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A One-Off Stinker, or A Sign of Things to Come?

Sammy Watkins Xavien Howard
photo: Miami Dolphins
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How does one choose the five most important plays from an offensive performance like the one we saw Thursday in Miami? In a game filled with frustrating on-field mistakes, a lack of adjustments by the coaching staff, and almost nothing to show for it on the scoreboard, there simply isn’t much to pull. The Ravens still have one of the most explosive offensive attacks in football and one game isn’t going to change that, no matter how ugly it was. Look at the struggles that Kansas City faced throughout the first half of the year, and the woes of the last month for teams like Buffalo and Los Angeles (Rams). Even the best teams are going to put up a stinker once in a while, it’s simply inevitable in the NFL.

With that said, let’s do our best to react (without overreacting) and trudge through the Ravens match-up with the Dolphins one more time, before it’s forgotten in the memory banks forever.

Watkins Missed TD

On the Ravens’ first drive of the game, it appeared as if they’d have no trouble moving through the Miami defense all night long. A combination of quick passes and some strong running from Devonta Freeman set them up just outside of the red zone, before a delay of game penalty turned a 3rd-and-manageable into a poor down and distance scenario. The first of many mental errors on behalf of Lamar Jackson and company on Monday night.

Jackson takes the third down snap, and amidst heavy pressure throws up a prayer to the streaking Sammy Watkins in the end zone. Despite being such a desperation toss though, the ball placement and hangtime were all but perfect. After gaining a step on cornerback Justin Coleman, all Watkins had to do was look up and get underneath the ball to ensure the early tone-setting touchdown. Unfortunately, it was time for the second mental mistake of the evening.

It’s still unclear at this point what Watkins was doing on the end of this play. Maybe he lost the ball in the lights, maybe he thought he had already run out of the end zone, but either way the optics weren’t great. It appeared as if he just gave up on the route at the time, and while that’s unlikely from a veteran player like Watkins, it still cost the Ravens mightily in the long run no matter the reason. As we’ll discuss again later, this just wasn’t Watkins’ night in any regard. He gets a mulligan considering it was his first game back from injury, but another costly performance like the one we saw Thursday could have him conceding more snaps to Devin Duvernay as the #3 wide receiver.

This was a huge play, in retrospect. Had the Ravens punished the Dolphins’ Zero look with a long TD on the very first drive, Miami may have scrapped that game plan altogether, or at least decided they wouldn’t be able to rely on it as heavily. Instead…

As we’ll see, the Ravens never came close to making Miami pay again, and the Dolphins just kept on going to the well.

Brown Short Catch/Failed 3rd Down Conversion

The Ravens’ second drive of the evening started a lot like their first. The offense was moving at a nice pace, and with the defense flexing their muscle on their first series it felt like this unit was about to start doing the same. Miami’s defense would not break though, despite some serious bending throughout the first two possessions.

This was where the play clock issues really began to arise for the Ravens. All evening they were breaking the huddle with 10 seconds or less to go. By the time Jackson would make even one pre-snap read and attempt to adjust accordingly, he had the ball in his hands and was forced to make chicken salad out of, well, you know.

Jackson fires a short pass out left to Marquise Brown, who did his best to get to the sticks but had virtually no chance as the Miami defenders quickly closed in. Brown also fumbled on the play, but credit to Rashod Bateman for being aware enough to jump on top of the ball. Alas, it would all be for naught, as Justin Tucker came out and missed a 48-yard field goal on the ensuing 4th down. This was when pretty much all of the Ravens flock knew this was going to be a weird night for everyone. Two drives into your opponent’s territory that only result in three points, and a missed kick by the best of all time, is a bad omen in anyone’s book.

Greg Roman dialed up short passes and screens all throughout the game in an attempt to put the Miami blitzers on their heels, but it just wasn’t clicking. Passes were batted down, secondary players had it covered perfectly, and overall there weren’t many adjustments to speak of when these plays weren’t working.

We’ll see what he has in store for an even more talented Chicago defense this weekend, who will likely bring massive amounts of pressure in attempts to replicate Miami’s success.

Watkins Fumble for TD

The Ravens offense was clearly in frustration mode by the 4th quarter of this game. After the defense made an incredible goal line stand to hold Miami to three points, keeping it a one-score game, Jackson came out determined to make a play. After a deep shot to Brown was called for defensive pass interference, the Ravens would again find themselves in 3rd and long a few plays later.

Jackson fires a slant to Watkins short of the first down marker. Watkins makes the grab, but in his attempt to gain the necessary yardage was stripped by Xavien Howard, who then returned the fumble all the way back for a touchdown. Extra bittersweet for Ravens fans, as it was leaked by multiple insiders that the team made a push to bring in Howard before the trade deadline.

After covering Watkins’ rough night in the first section, what more is there to say? This went from being the Ravens’ chance at redemption after a downright dreadful three quarters, to the most fitting back-breaker score this game could’ve allowed. The Ravens flat out didn’t deserve to win on Thursday night, apparently the football gods felt the same way.

Brown 3rd Down Drop

After getting the ball back following the aforementioned Miami score, it was truly do-or-die time for the Ravens offense. Yet another 3rd-and-10 scenario had the Dolphins playing soft coverage in the secondary, with every player lined up 8-10 yards back from any given Ravens pass catcher. The play call was actually really well designed, as Mark Andrews and Freeman streaked down field on the right while Brown cut inside for a slant with nothing but green grass ahead of him. Unfortunately, the drop woes that we’ve seen from Brown on numerous occasions this year reared their ugly head once more.

Again, just to emphasize, there’s not much from this game that you’d expect to stick long-term for the Ravens offense. Brown’s drop issue isn’t just a one-time fluke though, as we’ve seen it on multiple separate occasions this year. He also happens to make explosive plays on a regular basis, and is in the midst of his best statistical season to date, so this isn’t a “hate on Hollywood” article. What this is, is simply a mention that he has to be more concentrated on a consistent basis.

You can forgive the drops on rough nights like this, but the same can’t be said if we see them happen in January.

Andrews Five-Yard TD

Well, it couldn’t be all bad, right? With just over seven minutes to go in the game, the offense would finally put together a scoring drive to build off of heading into next week. It was nothing overly impressive, and perhaps you can chalk it up to Miami again playing not to break, but nonetheless the Ravens were finally able to methodically work their way down field.

On 1st and goal from the five, Jackson takes the snap and steps up in the pocket before lofting a pretty touch pass up top to Mark Andrews. It’s clear that there was some type of miscommunication between the Dolphins defenders, as Eric Rowe seemed to do his best Watkins impression by just stopping his coverage mid play. Nonetheless, it was bread and butter for the Ravens in the red zone as they finally managed to put seven on the board. At the time, this also made it a one-score game and gave us a sliver of hope late in the evening for another amazing comeback.

Unfortunately, this time it just wasn’t in the cards.

Wrap-Up

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel like I need a shower and a cold beverage after reliving that Thursday night horror show. We got through it though, and now we get to forget about it as the Ravens set their sights on Week 11 and the Chicago Bears. It’s likely that we’ll see a more focused and determined team take the field on Sunday, and hopefully with that comes a lot more positivity to pull from.

Here’s hoping for a much better go-around next time, as we discuss the five most important plays from the Ravens offense.

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