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Ravens lose to Rams
Original Photo Credit: Shawn Hubbard, Baltimore Ravens
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Reading Time: 7 minutes

20-19 Loss Crushes Ravens Playoff Hopes

The Ravens dropped yet another heartbreaker, this time to the Los Angeles Rams by the score of 20-19. It’s the fourth loss during the current five-game losing streak (the longest of the Harbaugh era) that was decided on the game’s last possession – 4 losses by a total of five points. This devastating second half skid that has cost the team the 2021 season, is in ways the inverse of the first half, during which the Ravens were able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against opponents like the Chiefs, Lions, Colts, Vikings and Bears.

In the end, when it has mattered most, the Ravens have come up short. Failed two-point conversions against the Steelers, Browns and Packers led to losses, and this time around against the Rams, their goal-to-go failures did them in.

Some might argue that the team showed great heart and extreme character throughout the campaign, particularly in light of the massive number of injuries and the severe effects of COVID. And to a large extent, that’s true. But such moral victories never manifested themselves as wins down the homestretch. And now, the team has to beat the Steelers at The Bank on Sunday, a game that is likely Ben Roethlisberger’s last, and hope for a miracle – one that would be answered if:

• The Browns lose one more game, either tonight vs. Pittsburgh or next week vs. the Cincinnati Bengals
• Jacksonville Jaguars to beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 18
• New England Patriots to beat (or tie) the Miami Dolphins in Week 18
• Las Vegas Raiders to beat the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 18

The Maryland State Lottery might provide better odds than the unlikely parlay above.

Now, let’s get to the Good, Bad & Ugly. I apologize for the delay…

THE GOOD

Tyler Huntley made a few plays to keep the Ravens in the game. His elusiveness was essential to the Ravens cause given the way the Rams defensive front destroyed the Ravens O-line. He finished the game with 197 yards passing and 54 on the ground, courtesy of some nifty footwork…Devonta Freeman ran hard. What he lacks in explosiveness he makes up for with effort. He had 76 yards on 14 carries including a 32-yard burst off left tackle during which Alejandro Villanueva set the edge nicely…Mark Andrews added another 89 yards on 6 catches to boost his seasonal totals to 99 catches, 1,276 yards and 9 scores. It should have been much more…Rashod Bateman presents well and regularly finds ways to get open. He had 7 catches for 58 yards.

Calais Campbell did a nice job defending the run contributing 4 tackles…Brandon Williams had a key tackle for loss (-2 yards) at the 4:17 mark of the third quarter to force a third-and-three. On the ensuing play Brandon Stephens made a textbook tackle to drop Tyler Higbee short of the sticks to force a punt and help preserve the Ravens 16-7 lead…Tyus Bowser combined power, quickness and awareness on the strip sack of Stafford, recovered by Justin Houston. It occurred on a first-and-10 from the Ravens 11, beating Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein.

Tony Jefferson is certainly making his case to return to the club in 2022, perhaps as a key special teams player and in situational sub-packages. (Maybe assume the roster spot of Anthony Levine, Sr.) Tony’s on-the-fly adjustment on the gadget two-point conversion attempt to drop Sony Michel, was an outstanding effort and arguably the second-best individual defensive play on the day…A few plays earlier Jimmy Smith contributed by dropping Michel for a 4-yard loss on a play that was strung out by Campbell and Houston. Unfortunately the Rams converted a fourth-and-5 on the next play…Jaylon Ferguson knifed through the Rams backfield a couple of times to disrupt Michel’s efforts.

Justin Tucker was 4 for 4 on FGAs while Sam Koch pinned the Rams twice, once at the 4 and a second time at the 8. His third punt went for 61 yards.

THE BAD

The Ravens were 4 of 14 on third down attempts (28.6%) against a team that ranked 20th in the league (40.5%) coming into the game…Marquise Brown left his QB out to dry on what looked like an ad-libbed post-corner route that Brown ultimately turned upfield. The result was an interception…Huntley left some plays on the field, one of which occurred during the communication breakdown between Brown and Huntley leading to the INT. Andrews, as you can see in the video below, was left alone. An easy big gainer was there for the taking and at least a 13-0 lead going into halftime. Instead the pick led to a Rams TD and a 10-7 game. Huntley also made a couple other mental errors that were costly. He had an opportunity to run for an easy first down but his indecisiveness resulted in a short-hopped third-down throw to Brown. His inability to get the snap off on time at the 5:19 mark of the 4th on a third-and-goal from the 4 with the Ravens leading 16-14 was very costly. Huntley was sacked on the succeeding play and the field goal unit went onto the field.

At the contest’s 1:08 mark the Rams were down to their last play – a fourth-and-5 from the Ravens 12 yard line. Matthew Stafford connected with Odell Beckham, Jr., beating Tavon Young. Young’s coverage was fairly tight but the ball and receiver were perfectly positioned. Beckham made a strong catch to convert the first down. These are the plays the Ravens have failed to win during their 5-game skid…Patrick Queen had strung together a series of really good games since Josh Bynes was inserted into the lineup beside him. That streak came to a crashing halt against the Rams. Queen was torched on the Kupp TD and was caught up in the rinse cycle far too often. Queen was on the field for 43 snaps and was credited with just one tackle.

THE UGLY

From the early days of training camp in late July right up through yesterday, the team’s Achilles Heel has been the offensive line. From mind-blowing, inexplicable motion penalties like that of Villanueva while facing a second-and-3 from the Ravens 20, leading 16-7, to blown assignments from Ben Cleveland to a shortage of athleticism at right tackle, Joe D’Alessandris unit has been a mess all season. Making matters worse, center Bradley Bozeman called in sick forcing reserve Trystan Colon to take on the likes of Aaron Donald. Huntley rarely had time to set and throw and the pressure practically eliminated any hope of the Ravens taking some shots downfield.

Huntley was sacked 5 times, raising the Ravens QB sacks allowed total for the season to 54. Their franchise record is 56 (1999) when their signal-callers were all statuesque: Tony Banks, Stoney Case and Scott Mitchell. You’d have to think that Lamar Jackson and Huntley have bailed the Ravens O-line out of two sacks/game. That’s simply ineptness on display.

Cleveland’s confusion led to an easy hurry for Donald who forced Huntley to throw off-balance, missing a wide open Duvernay. If either this missed goal-to-go opportunity or the fourth-quarter goal-to-goal opportunity were converted, the Ravens playoff chances are dramatically better. Kevin Zeitler had one of his worst games as a Raven. His failures contributed to two sacks. Mekari just doesn’t have the athleticism to stay with the likes of Von Miller, particularly if his QB takes a 5+ step drop.

COACHING

John Harbaugh didn’t have his best day along the sideline. At least twice prior to being flagged for a delay of game, Huntley & Co. came close. The most notable of which was during a second-and-goal from the Rams 2 that went for a two-yard loss. Maybe Huntley got a little twitchy when he saw the Rams selling out to the run – but ran the play anyway, unsuccessfully, for a 2-yard loss. When the same pre-snap symptoms reared their ugly heads on the very next play, Harbaugh should have been sprinting down the sideline to call the timeout for his young quarterback. Maybe Harbs did attempt that sprint but pulled a hamstring.

I also wasn’t keen on Harbaugh’s use of timeouts during the Rams last possession. He let the Rams burn the clock from 1:59 to 1:20 seconds after the Rams second-and-2 from the Ravens 9 produced just 1 yard. Eventually the Ravens stopped the clock at the 1:08 mark. That’s a lot of wasted clock to save a timeout. The Rams were crushing the Ravens O-line in pass pro situations and deep shots down the field weren’t going to happen once the Ravens got the ball back in a need-to-score situation. The clock would have helped them matriculate the ball down the field to set up their future Hall of Fame kicker for the game winner.

Greg Roman didn’t put his mobile quarterback in position to succeed. The Ravens failed to use boots or waggles to help an overmatched offensive line. The Ravens ran a great RPO that Huntley sold extremely well and as a result he had the choice of two receivers open deep. He took Andrews for the 33-yard gain although he had Brown on a post as well. Why they didn’t come back to the play was a mystery. Roman’s play calling in the red zone was weak, particularly late in the fourth. The Ravens had the Rams defense gassed and it showed. THAT was the opportune time to move the pocket and keep the tired linemen on the run. Instead he ran Latavius Murray on seven consecutive plays. When the Rams loaded the box to stop the last one, the Ravens apparently had no check off installed. The Ravens had a chance to take a two-score lead late in the game and blew it. The play design and calls were big contributors…Also, put me down for Roman/D’Alessandris’ collective decision to not regularly assign more bodies to the Rams game wrecker, No. 99…And that last play of desperation, just blow that thing up, NOW! Why not mass-protect, take a deep shot down the sideline and hope for a DPI. The game can’t end on a defensive penalty. Waiting and ready was No. 9.

I’m not sure who influenced the decision to not dress James Proche, a player who knows where to find the soft spots in coverage to keep the chains moving, an ideal weapon against a fast pass rushing team, but in the collective wisdom of Roman and Harbaugh, the Ravens opted instead to dress Sammy Watkins (14 snaps, 0 targets) and Ty’Son Williams, the poster child of Harbs’ 2021 doghouse. His incredible 6 snaps on special teams produced absolutely nothing…Wink Martindale called a solid game, particularly when you consider the patchwork secondary he had to play with against a formidable passing offense. That said, his lack of attention to Kupp in critical situations just didn’t make any sense. Queen on Kupp in the red zone? That’s akin to putting Muggsy Bogues on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and asking Muggs to stop Kareem’s sky hook.

THE MEGAN FOX AWARD

Chuck Clark got the Ravens going with a well-timed pick-6 to put them up 7-0 when Stafford tried to connect with Higbee. Clark also picked off an ill-advised pass from Stafford into triple coverage, although for the Rams it equated to a well-placed punt. For his efforts Clark received a free enema from Beckham. I guess that’s what it means to get rammed. Later in the game Clark combined with Josh Bynes to take down Michel who needed 2 yards for a first from the Ravens 9. Thanks in part to Chuck, Sony got only one.

Clark’s efforts should have been rewarded with a win. But that’s how it goes these days for the Ravens.

 

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