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Tucker: “I Love Detroit”

Justin Tucker
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On the heels of a huge win over conference rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs following an emotional loss to start the season in Las Vegas on Monday Night Football, a trip to Detroit to take on the (0-2) Lions had “letdown” written all over it. And for those of you expecting one, the Ravens seemingly delivered – until the impossible happened, authored by Justin Tucker.

Tucker’s day didn’t start well. Heading into the contest the world’s best placekicker had a successful string of 21 career indoor FGA’s and he was 6-of-6 at Ford Field. His first attempt of the day was wide right and later a 39-yard boot was a bit adventurous. Even his only PAT on the day lacked the typical JT pop – pop that he found with 3 seconds left in the game and it got the Ravens the “Dub”.

A loss could have been season altering and certainly it would have deflated the big win over the Chiefs. But the Ravens managed to escape with the victory and a tie atop the AFC North with the Browns and Bengals. Now it’s on to Denver to take on the undefeated Broncos.

THE GOOD

Lamar Jackson has made some refinements to his throwing mechanics and it shows. His ball placement, touch and velocity are all coming together. He made some throws in Detroit that were among his best as a pro. The clutch throw to Sammy Watkins during the game’s waning seconds was a thing of beauty; the TD toss to Devin Duvernay facing a third and 18 from the Lions’ 19 showed patience and poise in the pocket; and his throw on the run to James Proche in the 2nd quarter was a dart for a 29 yard pickup…It seemed like Lamar could connect with Mark Andrews at will and maybe that connection should have been dialed up a bit more. The tandem was NOT in synch however, on a deep shot down the middle that should have produced a touchdown in the 3rd quarter.

Give the Ravens and OC Greg Roman credit for taking some shots downfield. The game should have been nearly over at halftime and if not then, certainly to close out their first possession after half time. The Ravens produced quite a few chunk plays (should have been more) and finished the day with an impressive 6.8 YPP…Yesterday marked the 42nd straight game during which the Ravens rushing attack eclipsed the 100 yard mark. That is one game shy of the all-time NFL record set by the 1974-77 Pittsburgh Steelers…

Chuck Clark was everywhere! He had 12 tackles and a sack, plus he nearly forced the game’s first turnover during an attempted flea flicker by the Lions. His sack and efforts defending the Lions’ gadgetry were on successive plays. He also dropped D’Andre Swift a yard short of the sticks on 3rd & 5, eventually forcing a Detroit punt…Calais Campbell played well and had two key tackles for loss…the Ravens defense shutout the Lions during the first half including 0 for 6 on third down attempts. The Lions had just 32 net yards passing before intermission and at the 3:15 mark of Q2, they had -2 (as in minus two) net yards of passing offense.

Malik Harrison made an excellent stop of Swift on a swing pass that went for a loss of 3 to close out Q3…Marlon Humphrey exhibited sure tackling throughout (something that can’t be said of all his teammates), including a stop late in the second quarter on third down.

Sam Koch netted 42 yards on 3 punts, two of which were pinned at the 8 and 9 yard lines, respectively. His perfect hold on the record-breaking FG helped enable the win…Duvernay averaged 21.2 yards per punt return although he was bailed out by the Lions’ gunner Jerry Jacobs who decided to run halfway down the sideline out of bounds, negating Duv’s fumble and potentially, a game altering turnover.

THE BAD

The Ravens running backs combined for 58 yards on 15 carries (3.9 YPC). Clearly not Raven-esque…The Lions yielded TD’s on every single red zone “stand” coming into the game. The Ravens were just 1 of 2 in the RZ…Detroit out-possessed the Ravens 32:33 to 27:27…Lamar was just 7 of 15 for 140 yards in the second half with an ugly pick…Overall the Ravens were flagged 6 times for 69 yards, two of which extended Lions’ drives…Facing a 3rd and 5 from the Detroit 15, Alejandro Villanueva looked like a manatee doing the cha-cha trying to stave off Romeo Okwara who quickly blew up the play and forced a Tucker FGA…Andrews’ holding penalty negating Lamar’s 11-yard TD run around the left end…Patrick Ricard’s holding penalty zapped some needed momentum in the first quarter…Kevin Zeitler was also flagged for holding and gave up a sack.

The Ravens are struggling to find a consistently reliable sidekick for Patrick Queen (even though PQ isn’t very reliable himself). Against the Lions, Harrison (17 snaps), Chris Board (21) and Josh Bynes (14) each took turns beside Queen. Not sure what is going on there but Rob Ryan was said to be hired in large part to improve the play and aggressiveness of the team’s ILB’s. Sure would be nice to have LJ Fort available. That said, count me among those who think Malik’s leash is far too short, particularly when compared to Queen’s…Tyus Bowser has been disappointing as a pass rusher and now as a tackler. He whiffed on Swift – apparently not a Swiffer Picker Upper! . Tyus also whiffed on a gift wrapped Pick-6 during the Lions’ comic flea flicker.

Greg Roman’s play calling on third down was suspect, opting for straight handoffs on 3rd-and-threes that went nowhere. Meanwhile Wink Martindale showed his hand too early and often in the second half allowing Jared Goff to develop a rhythm. Earlier in the game he gave Goff varied looks and the eye candy persuaded Goff to predetermine where he went with the football. The Ravens got away from the varied looks in the second half and Goff gained confidence…The injury to DeShon Elliott (quad) may be an issue in Denver.

THE UGLY

The Ravens offense was a putrid 1 of 10 on third down conversion attempts against a team that ranked 23rd in the league (44.4%) in that department. They were 0 for 4 in the second half…The Lions had given up 76 points coming into the game (31st overall). The Ravens averaged 31.5 yet managed only 19 in Detroit, 3 in the most highly unlikely of ways…The Ravens tackling is highly suspect. A perfect case in point – the Lions faced a 2nd & 12 at their own 40. Goff hits Swift (this was a regular problem) on a short pass to the right flat, a play that was well covered and should have gone for a very minimal gain. Instead, after missed tackles by Bowser and Queen, Swift advanced the ball to the Ravens 49 setting up a third-and-1. The Lions converted, kept the drive alive and then went on to score their first touchdown to cut the lead to 13-7…Queen either looks out of position too often, tackles poorly or gets lost in the wash because he struggles to shed blockers. It might not be a bad idea to have Ray Lewis sit with Queen and teach him how to shed and the proper way to study film. Queen’s natural athleticism is too good to look so overmatched. The Ravens don’t draft first-round bust defenders and it’s far too early to label Queen as such. He just turned 22 in August. But Wink’s good buddy “Robbo” Ryan isn’t getting through so far in this still young campaign.

Ravens second half time of possession was 11:15…John Harbaugh’s challenge of a Kalif Raymond catch with 3:17 left in the game was an egregious mistake, particularly coming from a team that needed all of its timeouts. There was very little evidence, if any, that Raymond didn’t make the catch – certainly not enough to change the call on the field. Yet Harbaugh challenged the call anyway, essentially wasting a timeout. Curb the emotion there Harbs!

There was a report prior to the game from CBS’ Jason LaCanfora, that Ronnie Stanley will miss most of, if not all of the 2021 season with complications to his ankle injury from 2020. I heard an unconfirmed rumor that Stanley is consulting with specialists to see what can be done to stem the problem. Add it up and it doesn’t sound like the Ravens will have Stanley at the very least, during the upcoming game in Denver. But the way this season has gone so far, who knows?

Yesterday after the game, I posted a Tweet, insinuating that Marquise Brown would be the happiest of all the Ravens for the heroics of Justin Tucker. Brown had a really bad game! Many across social media pegged 3 touchdown drops on Brown. It was bad, just not as awful as social media would lead you to believe.

The first “drop” took place as Brown crossed the end zone from right to left. The ball caromed off Brown’s hands but in Marquise’s defense, it was slightly tipped. Late in the second quarter at the 1:50 mark, Brown beat his man and Lamar hit him in stride with a perfectly thrown ball. Drop. No TD.

Same possession at the 0:40 mark, Lamar gave Brown an opportunity to redeem himself but this time, the drop was even worse than the last one. No TD Part II.

It was a very forgettable day for the receiver and had the Ravens lost, who knows how deep the cuts would run; how massive the scars might be. But there is one of two ways that this can go for Brown. He allows it to get in his head and he becomes that catcher who can’t throw the ball back to the pitcher or the golfer who develops unwavering yips.

Or…

Brown can take it in stride, work harder, fix the mistakes and be a better player. I’m reminded of a great lyric from the Goo Goo Dolls:

Scars are souvenirs you never lose

The past is never far

Let the scars be reminders; let them propel your excellence.

Tucker

THE MEGAN FOX AWARD

This is an absolute no-brainer.

Justin. Tucker.

Coming into the game Tuck hit 49 consecutive FGA’s in the fourth quarter and 16 straight Q4 FGA’s inside 1 minute. Normally a 66-yard FGA is enough to snap such impressive streaks. But nothing about Tucker is normal. I thought this quote from JT was interesting:

“I love Detroit. I’m thinking of getting a place here.”

ODDS & ENDS

Full disclosure, I was “watching” the game on a plane yesterday. Coming home from California, I logged on to the Southwest WiFi and bounced back and forth between Tweets, to NFL Network’s highlight show, to ESPN’s Gamecast. It was excruciating, particularly during the game’s final moments (more on that in a minute).

ESPN’s Gamecast has this probability of win that changes during the game based on in-game developments. The changes are interesting to watch and at times feel a bit unrealistic. But this one didn’t. It seemed pretty spot on. But it wasn’t…

That said, my apologies for the tardiness of this piece. I had to watch the game in its entirety today in order to effectively review it. I appreciate your patience.

So back to that airplane experience…

The plane landed in Nashville (connecting city) when the Ravens had their final possession. So instead of watching all of the aforementioned platforms, I tapped into the Ravens app to listen to Gerry Sandusky and Obafemi Ayanbadejo on Ravens Radio. Gerry described the action on the field and right after Sammy Watkins catch to put the Ravens within JT range, the play-by-play call seemed a bit confusing (see video below). Eventually the radio call settled as Sandusky explained that Tucker was heading out on to the field to attempt a record-setting 66 yard field goal.

At that moment, my connection was compromised for a few seconds that seemed like hours, and just as I was about to lose my head, a push notification came across that read:

FINAL SCORE: Ravens 19, Lions 17.

What? He made it? This has to be a typo, right?

My connection to the audio was restored while Gerry and Femi confirmed what the push notification read. The Ravens had indeed snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. All of the above “bad” and “ugly” was forgotten.

Clearly the Ravens have a lot of work to do. The defense has been very disappointing through three games; the offensive line needs the running game to work at least in part, to make pass protection better and avoid so many third and long situations; the receiving corps (WR’s and TE’s) need to get healthy; and the tackling must improve.

And the Ravens know all of this. So does John Harbaugh.

It’s on to Denver where the Ravens are listed as 1 ½ point underdogs.

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