Happy Holidays Ravens Flock! As we get ready to spend the next few days with our loved ones and stuff ourselves silly, it’s crucial to remember and truly appreciate all the things we’re thankful for in life. Family, friends, faith (no matter your belief system), and a football team that’s given us more memorable moments this season than some fans get in a decade.
Last Sunday in Chicago was no different. Despite a largely uneventful day offensively, a few key plays late in the game and a boat load of guts from the backup quarterback was all it took to send the Ravens home with a dramatic victory. With so many crucial match-ups approaching in December, the purple birds needed to pull this one out by any means necessary, and without their MVP, #1 wide receiver, and two key pieces in the secondary they still managed to do just that.
Before things truly get real this Sunday night, let’s take one more look back at the five most important offensive plays from Sunday in Chicago.
Andrews 1-Handed Catch
With just over four minutes left in the 1st quarter, the Ravens offense found themselves struggling to get going and faced a 3rd-and-12 in their own territory. It wasn’t surprising to see Tyler Huntley start slow in this game, given all the uncertainty heading in. While he took the vast majority of the starter reps all week in practice, he did so still unsure if he’d even have an opportunity to see the field up until Sunday morning. He was going to need some assistance from his established pass catchers to find success in this game.
Andrews makes a great catch on 3rd & 12. 👀 🔒 on the 🏈 pic.twitter.com/x9dSYkoEVT
— michael crawford (@abukari) November 22, 2021
The offense lines up with Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews bunched to the left side of the line of scrimmage, which we’ve talked about being a perfect formation against man coverage. The extra communication and coverage switches it creates often leads to receivers running wide open. On this play however, Andrews simply uses his physical frame to bump the much smaller defender off balance.
Andrews cuts out to the left with the defender on skates, and Huntley lofts a floater high above his head. Andrews sticks one of those long arms up in the air and gets just enough of the ball to knock it into his possession and come down with a spectacular catch. This drive ultimately didn’t lead to any points, but it was important in the fact that we’re seeing Andrews come down with far more tough catches than drops over the last month and a half. Andrews received a lot of understandable flack for his drop issues in the early part of this season, especially with the contract he just received, but he’s quickly corrected those problems and has shown that he’s worth every penny and then some.
Huntley 3rd-and-10 Scramble
With just over seven minutes left in the first half of a 0-0 stalemate, the Ravens needed some kind of electric play to keep their drive alive after the defense recovered a crucial fumble. Things were ugly, and another 3rd-and-long scenario had most people thinking it would probably stay that way heading into the locker room. Huntley simply couldn’t get it going with his arm, and because of that Chicago brought six in pressure and dared him to hit one of his pass catchers before the rush got there. It’s clear he wasn’t going to be able to do that, so Huntley did what he does best and scrambles out to the left. From there it became a foot race to the first down marker, and there aren’t many defensive linemen and linebackers who can keep up with his straight line speed.
Good job by Boyle and Murray softening the edge on Huntley's 19 yd scramble. Boyle chips Quinn inside. Murray takes on 36 and blocks him just long enough for Snoop to turn the corner. pic.twitter.com/6MhkIbSjnG
— michael crawford (@abukari) November 23, 2021
Huntley also makes a nice move inside on defensive back DeAndre Houston-Carson, which allowed him to gain even more yardage and cross the 50-yard line. The result of this drive was three points, but on a day where every single score was crucial it might have been as good as a touchdown. Some of those guts we talked about earlier from Huntley were on full display here, and it wouldn’t be the last time he made a tremendous play on 3rd down in this ball game.
Duvernay 21-yard Catch
The last three most important plays of this game ironically all came on the Ravens’ last possession of the day. They’re all below in Sarah’s tweet (along with another). Let’s talk about them.
Re-live the Ravens’ game-winning 72-yard drive led by Tyler Huntley. pic.twitter.com/lIT3gYkg1J
— Sarah Ellison (@sgellison) November 22, 2021
On 1st down just shy of the 50, the offense comes out bunched with three to the right and Devonta Freeman to Huntley’s right in the shotgun. On the snap, Andrews and Bateman streak down field while Devin Duvernay loops around them and looks to take advantage of the open field they left underneath. Freeman also peels out of the backfield, which causes the zone defender in the flat to make a choice after bumping Duvernay as to which player he’ll continue shading towards. That split second of indecision causes him to become flat footed, which allows Duvernay to sneak free along the sideline and make a crucial catch to move the sticks. It was also a really nice throw from Huntley, who at this point had seemed to gain more poise and confidence as the game progressed.
Duvernay continues to impress more and more by the week in his limited opportunities. He’s very similar to Jacoby Jones in that his main role is as a special teamer, but when he does make plays for the offense they’re usually of dire importance. All a player can do is what’s asked of them, and Duvernay has been a prime example of that in the 2021 season.
Watkins 29-yard Catch
It’s pretty safe to say this was the biggest, and most important, play of the day for the Ravens offense. Third-and-12 with the game on the line, it was almost poetic that of all players, Sammy Watkins would be on the hero’s end of the game winning sequence on Sunday. After what was potentially the worst game of his entire professional career in Miami, Watkins needed a play like this, if for nothing else to reestablish his trust amongst the offense.
Chicago would again rush six in an attempt to get to Huntley, but he showed off his electric athleticism in scrambling out of the pocket and dropping a dime on the run to the streaking Watkins. This was by far Huntley’s best throw of the day, and there’s no doubt that it couldn’t have come at a better time. You can truly never replace a player like Lamar Jackson, but if Huntley can come in on a pinch and make throws like this with the game on the line, he’s assuredly the best alternative the Ravens could ask for.
Freeman 3-yard TD
After those aforementioned big pass plays, the Ravens lined up for 1st and goal from the 3-yard line in prime position to notch the go-ahead score. With a timeout still in his pocket, Greg Roman makes the smart call and trusts the Ravens’ bread and butter to take this one home. It was a simple zone run left to Freeman, with Patrick Ricard pulling down the line pre-snap and Kevin Zeitler following close behind. Initially it appeared as if Chicago had the play defended well, but props to Freeman who makes a great cut inside just off of Zeitler’s right hip and scampers his way into the end zone for six.
At this point, Freeman has clearly taken over the 1A role in the Ravens backfield and has shown more promise with every passing week. He may not be J.K. Dobbins or Gus Edwards, but the veteran presence and field vision he brings to this beat up running back room may prove to be invaluable come playoff time. Not to mention, he’s still got a pretty smooth cutback in between the tackles.
Overall it was a day to forget for the offensive line, which allowed Huntley to be sacked six times (a few were due to Huntley holding the ball too long, but regardless), but on this play they did their job when it mattered most. Things are only going to get more difficult for the heavies up front over the coming month, but hopefully the return of Ben Cleveland and more time for Patrick Mekari to get healthier will help offset that. Their play as a group will be one of the defining factors of how the Ravens’ season goes from here, for better or worse.
So, there you have it. On a less than ideal day in The Windy City, with everything going against them, the Ravens still figure out a way to muster a come-from-behind victory in exciting fashion. From this point on, things get as real as they’re going to get this season for the purple birds, and the offense will need to be firing on all cylinders if they want to keep their Super Bowl dreams alive. It all starts this Sunday with a crucial divisional game against Cleveland on Sunday Night Football, one where we’ll hopefully have more big plays to talk about than we can even fit on this list. Here’s hoping until next time, when we once again break down the five most important plays from the Ravens offense.