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Good Signs to be Found in Loss

John Brown runs with the football.
Baltimore Ravens/Shawn Hubbard
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Justin Tucker missed?! If ever there was a time that I shared an expression with an NFL player, it was yesterday, as JT and I watched that gust of wind take the ball outside of the uprights, denying the Ravens overtime, and dropping the Ravens to 4-3 in a heartbreaker. Alas, the show must go on, and so must The Good, Bad, and Ugly.

The Good

Normally, this would be where I rattle off players that did well, but outside of John Brown‘s big game, I want to instead list off why the Ravens fan base should have hope. I’ve seen a lot of bad takes, emotional reactions, and ‘the season is over’ type things.

If there’s ever been an ‘encouraging loss’ in Ravens history, this was it. In a year where the Ravens were predicted to go 6-10, and lose the majority of the first half of their games, 4-3 isn’t the worst place to be. The defense held a Hall of Fame QB, and a prolific offense, to 24 points. They stuffed the run game, holding Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram to a combined 96 yards on the ground, with neither breaking 4.0YPC.

The offense was able to move the ball, though multiple receivers had drops. And the (defensive) coaching was spectacular. Plus, the Ravens still have the best kicker in the NFL.

At the end, a freak gust of wind negated a game-tying extra point, and the Ravens lost by one point, 24-23.

It stung.

However, it showed that this team can run with any team in the league, even on an off day. Ravens fans should take heart in this. It’s not as if the Ravens played an excellent team and got manhandled. The Ravens have shown that they can hang with a good team – they just had to close it out (which admittedly is familiar). But to say that the season is over, that Lamar Jackson should start (this loss wasn’t Joe Flacco‘s fault), that Kenneth Dixon will save this team, or any of the other things that I’ve seen since last night, is ridiculous.

This fan base is fickle, at best. And I understand being upset – it’s a winnable game that was dropped at home – but to give up when the team is actually showing promise seems like a reaction borne of emotion, not logic.

Also, Tavon Young. I’ve been a bit harsh on Tavon, especially early on in the season, but I’m not sure that he allowed a single completion yesterday. If he’s rounding back into form, then the Ravens are back to having a very solid sCB for their coverage packages – something not many teams in the league can say.

Now, on to some things that were discouraging.

The Ravens swarm Alvin Kamara of the Saints.
AP Photo/Nick Wass

The Bad

C.J. Mosley. Mosley had 16 tackles, how can you say he was bad?! I’ve gotten that a few times today, and I’m sure I’ll get it some more after this article drops.

Let’s start this off by saying that Mosley was responsible for allowing 26% of Drew Brees’ passing yards. Of his 16 tackles, nine were tackles after chunk plays. Only four of the tackles kept the play under five yards.

Look, Mosley was excellent in the run game. He was instrumental in keeping Kamara and Ingram under 4.0 YPC. But his coverage ability is below average, whether the Mosley truthers want to admit it or not. He let 75-year-old Benjamin Watson get behind him on more than one play. He looked lost early on, and that trend continued for much of the game in passing situations.

Tackles are the worst metric you can judge a defensive player on – especially when that player allows six completions for 53 yards. Don’t let the box stats fool you – Mosley isn’t playing like a Top 5 MLB in this league.

Willie Snead IV runs with the ball.
Baltimore Ravens/Shawn Hubbard

Willie Snead. It depresses me, putting IV in this category, in this week, which was supposed to be a vicious revenge game for him. He was targeted seven times, but his normal sure-handedness was nowhere to be found, as he caught just three of those targets for 23 yards. He had a couple of drops on the day, including a couple of would-be conversions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not down on Snead by any means. He’s still the most underrated wideout on this team, and provides a very solid slot option for Flacco. He had a bad game, and contributed to the loss, and that bears pointing out.

Hayden Hurst. The Ravens’ first-first round draft pick was targeted just twice on Sunday, and brought in.. neither pass. The worse of the two was a pass right over the middle of the field that bounced off of his hands and fell to the turf.

I realize that he is coming off of a stress fracture in his foot, and that rookie TEs don’t generally transition well to the NFL, but I expected more from him, especially since fellow rookie TE Mark Andrews has been producing at a good clip.

Now, for the really discouraging.

Ravens CB Jimmy Smith puts his hands out at Ravens training camp.

The Ugly

Jimmy Smith. Three tackles. A whiffed sack. Multiple catches allowed. 10-yard cushions. Throw in a couple pass interference calls for good measure.

Smith had a truly bad game, regardless of how you look at it. To make matters worse, Drew Brees read the bad game – any time Jimmy left coverage, Brees would take advantage. When Jimmy rushed, Brees attacked the field where he left, knowing that it was soft zone at that point.

I’m a big Jimmy guy. But he’s starting to wear on even me. When you’re unavailable each season, and you start this one off on suspension, it gets old. He came back and had two very solid games before this week, and then completely stunk it up, when the team needed him most, with Marlon Humphrey unable to dress.

Again, do I think this is now the norm? No. Do I think he’ll go back to being a model of consistency when he’s on the field? Probably. But for this game, he played a large part in why Brees was able to pull off some of the things that he did.

The run game. The Ravens had eight different players carry the rock on Sunday evening..for a combined total of just 77 yards. Snead and Chris Moore had the only two decent YPC averages, at 13 and 9, respectively. Was this due to the revamped offensive line, with both James Hurst and Alex Lewis out? No. The run game has been putrid all season – which is in fact because of the offensive line.

It’s rare to see an offensive line with negative run-block grading across the board in the majority of the games played, but here in Baltimore, we like doing the uncommon things. Changing running backs isn’t going to fix it (for you Kenneth Dixon truthers). This line just isn’t built for a zone block scheme, and that seems to be what the focus is this season.

The Megan Fox Award

John Brown. The Smoke is rising! He was literally perfect on the day, catching 7-of-7 targets for 134 yards and a score – with an average of over 19 yards per catch. After being quiet for the last two weeks, he took full advantage of the Saints’ inability to cover the long ball, and made the New Orleans corners look foolish. Will he be this consistent for the rest of the season? One can hope.

Consider me now part of the ‘sign John Brown to an extension as soon as possible’ crowd. Assuming he remains healthy, Smoke is the best (all-around) receiver that the Ravens have had since… hell, Derrick Mason, maybe? That’s probably an overreaction, but I think I’m allowed a response borne of emotion, here and there.

Chins up, Ravens Flock. It’s a long season, with plenty of opportunities to right the ship. If the Ravens can grab wins in Charlotte, and back home against the Steelers (for the sweep!), then they head into the bye at 6-3, and in a very good spot.

Be sure to follow all the Russell Street Report writers, and listen to the Neutral Zone Infraction podcast as Adam Bona.. you get it…and I struggle to find our groove in our young age.

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