsett said with a laugh. "It's a team thing, man. When the run game is working, it's not just me. It's the line, it's everybody doing their job."
Now, the Ravens will need similar efforts from Forsett in the playoffs starting Saturday night in an AFC wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Forsett rushed for 56 yards and 38 yards in two games against the Steelers during the regular season on 17 total carries.
Forsett finished the season with a career-high 1,266 rushing yards for the sixth-highest total in franchise history. He set a single-season record with a 5.4 average per run. He also set a single-season record with 17 runs of 20 yards or more, breaking Jamal Lewis' 2003 record of 16 such runs.
"We got to, man," Forsett said of the Ravens' need to run the football effectively. "We want to be able to control the clock, be physical. We know the team feeds off of us when we run physically."
Against the Browns, the Ravens fell behind 10-3 before a strong fourth quarter where they outscored them 17-0. Forsett rushed for 65 yards on eight carries in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens' offense was booed throughout the game until it woke up from its slumber.
"We were frustrated, too," Forsett said. "You got to keep chopping. It's not how you start, it's how you finish. Hopefully, that's momentum going into the playoffs what we did in the fourth quarter."