Bengals 41, Ravens 17
Through six games the Ravens held the AFC’s best record. They found ways to win and that’s a credit to the team – a good team. They easily could have lost to the Chiefs, Lions and Colts, teams that now have a combined record of (6-15). They won, but the club’s weaknesses were exposed even in victory. They’ve been on display now for 7 games and in the case of the offensive line, the warning signs date back to the start of training camp.
Injuries have certainly been a factor. The Ravens have $39.067M of their $182.5M salary cap parked on injured reserve. That’s 21.4%! Patrick Mekari is likely to join the list, adding another $853K to that whopping total. The Ravens need some reinforcements but you have to wonder if those they can afford are any better than “the next man up”. Currently the Ravens have $1.43M in available cap space.
Tough to find a Lamborghini with a Hyundai budget.
The Ravens will get Nick Boyle back from IR probably after the bye week. Daelin Hayes and Chris Westry could be back in a few weeks – Derek Wolfe perhaps even sooner. And if they’re lucky, maybe even Ja’Wuan James makes his way back into the mix in November or December to provide a boost to the team’s tackle depth.
Boyle will immediately help the running game. James can help in the run game and passing game, but let’s be clear, James is a big “if”. And if I was a betting man (fortunately given my bold predictions as of late, I’m not), I wouldn’t count on James. So that means the Ravens will be forced to continue with the patchwork across the offensive front.
Making matters even more challenging, the Ravens can’t seem to run effectively unless Lamar Jackson is getting it done and oftentimes those yards are byproducts of a passing game that breaks down. There’s been a lot of talk this season that Greg Roman’s running schemes with Lamar at the controls don’t require top-end talent at RB and, it has been insinuated both locally and nationally, that it doesn’t matter who is running the ball for the Ravens, it’s going to be effective. But with the current collection of offensive linemen, coupled with backs who have seen their better days, it’s obvious that it will take more than street free agents like Messrs. Bell, Freeman and Murray. But then there’s that near maxed out salary cap credit card rearing its ugly head.
Lamar has made drastic improvements in his ability to win games with his arm. But it sure would be nice to see what he might do with the collection of pass catching talent around him now, if he had a decent offensive line; if they could run the ball like they used to. But that’s just not the case and with Patrick Mekari’s injury, things got worse – again. For the Ravens to score into the mid 20’s and above, it’s only going to happen if Lamar has a terrific game. If not, maybe Justin Tucker can hit more 66-yard field goals.
But the offense might not even be the biggest problem confronting John Harbaugh and his staff. Arguably a bigger problem is Wink Martindale’s group. Through seven games the Ravens have allowed 2,073 yards passing yards (30th in the league), a worst in franchise history. The Ravens invested $92.873M of their cap dollars in defense in 2021 ($65.628M in offense). That’s the 5th biggest investment in defense in the NFL, one that currently ranks 27th overall. That’s just an unacceptable return on cap dollars.
The Ravens tackle poorly and schematically they are shredded when facing good quarterbacks, giving up far too many big plays. The Bengals scored five touchdowns averaging over 47 yards on each scoring play. Bad reads, blown assignments and the inability to consistently put ball carriers on the ground are all, repeat offenders.
The Ravens defense gives up 8.2 yards per pass attempt – 5th worst in the league. They give up 12.9 yards per completion – 2nd worst in the league and all of this philanthropy, appreciated by the other 31 NFL teams, comes from a team that spends $30.04M on its corners, the NFL’s 4th highest number.
Conversely, the Ravens spend the 3rd fewest dollars on edge defenders, $9.6M. The team’s inability to drop quarterbacks with four defenders forces them to blitz and judging from the way Carson Wentz and Joe Burrow have carved up the Ravens in October, the blitzes only seem to invite undesirable matchups downfield. The Ravens build their defense from the back forward. Signs indicate that maybe that approach isn’t the best.
Four of the Ravens top 5 tacklers are defensive backs. The top tackler is Anthony Averett. It’s not a pretty picture. I get that Sunday’s was just one game and that a week ago we were lauding the Ravens for owning the AFC’s best record after beating a hot Chargers team despite all of the injuries. It appeared as if the Ravens fixed a few flaws in their defense last week. Dismantling the Chargers’ dangerous offense seemed like Wink & Co. were on the right track. Unfortunately that fell apart in dramatic fashion on Sunday against the Bengals.
Each NFL season is a journey and the journey is long. Ebbs and flows are inevitable and the best teams manage the season in a way that stems the bleeding. And that’s where the Ravens now find themselves – bleeding, with hopes that the bye will provide some answers, perhaps get a few players healthier.
The Ravens still control their own destiny. The question is, can they expose other teams weaknesses better than other teams expose theirs. That didn’t happen on Sunday. Not much good did.
Let’s get to this week’s Good, Bad & Ugly from the Bengals 41-17 demolition of the Ravens.
Rashod Bateman is showing why the Ravens invested their first-round pick in the Minnesota Gopher. He’s a polished product and Bateman will only get better with more reps and more familiarity with Lamar and the team’s offense. He had 3 catches for 80 yards…Marquise Brown made a terrific catch on a well thrown ball from Lamar – a 39-yard scoring strike that put the Ravens on top (17-13) for all of 134 seconds…Justin Houston registered 4 quarterback hits…Calais Campbell shared a sack with Tyus Bowser (the Ravens only sack during 39 Burrow drop backs). Calais also had 5 tackles and 2 QB hits…Josh Bynes and Patrick Queen played well in run support. They helped to thwart the Bengals running game for 3 ½ quarters…Devin Duvernay had two punt returns averaging 18.5 yards.
— Tony Lombardi (@RSRLombardi) October 25, 2021
The Ravens had a chance to create some distance atop the AFC North at home coming off an easy win over the Chargers – and they blew it. They really blew it!…Ravens RB’s combined for 29 yards on 11 carries. Each looked slow and/or tentative. Le’Veon Bell just looks like he’s done. He had 6 touches on the day for a total of four yards…Lamar wasting a timeout before a punt instead of taking the penalty was a rookie mistake…Sam Koch’s punt into the end zone from the Bengals’ 40 at the 7:13 mark of the second quarter was infuriating and a wasted opportunity to pin the Bengals…Duvernay’s holding penalty on the same drive to take away a chance at a 46-yard FG or a fourth and short conversion attempt was costly. The call was also ticky-tacky…Pernell McPhee should know better than to hit one of the game’s new stars after the ball is out. His hit on Burrow was a momentary lapse of reasoning or a sign of frustration, or both. You pick.
The Bengals coaching staff made necessary adjustments at halftime. On offense they were able to change up their blocking scheme to protect Burrow. On defense they rolled coverage towards Mark Andrews while ratcheting up the heat on Lamar…Greg Roman didn’t call much in the way of RPO’s and it appears as if the offense has lost confidence in them as of late. Maybe they just don’t have the personnel to run it effectively. But the RPO’s stress zone defenses, particularly at the second level which then opens up space in front of the safeties…It was surprising that given the struggles of the O-line, Roman didn’t opt to go no-huddle to change the game’s tempo while trying to tire the Bengals defensive front and limit their sub-packages…Another surprise – Roman didn’t target struggling corner Eli Apple but instead went after one the better ones in the league this season, Chidobe Awuzie. It left Apple feeling his oats.
Bengals CB Eli Apple with a “Big Truss,” a Baltimore catchphrase, and then some in the postgame aftermath. pic.twitter.com/ItRpJpzisd
— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) October 24, 2021
The Ravens offensive tackles were abused. Alejandro Villanueva was beaten like a drum by Trey Hendrickson and his holding penalty at 12:51 mark of the 4th negated a 39-yard run by Lamar that would have set the Ravens up at the Bengals 26 with a first down and trailing by 10. Four plays later the Ravens turned it over on downs and four plays after the change of possession it was 34-17. Nail. In. The. Coffin…Tyre Phillips, thrown into the job at RT, wasn’t much of an upgrade over Andre Smith when he’s graced us with movements reminiscent of a cigar store Indian…Patrick Ricard was overwhelmed by Hendrickson, leading to another takedown of Lamar. Villanueva probably appreciated Project Pat taking the rep though, since Trey had a sick win rate of 29.4%.
Any player can taunt. If this was a DB doing this to a WR, that’s taunting, right? Why is Trey Hendrickson any different? pic.twitter.com/WmaAuqqzZW
— Tony Lombardi (@RSRLombardi) October 25, 2021
Wink’s troops surrendered 520 yards of offense. It marks the second time in 3 weeks (both home games) during which opponents registered over 500 yards of offense. Hey did the Ravens bring back DeRon Jenkins and Frank Walker?…The first touchdown pass from Burrow to tight end C.J. Uzomah embarrassed Marlon Humphrey from 55 yards out. The second scoring strike to Uzomah embarrassed the entire defense. Burrow audibled out of what looked like a bubble screen to Tyler Boyd. Four defenders bit on Boyd. None bit on Uzomah. None tackled him either.
Pretty easy to score when Tyler Boyd draws four defenders on a short route. pic.twitter.com/H5qpBbMTT0
— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) October 24, 2021
Tyler Boyd gets quadruple-covered. C.J. Uzomah benefits. pic.twitter.com/W4ssYze7Zb
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) October 24, 2021
Back to Marlon for a moment, it was arguably his worst day as a pro during a game when they really counted on him to step up. He did anything but. Besides the Uzomah TD, Ja’Marr Chase hung up 201 yards and 8 catches on Humphrey. To his credit, Marlon owned it in the post game presser. We’ll see how he responds after some time in the lab…Burrow’s passing yards were clearly aided by the Ravens inability to tackle. 49.4% of those yards came after the catch, according to PFF…The Ravens lost their composure down the stretch with two consecutive false start penalties. The team had already checked out for the bye.
Giving up 250 yards hurts I gotta play better….time to get back in the Lab
— Marlon Humphrey (@marlon_humphrey) October 24, 2021
The Megan Fox Award
Megan messed up her Google Outlook Calendar and took the bye a week early. Most of the defense apparently went with her.
“We can’t let this game beat us twice!” ~ Calais Campbell
OTHER NOTES & OBSERVATIONS
The Ravens are (5-2) for the ninth time in franchise history, matching the records from 2020, 2019, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2006 and 2000. (Baltimore has been 5-2 seven times under John Harbaugh.) The Ravens made the playoffs each of those seasons…This game reminded me of one that took place between the Ravens and the Texans on October 21, 2012. The Ravens entered the game (5-1), one week before their bye. They dropped to (5-2) on the heels of a 42-13 loss. They would win four straight after the bye and eventually Super Bowl 47…John Harbaugh’s Ravens are now (7-7) before a bye, (10-3) after.
I’ll blame my tardiness for this week’s GBU on travel, but mostly on the extended decompression period needed to sort this game out. It is just one game and we’ve seen in the past how John Harbaugh-led teams can be resilient. They’ll get another crack at resiliency when the Vikings visit on November 7.
I watched the game at Gecko’s in Sarasota. Our bartender Tim is from Eastern Baltimore County and he certainly provided a Charm City welcome. Thanks Tim, for making that devastating second half somewhat bearable. Your hospitality was needed in a big way. Added props to your sidekick Kim. To my buddy Dan, sorry your consecutive win streak at Gecko’s came to a crashing end. Mario blamed Bully for not posting. Tommy blamed the band on Friday night. I blame Sady and The Wiz.
Next Sunday night we’ll all get a chance to “scout” the Minnesota Vikings as they host the Cowboys. Here’s to a physical game that goes into overtime.
The things we’ll do for booze: here’s the moment a fan — claiming to be looking for a drink — attempted to legitimately climb into our WBAL #Ravens broadcast booth at M&T Bank Stadium. pic.twitter.com/VZrkCGw5EY
— Bobby Trosset (@bobbywbal) October 24, 2021