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Huntley and Andrews Nearly Complete the Comeback

Tyler Huntley TD Run Packers
Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens
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Happy Holidays Ravens flock! While Sunday’s home encounter against the Green Bay Packers ultimately didn’t result in a victory, the vibe in its aftermath is much less tense than that of the prior losses to Pittsburgh and Cleveland. In a game that nobody expected the Ravens to even stay competitive in (myself included), they took the reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers and the NFC’s #1 seed to the absolute brink. Sure, the division may be tighter than my belt will be on Saturday after Christmas dinner, but we now know with certainty that whether it’s Lamar Jackson or Tyler Huntley under center, the Ravens can still hang with the best teams in this league. There was a lot to like on the offensive side of the ball on Sunday, along with some questionable coaching decisions that will be added to the list of moments we put under a microscope when this season comes to a close.

Before we officially set our sights on the Cincinnati Bengals and the most “must-win” game of the year, let’s take a quick look back on the five most important offensive plays from Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

Failed 4th-Down Conversion on Opening Drive

The Ravens opened the game by methodically driving down field, while grinding away half of the first quarter in the process. In a game where dominating the time of possession was key, they couldn’t have asked for a better start. After successfully converting a 4th-and-1 moments prior, the Ravens were again faced with the decision of whether or not to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the three, a decision that we’ve come to know isn’t much of a decision at all with John Harbaugh. Unfortunately the gamble didn’t pay off, as the offense wasn’t able to convert.

The play call wasn’t bad, but the decision to not take the points that early is one that again came back to bite the Ravens late. Had the offensive line held up for one more second, Huntley would’ve had time to see Mark Andrews coming free and hit him for the score. Marquise Brown also had a slight moment of separation from Eric Stokes that Huntley could’ve fit the ball into. Heck, Huntley probably could’ve just ran it in himself had he seen the open running lane to the left following the initial pass rush. John Harbaugh being aggressive has won the Ravens a lot of ball games over the last three seasons, and against Green Bay you’re likely not going to win kicking only field goals, but you have to wonder how that extra three points would’ve changed the final outcome (however, let’s remember that Green Bay went three-and-out after the turnover on downs, leading to our next play…)

Andrews Eight-Yard TD

Following that opening possession, the Ravens defense made a surprising opening drive stop of their own to give the offense another chance at drawing first blood. After again driving right down field on the Packers, the offense lined up for 2nd-and-6 from the Green Bay eight-yard line with three tight ends on the field. Andrews and Nick Boyle were on the line of scrimmage to the right, Eric Tomlinson as the left wing, with Devin Duvernay in the slot and Rashod Bateman out wide.

Huntley takes the snap and scrambles right to avoid the pressure from Rashan Gary, and on one foot throws a beautiful ball to the diving Andrews in the end zone, in an area where only he would have a play on it. After failing to strike first on the opening drive, the Ravens were hell bent on not continuing their early game woes on the scoreboard. Two impressive opening drives had them feeling like maybe they could make this a game, and that’s exactly what they would do. Andrews was crucial all day long for the offense, and at this point you’d be hard pressed to say he isn’t the best tight end in football in 2021.

[Related: In Appreciation of Mark Andrews]

Huntley Rushing TD #1

Let’s fast forward to the 4th quarter, where the Ravens found themselves down 14 points with just over eight minutes to go. At this point it felt very much as if the game was over, as the Packers offense was humming and the defense had held the Ravens to a mere three points following Andrews’ two first half touchdowns. It was going to take a miracle for the Ravens to come back, and then Tyler Huntley said, “watch this.”

He once again found some of that first half magic, and this time was a little more open to using his legs to make big plays. A few times early in the game he either missed or ignored open running lanes that could’ve led to positive yardage, but at this point he was willing to take whatever he could get. On the touchdown, he went through his reads and wasn’t able to find a man open, and rather than forcing something into the end zone he took advantage of Green Bay only rushing three and scurried past them to the left. With linebacker Krys Barnes being the only one in the area for Green Bay, it was all but a walk-in for Huntley.

Should he have to start again on Sunday, it would be smart for him to bump those 13 carries we saw on Sunday somewhere into the 16-19 range.

Huntley Rushing TD #2

To say that Huntley was clutch at the end of this game would be like saying “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was ” just a good movie.” After another impressive drive down field thanks largely in part to him and Andrews, they lined up for 2nd-and-7 from the Green Bay eight with 47 seconds left to play. Huntley takes the snap and watches as the entire middle of the field parts like the Red Sea.

Initially it appeared that the Packers just brought all of their pressure from the outside in an attempt to prevent Huntley from scrambling to buy time, but in reality this was just an equally awesome play by the offensive line. Bradley Bozeman and Ben Cleveland both did an incredible job of washing down the interior defenders, which left nothing but green grass ahead of Huntley to sprint in for what could’ve been the game winning score. In a year where the offensive line has been a revolving door, Bozeman has been one of the few mainstays that’s been able to consistently hold things down and play well. Cleveland has had an up and down year, and there’s still much to improve, but it appears as if the starting left guard spot will be his going forward.

Failed Two-Point Conversion

The first failed conversion we discussed here two weeks ago was a case of “bad decision, good call,” and this was the polar opposite. Like the last two weeks, John Harbaugh again trusted his offense to convert one two-yard play more than he did the prospects of going to overtime with a banged up defense. It’s hard to disagree with that decision when looking at who the Ravens had in the secondary, and that’s only amplified x10 when Rodgers is the quarterback on the other sideline. Huntley had just driven down field twice and scored, momentum was on their side, and as we saw in the aftermath the players also supported that decision. The play call however, left a bit to be desired.

The call was a designed rollout to the right, with Andrews being the only pass catcher on that side of the field. Essentially, even if Huntley had wanted to go to his #2 option on the play (Marquise Brown, who was open coming across the field), he would’ve had to make a perfect toss on the run. Huntley had been carving up the field with his legs AND arm for the entire two drives prior. To call a play that cuts off half the field, doesn’t utilize his rushing ability as an option, and really only gives him one read (to the player who we know the defense would be keying in on), is a definite head-scratcher.

No matter how this season shakes out, when the front office is evaluating Greg Roman’s future with the team, the last three weeks of failed conversions to end the game will have to be a major determining factor.

Wrap-Up

We already knew this Ravens team had mountains of heart with all of the injuries they’ve dealt with this year, but they took that to another level against the Packers on Sunday. Moral victories are a rarity when we’re talking about December football, but this was as damn close to one as you’ll find considering all of the circumstances. The room for error is now gone though, every game matters and Sunday’s face-off with the Bengals could very well determine the winner of the division when the season ends in a few short weeks. Will we be gushing about a clutch victory at this time next week? Or will we again be discussing offensive woes along with dropping even further in the playoff standings? Only time will tell.

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