The Ravens are headed for the AFC North basement! They’re going to miss the playoffs again!
This has been the general response from Ravens fans (and other NFL fans) since the Ravens fell to the Cincinnati Bengals last night, 34-23. I advise caution in overreaction, although it will make for a great article later, should I have the time and motivation to write it.
However, this is The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Megan Fox. So let’s begin.
There’s more ‘good’ to write about than most people would think, given the first half performance from the Ravens, and the final score. However, in the second half, the defense started to gel, thanks to Eric Weddle taking over the defensive calling, and a more determined effort from the offense, which had been stagnant up to that point.
The loss of CJ Mosley early on had clearly staggered the defense, and ‘Peanut’ Onwuasor taking up CJ’s mantle of general, didn’t help matters any. But one bright star kept shining, as the fourth round draft pick out of UCLA, Kenny Young, could be seen flying around the field, showing off his vaunted sideline-to-sideline speed that enticed the Ravens back in April. For the second week in a row, Young made 4 tackles, this time with 3 assists, but no sacks. His stat line isn’t the impressive part. Young found ways to cling to his assignment in coverage plays, and fought through blockers to get to his target. The Ravens seem to have found their answer at WLB once Mosley makes his return.
A pair of receivers made their presence felt as well, albeit in different ways. John Brown, the speedy FA that came from Arizona, caught 4 passes for 92 yards (23 YPC) and a score, including a bad pass into triple coverage that he somehow came down with. This is the second week in a row that Brown has had a huge impact on the offensive production, and he looks to be a more complete receiver than the ‘deep threat’ label that has been placed on him since he entered the league. Willie Snead also made an impact – though only posting 5 catches for 54 yards (10.8 YPC) and no scores, the tape shows his innate ability to find the soft spot in coverage and sit in it. He’s the underrated signing on the team, that will be well-known and loved by season’s end.
Honorable mention: I really like the grit and tenacity that I saw from the team in the face of adversity. They fought and clawed their way to a five point deficit in what had started as a three score game. You won’t win many football games when you’re down that far, that quickly, but to see them coalesce and give it a shot gives me hope for the inevitable nail-biters that will come later in the season.
Whoo, boy. This game was a tale of two halves, for sure, and for this section, we’re going to focus on the first half. The Ravens know, almost better than anybody, that a slow start normally spells doom. Unfortunately, they came out plodding.
Joe Flacco: From the first incomplete pass, I was instantly reminded of 2016-2017 Joe Flacco. His mechanics had vanished from Week 1, his fundamentals were shoddy, and he was throwing off of his back foot, which led to an early interception. Flacco had issues with the deep pass, and couldn’t quite perfect the touch that he showed through preseason and against the Bills. Ultimately, it lead to too many three-and-out drives, or getting stopped short of field goal range for the mighty Justin Tucker.
Marty Mornhinweg: Alright, look. I’ve defended Marty before. He had subpar talent and an injured Joe Flacco under his command in 2017, and you could see it, especially in the first half of the season. Once Joe got healthy, Marty worked with what he had, and the Ravens were somehow the second-highest scoring team through the second half of the season. Therefore, I thought ‘Hey, give him a chance, let’s see what he can do with a healthy Joe, and some weapons.’
If Week 2 is any indication? I should’ve shut my mouth.
I understand that when you’re down 21-0, it’s hard to justify running the ball, because you need to catch up. But when you’re within 5 points, and your running back is (arguably) the 3rd best offensive option that you have on the field, you have to use him. Alex Collins had nine rushes the entire game, and 35 yards – a not-terrible 3.9 YPC. He added another 55 yards through the air on 3 catches, good for an 18.3 YPC. But for some reason, they refused to use him more. It played a part in the demise of the Ravens, and you can’t tell me that it didn’t. (I mean, you can, but you’d be wrong.)
Lamar Jackson Gimmick: Has anybody else had enough of this? I get the concept of confusing defenses with both QBs on the field here and there, but when the rookie comes in on every drive, and your starter is swung out wide, but doesn’t move, you’re not fooling anybody. Enough. The Ravens tried to get cute on both offense and defense, and it failed more often than not.
The entire defense in the first half: Let’s put our 5’8” slot corner on one of the best wideouts in the game! Bad idea. Let’s not put Humphrey on said wideout until the second half! Bad idea. Let’s have Onwuasor take over CJ’s helmet mic! Bad idea. Let’s not cover Boyd at all, regardless of the fact that he ended our season last year! Bad idea. Let’s get a roughing the passer penalty! Alright, this one wasn’t on the defense, but I wanted to complain about Andy Dalton’s miserably acted flop that cost the defense a stop on 3rd down. Back to facts! Let’s not attack the right side of the line with speed! Bad idea. Let’s forget that we’re supposed to be a good run-stop defense! Bad idea. Let’s… ah, whatever. You get it.
The injuries started quick, and hit hard. First, CJ Mosley limped off the field, and was carted to the locker room with what they are calling a bone bruise. He could be out up to six weeks. Then, Chuck Clark had to be helped off of the field, and we have yet to receive an update on him. Ronnie Stanley left the game, shaken up late. Clearly he had been playing through the pain, as he was less-than-stellar. The offense and defense tried to make up for the losses, but to no avail.
With Hayden Hurst out for the first few games, and Jimmy Smith suspended for the first four, this team (that made it through the preseason relatively unscathed) is now taking hits that it can ill afford. Impact players missing any amount of time will spell the demise of the 2018 Ravens – especially if the remaining players execute like we saw on Thursday Night.
The Megan Fox
It’s hard to pick a recipient of the Megan Fox award in a loss like the Ravens suffered last night, but in this particular case, I think it’s clear – John ‘Smokey’ Brown was far and away the brightest spot on the team. I listed his stats above, but they don’t tell the whole story. Brown was there to make a few crucial catches as the Ravens attempted to fight back against a big deficit, including the one pictured above. He was triple covered, and there’s no way he should’ve made this catch, but somehow came down with the ball. He has developed (quickly) into a go-to guy for Joe Flacco, and has made his presence felt in both of the games that have been played.
He’s a little guy, with a very big impact. He’s on a one-year deal, so he’s playing himself into a contract, and if the first two games are any indication, he’ll deserve one. So, on a night of misery, here’s to you, Smoke.
We’re on to Denver.