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A Convincing Win, Sort Of…

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The Ravens beat a well-rested Dallas Cowboys squad by the score of 34-17 to advance to (7-5) on the season and keep their playoff hopes alive. It was a relatively uninspired performance from the Ravens defense — one that was on the field for 77 plays and 32:18 while giving up 388 yards of offense to the Andy Dalton led (3-9) NFC East cellar dwellers. And while there were weaknesses on display that must be addressed, the game’s ultimate outcome never seemed to be in doubt. And that’s a good thing.

Once again, the Ravens will have a short week of preparation as they get set to take on the Browns this Monday Night. This is the third consecutive week when the Ravens were participants in the last game of an NFL week. They open as 1-point favorites in Cleveland where they should have the services of Mark Andrews, Willie Snead and Matt Judon who return from the COVID-19 list. They will probably not have the services of Dez Bryant who shockingly went on the COVID-19 list just prior to the game after testing positive following warmups. There is however the potential of the test being a false positive. Time will tell.

The biggest concern is the contact tracing. If Dez’s test is ultimately a definitive positive, and he was in contact with other teammates or possibly even members of the Cowboys who he reacquainted with, it could mean a short week of practice for several players — again. Until such determinations are made, let’s get to the Good, Bad, Ugly and the Mo Gaba.

THE GOOD

Lamar Jackson was more sudden as a runner (13 for 94 yards and a TD) and he handled the ball flawlessly on RPO plays (although he did drop a perfect snap from Patrick Mekari). His fakes and reads were spot on and big contributors to the overall effectiveness of the rushing attack that produced 294 yards on 37 attempts (7.9 YPC)…Gus Edwards (7 carries, 101 yards) and J.K. Dobbins (11 carries, 71 yards, 1 TD) were decisive and quick to the hole…Patrick Ricard was a key trigger man on a couple of long runs…The oft-criticized Miles Boykin presented himself well as a receiver. If not for a couple of errant throws from Lamar that were reminiscent of Nuke LaLoosh and the Durham Bulls mascot, the angular former Golden Domer might have had a couple of scores on the evening…Nice pitch and catch from Lamar to Marquise Brown. The throw from Lamar was a perfectly placed teardrop on the run while Brown ran a perfectly timed hook and go and then showed good footwork in the back of the end zone…Greg Roman called a nice game and stuck with his bread-and-butter. The play action pass on first down he drew up immediately after the Patrick Queen interception, was well-designed and perfect given the situation.

Derek Wolfe has developed into a force over the past few games. He’s stacking positive performances and Tuesday night was another. Wolfe led the team with 9 tackles, 1 for a loss…L.J. Fort was a solid contributor posting 5 tackles and showing precise diagnostic skills on Cowboys’ screens. He nearly had a spectacular INT in the end zone that would have taken a TD off the board for Dallas…Nice hands from Patrick Queen on his INT…Jihad Ward was the team’s most productive pass rusher, adding a sack and 4 QB hits.

THE BAD

As a passer, save one throw (even the TD pass to Boykin was slightly errant) Lamar Jackson was erratic. His lack of practice showed and his poor habits were on full display — dropping his arm angle, led to passes that sailed while others that he did get on top of were thrown with such a downward trajectory it resulted in short-hopped throws to open receivers. There are also times when he holds onto the ball too long which essentially closes the rapidly shrinking throwing windows of opportunity. Instead of throwing receivers open, Lamar waits for them to break open and by the time he pulls the trigger, it’s regularly too late. That might work if you have arm talent like Patrick Mahomes, but other than the KC egomaniac, who does?…I get that Mark Ingram is a leader but even he has to know that Dobbins should get the start. The rookie is far more explosive and he produces more yards after contact. Not sure if this poor decision making is on Roman or John Harbaugh, but it needs to be addressed. Not giving Dobbins more touches is the equivalent of a favor to opponents.

The Ravens screen pass design and execution looks like it was drawn up on an Etch-O-Sketch. And why run that on first-and-ten?…Marquise Brown’s efforts are often questionable. He is the polar opposite of a physical receiver and at times seems to be unwilling to put himself in harm’s way which can create problems, as it did on Tuesday. Lamar’s high pass to Brown and then the receiver’s weak attempt to pull in the pass with one hand resulted in an interception inside of Ravens territory…Early in the game the Ravens offense lacked pacing and rhythm…The illegal formation penalties are a weekly rite of passage for Roman’s offense. Will they ever clean it up?

Six Ravens offensive players on the LOS

Queen picked it up a bit in the second half and navigated through the wash to make tackles for marginal gains. But he still tends to get caught up in traffic, which opens up opportunities for big runs from opponents…the Ravens can dictate their defensive intent with their substitutional packages. Against the Cowboys they also tipped their hands to blitz far too early, pre-snap. That is ultimately inviting to a veteran quarterback and the captain of an offensive line who can then reset…Overall the secondary had a subpar game. Marlon Humphrey gave up a TD on a fairly pedestrian post-corner route by Michael Gallup. Marcus Peters was again guilty of playing soft too many times and was left in the dust by Amari Cooper on a skinny post from the slot for a score…Chuck Clark played hurt and consequently slow…Special teams coverage during the 66-yard kickoff return by Tony Pollard just after the Ravens took a 7-3 lead, was laced with blown coverage assignments and started with a rather weak kickoff from Justin Tucker. Tuck also missed a FGA inside of 40 yards for the first time in 70 such tries. It didn’t help that Bradley Bozeman was flagged for a false start on the previous FGA that pushed the Ravens back 5 yards.

THE UGLY

When you opt to kick off to start a game, the idea is to get a lead in the first half and start with the ball in the second in order to sustain momentum. The Ravens first possession of the second half was a comedy of errors that ended after 3 plays and 6 yards with an errant throw by Darren O’Day — check that, the submarining Lamar Jackson…The effects of COVID seemed to weigh on Calais Campbell who looked really slow. Campbell suffers from asthma and I know first-hand, how this virus can tax a respiratory system…Wink Martindale decided to rush just one player during Andy Dalton’s last second Hail Mary attempt to close the first half? One player? Seriously? And while the Ravens may have had numbers in the end zone, none seemed really interested in competing for the ball. Back to the drawing board Wink!

THE MO GABA

They’ve been criticized often as a unit this season, sometimes even labeled as the biggest culprits in a season during which the Ravens have struggled offensively. But against the Cowboys, collectively, they dictated the flow of the game. The Ravens offensive front, the guys in the trenches, did a very nice job of controlling the contest, paving the way to a massive 7.9 yards per carry and 294 yards rushing in total.

THE MO GABA PART II

It was great to see FOX respectfully acknowledge the announcement of John Lennon’s tragic passing 40 years ago to the day by Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football. John was a complicated man who endured childhood mental anguish that would scar him throughout life, influencing his at times radical behavior as well as igniting his genius. The world was robbed of a beautiful soul who seemed to have finally come to grips with his past just prior to his tragic and unnecessary death.

He left his mark upon me and I’m sure many others out there reading this. His legacy is enduring and unforgettable. And as I put a bow on this edition of the Good, Bad, Ugly & The Mo Gaba, please allow me to share Cosell’s announcement along with a message from John as delivered by an ensemble of musical stars, to all of us, to leverage the spirit of Christmas to achieve peace — a message that was put out there 49 years ago.

God bless us one and all…

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