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Ravens Cruise in the Rain, 28-10

RG3 signals first down against the Steelers.
Phil Hoffmann/Baltimore Ravens
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Wow, what a season to remember. To summarize:

That’s not even factoring in that John Harbaugh is on the very short list for Coach of the Year.

It’s been a truly remarkable season to be a Ravens fan and it culminated in ensuring the arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers wouldn’t have a shot at the postseason with a 28-10 domination…with the Ravens backups playing.

Let’s break it down.

Offense

Overall: B

The most impressive part about the performance by the offense was the strength of the Steelers D and the fact that the Steelers knew the Ravens were running the ball, but just couldn’t stop it. It was an impressive ground and pound performance when you consider the Ravens were missing their two best offensive linemen and the Lamar JacksonMark Ingram duo, which I hear is pretty good. 

Quarterback: C+

As much as I tempered my expectations, I was left really unimpressed with RGIII. Look, I get it, he’s the backup and he got the win against a very good defense, but some of those misses were just plain bad. Even his first completion of the game to Hayden Hurst had to be hauled in with one hand because it was thrown too far in front. His legs still looked solid enough, but his arm was concerning.

Griffin showed that he can still sling it a bit on the rare occasions where he stepped up and set his feet, but far too often he was backpedaling and dancing around aimlessly. Call it nitpicky, and maybe I’ve been spoiled by Lamar Jackson’s play, but I expected a little bit more out of the backup. 

Running Back: A

With Ingram sidelined with a calf injury, and some concern over his availability for the Divisional Round matchup, this game really helped put any concerns at ease. Of course, Ingram is the #1 and we want him out here, but the combination of Gus Edwards and Justice Hill was very solid. Edwards showed his ‘Gus Bus;’ mentality and played a darn good game, outside of the fumble.

Hill showed off a little wiggle on his touchdown run and has greatly improved as the season has moved on. If Edwards doesn’t fumble, we’re looking at an A+ given the struggles to move the ball through the air and the 223 ground yards on a 5.1 average.

 

Wide Receiver: C+

Tough game to assess given the game plan. I thought that for the most part they were getting separation, but got missed on quite a few plays. When RGIII lobbed up a fade to the back of the end zone for Jaleel Scott, I got very excited that this could be his opportunity to show a little something…boy was a I disappointed. That has to be a bread and butter play for Scott, but he failed to ride the hip of his defender and get up on the ball, instead fading away and allowing the defender to get between him and the pass. Plenty to work on this offseason for the youngster.

I also thought this could be a great opportunity to get Marquise Brown going, but that didn’t quite come to fruition. 

Tight End: B

When Hayden Hurst gets a clean throw he makes good things happen. He hauled in a nice one-handed catch for 15 yards that was thrown in front of him and grabbed another in the deep middle for 20 yards. Nick Boyle showed off some great blocking that helped the running attack outmatch a very good front 7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers, which gave the grade a bump.

Offensive Line: A-

I am really looking forward to re-watching the Ravens offensive line in this game. The Steelers have one of the best defensive lines in football with true playmakers in T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward. Heyward got home for a sack, Watt shared a sack with Mike Hitlon and Bud Dupree got one too.

That said, the run blocking was extremely solid with some good push. When you factor in how often the Ravens ran in the middle of the game, it was even more impressive with their game plan tipped to the Steelers. Ben Powers looked very solid when he got in at RG, which is an encouraging sign for those projecting future OL talent for the Ravens.

Defense

Overall: A-

Any time you hold a team to 10 points, 168 yards and 10 first downs you know it’s a pretty impressive performance. There were some bumps, particularly in the first half run defense and the pass rush, but at the end of the day the defense barely let the Steelers move the ball.

Defensive Line: B-

Another game, another mediocre pass rush. The Ravens have blitzed on 50% of their plays over the duration of the season. In the first half yesterday, they blitzed 62% of their snaps. Despite that, they were still only able to finish the game with three sacks and six QB hits, most of which came from Matthew Judon. There were several snaps where Devlin Hodges had all day, but the incompletions came from strong coverage.

The run defense had a very weak 1st half and the lack of Brandon Williams was noticeable. Benny Snell busted around the left edge for big gains several times after looking to be bottled up in the middle. However, they rebounded in the second half and held the Steelers under 100 yards on the ground for the day.

Linebacker: B

The linebacker group was able to put together a solid day. Patrick Onwuasor has looked uneven most of the year as he’s working in a rotation, but I thought he played well. L.J. Fort overpursed a couple of running lanes in the first half, but rebounded well in the second. Judon was one of the best defensive players and continues to earn the big payday that is coming his way. 

Defensive Backs: A-

The stars of the show were the defensive back group, which was one of the only units that got a lot of playing time from its starters. The Steelers threw a dismal 9/25 and with Hodges having all day in the pocket to throw, it was an impressive coverage game from the DBs. The usual starters were, of course, solid as they played a fair amount, but some of the shining stars were the rotational guys. Anthony Levine made several plays that won’t show up on the stat sheets, Brandon Carr was the best DB on the field in the second half, and…

With Averett, I think the potential is there if he can work on his ball skills this offseason. My good friend Chibs (@LateRoundCorner) tells me that for DBs developing ball skills they practice with baseballs or tennis balls. I’m an OL coach, so this was news to me, but we’ll be sure to send Anthony some baseballs as a late Christmas present.

Special Teams: A

Justin Tucker is so good he makes 47-yard field goals while falling down. He was perfect once again. Sam Koch was very good, and looks well rested thanks to an insanely good offense all year. Anthony Levine barely got the yard he needed on the 4th-and-1 fake punt. Outside of that, it was a quiet day from the special teams units, which is exactly what you want.

Game Ball

I think Sunday’s game ball goes to Gus Edwards. Yes, the fumble stinks, but 131 yards on 21 carries in a game where the defense knew exactly what was coming is very impressive. Very fitting giving the Ravens are the best rushing team in the history of the NFL.

Honorable mention goes to Brandon Carr who needed a confidence-building game before the playoffs.

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