Ravaged early and often by injuries and inconsistencies since the start of the offseason, the 2021 Baltimore Ravens have adopted a YOLO attitude of taking every chance, never backing down and experiencing more highs and lows than an elevator attendant. Lately, there have been more lows, as the Ravens dropped their third straight heartbreaker, this time against a talented Packers team, led by an otherworldly starting quarterback.
But, you have to say… this team is a little bit fun, right?
Let’s take a look at how each unit performed today, as they fell 31-30 at home to drop to 8-6 on the season.
There was a lot to like on offense today, as they performed well against a very capable Packers defense. They generated 30 points, had 24 first downs and generated 5.3 yards per play. They had a bad drive to end the first half, and an equally-hapless one in the fourth quarter, generating zero yards after a penalty gave them first-and-five, ultimately missing on a sad-looking fourth-down call. But they made some big plays, as well, especially late. The Packers offense was also efficient, and limited the Ravens’ possessions.
Tyler Huntley is an impressive player, and really does a lot of things well. He makes decisions quickly, is extremely elusive as a scrambler and understands two things particularly well: Mark Andrews is a reliable target, and Marquise Brown can get uncovered quickly. He missed Brown in the back of the end zone on the fated two-point conversion, but he was rolling to the right, so I don’t completely know what his vision was like at that time. He made some huge throws and runs, but he is a little late sometimes on those speed-outs, and he almost got burned a few times on that. Those become pick-sixes eventually.
If nothing else, Huntley showed once again that he is a viable NFL quarterback.
Running Backs: B
Latavius Murray looked as good as he has in a Ravens uniform, picking up 48 yards on seven very aggressive runs. Devonta Freeman added 22 yards, but had another one of those couldn’t-get-to-the-edge runs that netted no yards. These guys run hard. They just don’t have that juice to flip the field.
Andrews shared the title of “Best Player on the Field” with Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, grabbing two touchdowns amongst his 10 catches for 136 yards. Brown also caught 10 balls, but only for 43 yards, as he did a nice job picking up positive yards on first and second downs to keep the Ravens ahead on down and distance. James Proche had a nice first-down catch on a slant. While Rashod Bateman didn’t follow last week’s heroics with a similar performance, he did possibly break up an interception on a deep pass, and helped spring Huntley for a long fourth-quarter run down the sideline with a nice block.
Offensive Line: C+
It wasn’t perfect, and Huntley prevented a few possible sacks with his scrambling skills. But they did a nice job running up the interior (Ben Cleveland effect, before watching film?), and there weren’t some of the blatant assignment disasters we’ve seen in past games. I thought they played fairly well, against a formidable foe.
We knew the defensive backfield was going to be woefully overmatched this game, and they went and lost Tavon Young early. That didn’t help matters. Rodgers smoked them for most parts of the game. That happened. However… there is some stuff to really like about the Ravens front seven, and they definitely did some good stuff today.
Defensive Line: B
They were down Calais Campbell, which is a big loss — not just in terms of the group’s average height being shortened. Campbell is a penetrating, stout force, and the team is better with him on the field. But there is also a lot to get excited about with some of the young pieces here, like Justin Madubuike, who had a huge fourth-quarter series to help get the Ravens the ball back, down seven. He had a run stuff and a third-down sack to end that drive. Broderick Washington is a hustling ball of power, and has improved as this season has gone on.
Along with the defensive line, this unit has improved all year. They made some plays again today. Patrick Queen totaled 13 tackles, and was a physical force — outside of that play when he got abused by a 419-year-old Marcedes Lewis in the fourth quarter. Queen has become a “plus” player the second half of this season. Justin Houston continues to impress, and set a nice edge all day, along with combining with Tyus Bowser on a big sack. Josh Bynes got picked on on Aaron Jones’ touchdown reception, but also chased Rodgers out of bounds for a negligible sack.
Defensive Backs: D
I didn’t want to give them an “F,” because it wasn’t the absolute train wreck I had anticipated. Maybe that means this is on a curve. Rodgers threw for three touchdowns, and uncharacteristically missed a couple other easy throws. Kevon Seymour got beaten convincingly several times, and got called for a pass-interference, which probably shouldn’t have been flagged, to be fair. Robert Jackson also had a tough day, and got beat for a fourth-quarter touchdown. Anthony Averett did a nice job in coverage, but Rodgers was smart to target the others on the field. Geno Stone was active, but did get beat for a 30-plus yard catch in the second quarter. He also made a very nice tackle on Davante Adams late to help the Ravens get the ball back. Brandon Stephens had a physical performance, doing a good job tackling and breaking up a second-quarter, third-and-long pass.
Special Teams: B+
Sam Koch had a nice punt, Justin Tucker made a field goal and Devin Duvernay picked up a few yards you didn’t expect on kick returns, once again. They did a nice job on kick-return coverage all day, including a great play by Seymour on the opening kickoff of the second half, and an Anthony Levine stop in the fourth quarter. Tucker did have a great kickoff on that crazy spin that pinned the Packers back to their own 11.
This is a hard grade. I thought the staff had this team ready to rock, when most of the football-loving world had this thing as an absolute blowout. Greg Roman had a good plan, with easy short passes outside and tough runs by Murray up the middle kept the Ravens in reasonable third-down situations — they were 7-13 in those situations, and hit several big ones in their scoring drives. Wink Martindale showed restraint on the blitzes with his ragtag backfield, and really did about all that can be expected out there.
Now… the decisions.
- I didn’t like going for it on the opening drive from the 3. I get it. Depleted roster, scary Packers in town, etc. I just like getting the points there. From the 1? Go for it. The 3 is a tougher sell for me.
- Going for it on 4th and 5 from their own 30 with 12 minutes left, down 11? Didn’t love that one. But, again, I get it. Holding the Packers to a field goal kept them down two scores, so it wasn’t a killer.
- Going for the two-point conversion at the end? I loved it. I didn’t want to see Rodgers against this backfield in overtime. They were making big play after big play to get back in the game. I didn’t like rolling out and taking away half the field, but Brown was probably there for the conversion had Huntley seen it.