It took a few hours to catch my breath after this one.
On one hand, a win is a win, and let’s be real, winning in the AFC North, especially against the Steelers, especially on the road, is not always easy.
Even in 2015 when the Ravens finished 5-11, they still managed to sweep the Steelers who finished 10-6 and won a playoff game.
On the other, winning ugly leaves a lot to be desired and that’s exactly what today was.
Let’s break it down.
I’m in the minority when it comes to my opinion on the offense for the simple reason that I had some very tempered expectations.
The reality is that this is a very young group at the offensive skill positions. Baltimore has a total of six players playing critical roles at skill positions that are either rookies or sophomores (Edwards, Hill, Hurst, Andrews, Brown, Boykin).
Then factor in that the QB is in his second year, but still doesn’t have a full season worth of starts.
Right now it’s all about getting better every week, jelling as a unit and building an identity. There’s still work to do, but there’s some flashes of the potential and it’s exciting.
Jackson on Jackson: C-
Well those interceptions bring you back to the Joe Flacco days, don’t they?
The intention isn’t to try and dip into the excuse bin, and to be fair, I made the same assessment when Flacco had interceptions deflecting off Breshad Perriman’s hands and into the defenders, so it seems fair to apply the same context here.
Interception 1 – Mark Andrews was clearly interfered with, and John Harbaugh asked the officials to take a look if and when they reviewed it (turnover reviews have to come from upstairs). Nonetheless, the ball went off Andrews, into the air and into the hands of Kelly.
Interception 2 – Absolutely horrible throw, inexcusable.
Interception 3 – Nick Boyle has the ball in his mitts, Bush snatches it and falls to the ground. From my understanding, you can’t use the ground to help you make the catch (i.e. your arm needs to be in between the ball and the ground). From my interpretation it should have been an incomplete pass as he did not make a catch.
So with that said, we have 2 INT that were highly questionable and covered with penalties that were not called.
Those pieces of context bump the grade a bit, but overall it was not a great day for Lamar Jackson.
Lamar looked uncomfortable in the pocket and was having a hard time going through his progressions with the pressure. From first glance, it appeared Lamar was looking to scramble too early, but poor pass blocking seems to have hurt his confidence in his linemen.
Lamar needs to focus on getting the ball out while he gets to the end of his drop. The combination of not trusting his line, guys not getting open, and having the ability that he has with his legs causes him to look to scramble immediately.
This is a critical piece to the struggles and is something that needs to be addressed moving forward.
Running back: B-
I don’t know about anyone else, but I was shocked when I went back and saw that Mark Ingram had 19 carries today.
Most of them were pretty forgettable, as he was held to a 2.3 average per carry.
Edwards and Hill had a hard time on the ground, combining for 24 yards on seven carries.
The run game could have been a real catalyst today, but the Steelers defensive line dominated the Ravens offensive line and it was tough sledding all day.
Wide Receiver: C
Let’s all say a collective prayer that Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown’s injury is not serious.
Some of this was from Lamar struggling to go through his progressions, but a lot of this was that some of these guys just flat out aren’t getting open.
Going back to the youth factor that I mentioned at the start, it’s really hard to expect Brown, as a rookie, to become the #1 this soon. Snead has always been a very good complementary piece, but is better served as a #3 option.
It’s a shame Miles Boykin hasn’t been able to step up more, but even he’s young and being thrust into a lot of snaps early in his career.
You have to think Eric DeCosta is inquiring about Stefon Diggs…
Offensive Line: D
A second watch is always required, but at first glance I thought this was a very bad performance from the offensive line.
Orlando Brown Jr. looked like a turnstile in pass protection and routinely was getting beat by T.J. Watt. I don’t know what he did to Watt, but he better apologize before they meet in Week 16 because I can’t handle that again.
Bradley Bozeman continues to show that he’s a center. That’s not even really a slight on him. He makes mistakes, but they’re usually involving him moving laterally and he just does not have that skillset because he’s a natural center, not guard.
Overall, too much pressure, but it’s part of a larger issue and that was not getting the ball out.
Tight Ends: C+
If Nick Boyle and Mark Andrews hold onto those balls this grade is higher, but they did stand out as having a solid day and given, that Andrews was interfered with and Bush’s shouldn’t have been an INT, I’ll focus on the positive.
They did have a solid day and served as a safety blanket for Lamar.
Hayden Hurst brought in all four of his targets and Andrews had five catches for 45 yards.
Overall, not their best, but they’re far from being the issue with this offense.
Before we get into this, it should be noted that I had to google who Devlin Hodges was.
It was a better day for the defense, which shows a little bit of improvement, but I guess when the bar is literally on the ground it’s not hard to go above it.
Defensive Line: C
This is one of those games where I talk about the impact of Brandon Williams. Yes, he doesn’t make plays on the ball as much as you’d like. Yes, he’s slightly overpaid.
But he is valuable and in a game like this it shows. If he’s not double teamed then he’s at least disrupting the play, which isn’t as common from DL as people may think. Today it showed. For example, on the James Conner TD, he drew an immediate double team, but the linebacker who is supposed to fill the gap left by the double team was nowhere to be found, and that’s the aspect this defense is missing.
The grade is low because there is literally no pass rush. The OLB’s can’t get home without a blitz. Matthew Judon is good for a few good rushes a game, but other than that it’s nothing.
It doesn’t matter if it’s Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, or Devlin Hodges – when you have 10 seconds to throw the ball, someone is shaking open.
With a better LB beside him in Josh Bynes, it looked like Patrick Onuwasor had a much better day.
They still have work to do, but the improvement was there.
Bynes finished with 5 tackles, 1 PD and 1 INT in his debut. Peanut chipped in 6 tackles. L.J. Fort was noticeable on special teams, but it appears it’s going to be Bynes that gets the first shot at solidifying the LBs for 2019.
Defensive Backs: B-
Marlon Humphrey put me through a little bit of an emotional rollercoaster today. I wanted to yell at him for trying to strip the ball on Juju Smith-Schuster’s 35-yard touchdown (you HAVE to tackle him there). Then he turns around and basically wins the game in overtime with the exact same strip play on the exact same player.
Outside of that play, there was no glaring communication error, and while I would have liked to have seen a worse completion percentage (66.6%), a lot of that is from these QBs having time with no pass rush.
Maurice Canady stood out in a positive way. He was targeted several times, but had good coverage, and almost picked at least one of those targets.
It’s going to be interesting how the Ravens handle the injury to Tony Jefferson, as he will miss the rest of the season.
The first candidate appears to be Chuck Clark, but I think DeShon Elliott should get the first crack at it. Clark has been great as a dime player, but Elliott would be better off playing the split safety role that Jefferson was asked to play. Let Clark continue to play where he thrives.
Hopefully Wink reads this…
Special Teams: A+
Here was my reaction when Greg Zuerlein missed the game winner on Thursday Night Football this week:
We love you J-Tuck#RavensFlock
— Cole Jackson (@ColeJacksonFB) October 4, 2019
And here’s my reaction when Justin Tucker nails the game winner today:
Maher blew it.
Greg the Leg blew it.
— Cole Jackson (@ColeJacksonFB) October 6, 2019
He may not get into the GOAT conversation without more rings and some big playoff kicks, but his FG% is 3 points higher than the second highest and he routinely makes you feel darn good when we have a big kick to make.
Officiating: Is there a grade lower than F? Z? Omega?
The officiating today was absolutely putrid and that included the reviews by the team in New York. I cannot fathom how you could review that Dionte Johnson 3rd down conversion and the Devin Bush INT and not conclude that both were not catches, but here we are.
Gene Serotone has now disagreed with TWO plays that were reviewed that went against the Ravens. The Bush INT and that 3rd down conversion.
This is an absolute joke and @NFLOfficiating should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.
These aren't even close.
— Cole Jackson (@ColeJacksonFB) October 6, 2019
It is embarrassing for the league.
To take the homerism out of it, I thought calls were missed on Pittsburgh’s end too. The roughing the passer on the Ravens’ game-tying drive comes to mind immediately. The reality is that today’s product was limited by the ability of the officiating crew.
This is an every-week problem and the NFL needs full time referees for all of their games.
Between changing the rule on what is a catch, and not satisfying this simple step (let’s be real: the NFL can afford it, but the NFL will continue to make its product hard to watch.
Justin Tucker, you complete me.