There was one thing I wanted to see from this team yesterday afternoon, and that was fight. Their heart was called into question and this seemed like a game where a team could very well roll over. The odds stacked against you, excuses galore to just not give it your all.
What did the Ravens do? They fought like the dogs we know they can be and I’ll always respect that from a team.
Hell of an effort from this team.
I see fight and that may be an intangible, but I don't care, it's what I wanted to see. #RavensFlock
— Cole Jackson (@ColeJacksonFB) December 2, 2020
Expectations need to be controlled here. This was a unit missing QB1, their 1st and 2nd string C, their RB1 who just broke out against the Titans, RB2, their most productive slot WR and they played with very little practice.
You can call it excuses, you can blame them for the outbreak, but this is context that we need to consider.
Well, I mean, what did we expect here?
To be honest, as much as I didn’t expect a whole lot, I did expect him to protect the ball. The Ravens had to come into this game and protect the football to give themselves an honest chance. RGIII opened the game with a fumble on a mesh-point handoff with Gus Edwards on the second drive of the game and then followed it up with a pick-6 on the next drive.
Credit him for the splash plays with his legs and for his toughness to play injured and leave it all on the field, but it just wasn’t enough and the turnovers were a killer.
Running back: C+
The results from the running back group weren’t great, but they most certainly ran hard, particularly Justice Hill who has been champing at the bit for an opportunity through his special teams efforts. With a healthier offense, the Steelers wouldn’t have been able to keep eight in the box as often as they did and it would have given that hard running a much better chance for big gains.
Wide Receiver and Tight End: C-
I can’t be too hard on this group with such few opportunities. Luke Willson was a late add, but he’s still a veteran and that’s just a catch in the back of the end zone you have to make, so that drops the grade.
The Ravens struggled to get anything going outside the numbers, which didn’t bode well for Dez Bryant. Hollywood Brown did make the best of an opportunity to use his speed and it’s quite clear they need to get him the ball in space. Hopefully he can build on this momentum moving forward.
Offensive Line: C-
This was another unit that was put together with spare parts. The Ravens had to turn to rookie UDFA Trystan Colon-Castillo to take over C as the 3rd stringer and D.J. Fluker that was eventually subbed out for rookie Tyre Phillips who converted back to OT (and is considered 3rd string).
The struggles in the run game had more to do with stacked boxes than individual performance, but the pass protection was just plain bad. To the point where Phillips just kind of let that T.J. Watt guy (heard he’s good – can anyone confirm?) run free for a sack.
Inside-outside is the rule, but Tyre Phillips needs to know he has RB help.
He also has to know that's TJ Watt. Just a really bad decision by the rookie.#RavensFlock
— Cole Jackson (@ColeJacksonFB) December 2, 2020
Or as a Wise man once said:
Abandon the OL rules.
Block the defensive player of the year.
— Matt Wise (@TheMattWise) December 2, 2020
The ball had to be out within three seconds for RGIII to have a shot at completing a pass. That’s not necessarily surprising given how good this Pittsburgh DL is, but you have to give your QB more of a chance that that.
This unit knew they had to step up big, and boy did they ever. Adam put it quite perfectly:
Let’s not forget.
Big Ben had to throw it 51 times to put up a whopping 13 points against a Ravens defense without 3 ProBowlers that lead the pass rush, that also lost Jimmy Smith, and played with a hobbled Peters and Elliott.
— Adam Bonaccorsi (@AdamBMore) December 3, 2020
Defensive Line: B+
In terms of units, this was the group of players that had probably the biggest loss from COVID absences (outside obviously Lamar Jackson). The Ravens were without most of their starters up front, and even were missing rookie backup DT Justin Madubuike. However, Derek Wolfe had himself another great game and Justin Ellis and Broderick Washington played well enough to slow down the Steelers rushing attack and get some pressure on the QB when he held onto the ball longer than two seconds (which is rare).
Tyus Bowser got the INT, but it came from some nice interior pressure. I know some are a bit down on Yannick Ngakoue, but this is a tough opponent for an EDGE rusher to make an impact. The Steelers get the ball out in an average of 2.5 seconds after the snap. Usain Bolt could hardly get there in that time.
Bowser’s INT may have seemed easy, but it came from anticipating the passing lanes and that’s an impressive read. He continues to build on a very strong 4th year (and a contract year at that) and fits Wink Martindale’s scheme like a glove. Unfortunately, we have to mention his missed open-field tackle on Benny Snell that turned a stuff into a big gain.
Patrick Queen and L.J. Fort played well inside for the Ravens. Queen almost had another INT (his 3rd ‘almost’ of the year – too bad its not horseshoes) and if you look at the angle, he had a very big running lane if he gets that. The big thing with Queen is he’s starting to anticipate passing lanes much better. He’s not getting there, but if he can get there that extra 0.5 second quicker, he’s going to be making some nice plays in coverage.
Defensive Backs: A
Marlon Humphrey bounced back in a big way. By no means was his play poor, but he wasn’t playing at that top 5 elite CB level after getting off the COVID list.
Those two PDs on 2nd and goal were huge in holding the Steelers to field goals. This defense, particularly the secondary, was doing their part to put them in a position to win.
Chuck Clark also bounced back after a rough outing against the Titans and, outside of a Juju Smith-Schuster stiff arm, I felt Tramon Williams played well and should be a valuable rotational piece in the CB group.
Special Teams: B+
Deontae Harris made an incredible play to force a fumble on the punt unit. He paced his stride extremely well when he saw Ray Ray McCloud not call a fair catch and he attacked at the right time to set up a Ravens TD. A couple special teams penalties (one of which was very ticky tacky) prevented the unit from a higher grade here.
I know everyone is frustrated with John Harbaugh’s clock management at the end of the 2nd quarter, but on replay it looked like RGIII called that timeout. Was he instructed to? Obviously hard to say, but it looked like it was the QB’s decision.
Overall, I wasn’t overly impressed with the offensive gameplan. In the second half it got very predictable. I know Greg Roman is working with a bunch of backups, but the Steelers had nine in the box and you’re calling outside zone runs. It’s just not going to help your guys out. The zone and power option were working the best.
All of that said, I think the coaching staff kept their guys together, and people love to knock Harbaugh for being “just a CEO coach” when the team looks unmotivated, but he deserves credit when they have odds stacked against them and play like that.
The refs were particularly bad in this game. It is absolutely insane that they let the Steelers lay on the ball at the end of the first half without calling a delay of game. That would have stopped the clock and given the Ravens a chance to throw one at the end zone and get either six or an incomplete pass, which gives time to get the FG unit on the field.
There was also numerous holds missed, which seems to happen weekly. Oh, but you bet they called holds on the Ravens. Pathetic.
Chuck Clark deserves the game ball. He finished with 13 tackles, was all over the field and really made up for a rough outing against the Titans.