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Key Mistakes Doom Ravens in Desert

Stanley, Powers, Villanueva, Phillips
Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens
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This is Tale of the Tape – Offense. For Tale of the Tape – Defense, click here.

The Ravens offense was far from its usual self on Monday night in Las Vegas, and understandably so. After losing Rashod Bateman for the first month of the season, and two of the most talented running backs in football for the entire year, it’s no surprise that there would be some hiccups along the way. With that being said, there were also numerous starters who haven’t missed time that severely underperformed when the team needed them most, which needs to be fixed with the defending AFC champions coming to town on Sunday night.

It wasn’t a total train wreck though, and there were some key moments over the course of the game from Lamar Jackson and company that give us a reason to be optimistic about the offense going forward (as long as those underperforming starters get it together). Today, we’re going to break down the five most important plays from the Ravens offense on Monday night. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Ty’Son Williams 35-yard touchdown

With 1:54 left to go in the first quarter, the Ravens offense was finally beginning to get into a bit of a groove, thanks largely in part to a Lamar Jackson to Ty’Son Williams 21-yard pass a few plays earlier. Then, Williams would get his first taste of the end zone in an NFL game that matters with an explosive burst right through the middle of the defense from 35 yards out.

The way that Williams accelerated through the initial hole before slicing through four (yes…..four) defenders on his way to pay dirt was very similar to what Ravens fans expected from J.K. Dobbins this season. It was the perfect way to stamp his spot as the team’s lead back throughout the rest of the game, which is why it was such a head-scratcher to see him essentially benched for the second half. Williams looked like he was well on his way to a 100-yard performance, and the Ravens would be smart to lean on him going forward much like they did in the first half of this game.

The offensive line deservedly received a ton of flack for the way they performed overall on Monday night, but on this play they performed masterfully. The key sealing blocks came from Alejandro Villanueva, potentially his only bright spot of the evening, and Ronnie Stanley who was lined up on the right side for this jumbo set. Eric Tomlinson also neutralized his man on the play, and from there Williams showed off that shiftiness we saw through the preseason.

Great play by all 11 on the field, and something we’d like to see more of in the coming weeks.

Latavius Murray stopped on 4th and 1 from LVR 36

Now, it’s time to talk about the flip side of the coin. With 1:13 left in the second quarter, the Ravens lined up for 4th and 1 from the Raiders’ 36-yard line. We know John Harbaugh well enough to know that this is a decision he makes in his sleep, but unfortunately this time the analytics did not pay off. Latavius Murray took the handoff and was immediately stopped at the line of scrimmage. This is a play that not too many have spoken about since Monday night, but it very well may have been the most crucial to the flow of the game.

Had the Ravens converted, and continued to drive down the field and score, the Raiders would’ve gone into the halftime locker room down 17-7 or 21-7. Instead, Derek Carr was able to use the remaining time and great field position to march right into Ravens territory and kick a field goal. This sequence of events led to a ten point swing heading into the half, and would have likely changed the approach of both teams for the following thirty minutes (specifically the Ravens being so pass happy). Even if the Ravens had only gotten three points after converting, in a game with such razor thin margins, that may have been all they needed to survive.

As far as the offensive line goes, everybody appeared to pick up the man they were supposed to here. This stop can be chalked up mostly to a great play by a smart veteran linebacker in K.J. Wright. Wright’s assignment was to follow Pat Ricard on the play, and instead of sticking with Ricard (who was motioning to seal the left side) he broke coverage and shot through the middle of the line as the ball was snapped, meeting Murray in the backfield. Wright threw his body into the right leg of Murray and got just enough to throw off his balance.

The smart move by the Ravens was likely to go with the more powerful Murray on this play, but the question stands to be asked whether or not Ty’Son Williams would’ve had a bit more burst through the line, or at least the wherewithal to attempt to cut it outside once Wright made his move.

Ultimately, this entire sequence of events should be talked about far more as we look for where it went wrong on Monday.

Jackson’s first fumble

Despite a lackluster third quarter offensively, the Ravens still found themselves in position to go up two scores in the fourth quarter of this game. After completing a 13-yard pass to Marquise Brown and rushing for a four yard gain, Jackson attempted to throw on 2nd-and-6 and was instantly pressured in the backfield. Ben Powers actually moved early as he pulled down the right side of the line to meet Carl Nassib and drive him out of the way. Unfortunately, the one place where Williams looked to be in serious need of improvement on Monday night was in pass protection.

Former third overall pick Solomon Thomas crashed hard into the backfield, and instead of meeting the defender at the point of attack, Williams waited for Thomas to get to him. Given how close Williams was to Jackson’s pocket on the play, he had no choice but to begin yet another scramble drill to pick up any yards he could.

While attempting to shake linebacker Cory Littleton, Jackson was blindsided by Quinton Jefferson, all 6’4 and 290+ pounds of him. This caused him to lose control of the football and give Las Vegas great field position to go down and score the tying touchdown, which is exactly what they did.

While Lamar will be the first one to say he has to protect the ball at all costs, that’s quite difficult given the cards he was dealt on Monday night. It’s no secret how abysmal the pass protection was in this game, the Raiders routinely only brought four men in pressure as they did here, but Jackson was still pressured on over 50% of his dropbacks.

Something has to change in this department, and fast.

Sammy Watkins 49-yard catch

Back to some of the good things we saw on Monday night, specifically one of the two throws of the game from Jackson. With 6:32 to go in the fourth quarter the game was tied, the offense lined up from their own 43-yard line. Jackson faked the handoff to Murray before nonchalantly hitting Sammy Watkins downfield with a picture perfect pass over the shoulder at the Raiders’ 8-yard line.

This was easily the offensive line’s best moment of pass protection all night long, and Lamar showed exactly what he can do when given even a couple extra seconds to push the ball downfield. Maxx Crosby was an absolute terror all night long on the defensive line, but a Pat Ricard chip block gave Powers and Villanueva just enough time to get into position and hold him off. This was one of the few times all evening Jackson was able to comfortably get a pass away. Credit to the left side of the line as well, who was an absolute stone wall on this play.

Being able to do this on a consistent basis, or at least far more than we saw on Monday, will be crucial for the Ravens if they have any hopes of making a playoff push in 2021.

Mark Andrews OT drop

It would’ve been easy to go with Lamar Jackson’s second fumble in overtime as the last play on this list, but it was the play prior that put the Ravens in an obvious passing position to begin with. On 2nd-and-7 with just under five minutes to go in the extra frame, Jackson hit Mark Andrews right between the numbers with a pass that would’ve resulted in a first down and then some. Andrews got both hands on the pass, but didn’t secure it well enough to hold on as Johnathan Abram shot through and popped it loose for an incompletion. This was undoubtedly a heads up play by Abram, but also one that Andrews should’ve secured as a player who just signed one of the richest tight end contracts in history. If he catches that ball, the Ravens are another first down or two away from giving Justin Tucker a chance to win the game with a FG (remember, LV had already had the ball in OT, resulting in the crazy goalline sequence & Anthony Averett interception).

Andrews’ reputation for drops in big moments continues to haunt him, with his most notable in the 2019-20 playoffs vs Tennessee and in the Ravens’ encounters with Patrick Mahomes and company. This one is right up there with the rest, and this is an issue Andrews will have to get fixed as soon as possible. Andrews is Jackson’s security blanket, and on Monday night we saw exactly what happens when that security disappears. The Ravens wind up in 3rd-and-7, an obvious passing down, and the Raiders front pins their ears back to cause another crucial fumble.

Andrews is undoubtedly one of the faces of this iteration of the Baltimore Ravens. It’s Lamar Jackson, Marlon Humphrey, and then the argument can easily be made for him at number three with Marcus Peters done for the year. They’re going to need him in the most dire of ways at more than one point this season, and going forward he has to prove he can come up clutch with the lights on bright.

Sunday night, with the team he’s struggled most against in his career coming to town, would be a heck of a time to do just that.

Wrap up

It was a mixed bag for the Ravens offense on Monday, but overall we saw a lot more that we didn’t like than things that we did. The offensive line has to figure out a way to give Lamar Jackson the time he needs to be at his best. The best players have to make the plays when they count. And perhaps most importantly, this offense can’t be Jackson’s running ability or bust.

We all saw what happened to RG3 during his brief stint in Washington where they attempted to do just that, and it cost him his career as a starter in this league.

It’s a long season, there’s time to adjust and reload, but more performances like we saw on Monday are going to make it that much longer for the Ravens flock.

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