Ravens Have Identity Crisis Against K.C. Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens

Hot Take Tuesday Ravens Have Identity Crisis Against K.C.

Posted in Hot Take Tuesday
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Remember when 3 Doors Down performed a kickoff concert in Baltimore more than four years ago? Their smash hit was the song “Kryptonite” — it seems ironic in some ways considering that Lamar Jackson used the “K” word to describe the Kansas City Chiefs last night. That’s the first time anyone from the Ravens has publicly admitted that the Chiefs are an actual problem right now. When you go 0-3 against one team in your career, and you’ve only lost three other games outside of them (with two of those losses in the playoffs), that sentiment resonates more deeply. 

At this point, the Chiefs certainly have the Ravens’ number. The coaches clearly do. Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy coached circles around Don “Wink” Martindale. It was a clinic on how to daze and confuse a defense in the pre-snap and post-snap phases. 

Reid is already known for being the best offensive designer in the game, if not one of the greats of all-time. The shovel pass touchdown to Chiefs’ fullback Anthony Sherman wasn’t even fair. If you’re a defense, how do you defend that? Double motion before the play is run with Tyreek Hill in the backfield (as the decoy). You can’t even blame the defense for being fooled on that play.

But while Reid and Bieniemy were pulling out all the stops, offensive coordinator Greg Roman had a night to forget on the other side. The offense looked pedestrian and almost archaic with their passing scheme. There was no intermediate passing game to speak of. No intersecting routes. What happened to the crossing routes and the rub routes we saw in the first two games? The backs weren’t involved much as weapons out of the backfield — and they weren’t involved as runners either. 

In the last two games against the Chiefs, Baltimore has averaged 6.0 and 7.5 yards per carry, respectively. Yet, they’ve only attempted a total of 53 rushes in those games combined, with Jackson logging 17 of those. Last night, Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards gained 69 yards of 11 rush attempts. That’s criminal under-utilization. 

Blame the score if you want. But the Ravens were in the game throughout the first half going into the second. 

[Related: Report Card for Ravens-Chiefs]

One of the most damning sequences of the game came after Devin Duvernay’s kick return TD. The Baltimore defense forced their lone three-and-out of the night, and there seemed to be a momentum shift in the air.

The offense promptly threw the ball on three straight attempts. Yes, Mark Andrews had the monster drop on 2nd down in that sequence, but why not get back to a ground-and-pound attack on that drive to put pressure on Kansas City’s soft run defense to step up? 

When the Ravens play the Chiefs, they have an identity crisis. That’s really the tale of the tape. The Chiefs know exactly who they are and how they want to play football. They spread the field, they attack, and they know how to pick apart the Ravens’ blitzes. 

On the other hand, the Ravens really can’t stay true to who they are. The offense came out red-hot on their opening drive, fueled entirely by their ground attack. They ended up throwing the ball when they got inside the red zone and had to settle for a field goal. That opening drive set the tone for what was to come. 

If the team had lost last night with their best game plan, that would be acceptable. Look, the Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl champions with the best quarterback in the game, the best set of weapons on offense, and the best play-caller on the planet.

But losing when you aren’t even leading with your best effort (especially when the opposition does), is like Superman handing Lex Luthor the kryptonite to finish the job. 

[Related: The Good, Bad, & Ugly from Ravens-Chiefs]

Details, Details, Details 

Getting back to Reid’s play-calling mastery, the film won’t look good this week for rookie linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison. Much of Reid’s strategy was focused on getting the backers out of position with secondary action after the snap. 

Whether it was using Hill as a decoy out of the backfield on a fake, or using play-action to draw the defense up so Patrick Mahomes could screen them elsewhere, the double action inevitably put the defense “on skates” all game. When that happens, defensive players tend to stop trusting their eyes and instincts. They play more tentatively, which we saw with Harrison, especially against the run. 

These two rookies are going to be good players. They were schooled by a master at his craft, and other offenses won’t show the same level of creativity. But the tape is out there and you better believe other offensive coordinators will at least try to get the defense out of position moving laterally just like Kansas City did last night. It’s an issue that needs to be resolved or it’ll rear its head again late in the season.

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Dev Panchwagh

About Dev Panchwagh

Dev Panchwagh is a versatile analyst who breaks down the Xs and Os of the game and has been a columnist/analyst for Ravens24x7.com since the summer of 2004. In his regular season column Battle Plans, Dev highlights the Ravens' keys to success against each upcoming opponent. Dev started modestly as a sports journalist, but his contributions to sports talk radio were noticed, leading to duties as a regular columnist for the Scouts.com network before joining RSR.  It would be very difficult to find his rare combination of youthfulness, knowledge and insight in all facets of football anywhere else.  Fortunately, Dev brings it here each and every week.  More from Dev Panchwagh

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