It has been my experience that players get over a tough loss far more efficiently than fans do. Fans can’t control the direction of the team – only the players and coaches can. That’s really no different than any organization. Whether the office is a place of business and commerce or the field at M&T Bank Stadium, employees/players learn from their mistakes and move forward, productively. At least that’s the plan!
The players took the time on Monday to flush out another heartbreaking loss, this time to the Bills. Before they turned their attention towards the Bengals in an all-important divisional showdown, they have to painstakingly pour through the breakdowns, both from a schematic and performance perspective and build upon it. There’s really no other choice. So, let’s spend a little time looking back one more time, check the box and then move on to Cincinnati.
2019 v. 2022
In Week 4 of the 2019 season, the (2-1) Ravens hosted the (1-2) Cleveland Browns. The Ravens were 7 ½ point favorites and most expected them to advance rather easily to a (3-1) record. It didn’t work out that way.
With 9:51 left in the game the Ravens closed the gap to six following a Lamar Jackson to Mark Andrews 8-yard scoring toss to make it 24-18 Browns. The stadium was wrought with excitement. Stealing victory from the jaws of defeat suddenly felt like a real possibility. But Browns RB Nick Chubb was having none of it. Just moments later, on a 1st-and-15 from the Cleveland 12 yard line, Chubb ripped off a power sweep right that went for a long distance house call – 88 yards. The stadium went into mute. A broken beer bottle in Fed Hill could be heard. The Browns would eventually stretch the lead to 40-18 before the Ravens tacked on a garbage time touchdown with 40 seconds left.
The loss was demoralizing, leaving the defense in shambles and seemingly with no answers. The secondary looked confused; the linebackers in disarray; the pass rush barely breathing. (Sound familiar?) The Ravens gave up 530 yards of offense to the underdog Browns, including an unheard of 193 yards on the ground.
The Ravens fell to (2-2) but they dusted off, did what they needed to do the next week in Pittsburgh to escape with a 26-23 win (although it was hardly pretty) and then proceeded to run the table for the balance of the season, finishing (14-2) on the heels of Lamar Jackson’s unanimous MVP season.
The Ravens have shown resiliency before. They can do it again.
Before Sunday’s game against the Bills, Lamar looked like he had rediscovered that 2019 MVP form. But against Leslie Frazier’s defense, he regressed and unfortunately, looked more like the quarterback who struggled in 2021 after the (8-3) start than the signal caller from 2019. He threw off his back foot too often; his passes weren’t always on time and he lacked decisiveness when running opportunities presented themselves.
Perhaps the conditions contributed; maybe the offensive line play factored in; maybe he just had an off day. All of the above? Whatever the case, Lamar needs to get back on track if the Ravens are going to have a chance against the Bengals. There’s little evidence that Mike Macdonald’s unit has done enough so far this campaign, to hold back Cincinnati’s powerful offense. The Ravens just might have to win a shootout on Sunday Night and to do so Lamar will have to be on point against the Bengals.
November 10, 2019: “HE IS HOUDINI”
Lamar Jackson went full video game mode against the Bengals🎮
He is +900 to win MVP this season. pic.twitter.com/qEGzIYgYWX
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) November 10, 2021
Desperate times call for desperate measures and towards the end of their game against the Bills, the Ravens were just that. And that’s why the Code Red was ordered – let the Bills score so that Lamar & Co. could get the ball back and try to tie the game and send it to overtime. But somehow Odafe Oweh didn’t get “the memo”.
Word is that the plan was to let Devin Singletary score but if the opportunity to strip the ball presented itself – TAKE IT! At least that’s the public spin. Calais Campbell’s reaction to Oweh’s tackle suggests a different story.
Here’s the play where the Ravens’ defense clearly wants Devin Singletary to walk into the end zone
Odafe Oweh comes over and goes for the punch-out, tackling him in the process pic.twitter.com/xtUKcEsyQO
— Kevin Oestreicher (@koestreicher34) October 2, 2022
Afterwards the Bills successfully milked the clock for the game-winning chip shot that would send Buffalo home as 23-20 winners. But check out this slow-mo replay of Oweh’s strip attempt. He nearly pulled it off.
Wow. Odafe Oweh really came this close to punching the ball out and causing a fumble on the Bills last possession. Video on his IG story. pic.twitter.com/ggQyh9havt
— Raven Up (@RavenUpPod) October 4, 2022
During his weekly Monday press conference, John Harbaugh addressed the decision to go for the touchdown from the Buffalo 2 yard line, late in the fourth quarter:
“You kick the field goal, you go up by three [points], four minutes left in the game, they get the ball back at the 25-yard line. They’re down, and they have an opportunity to go down the field and tie you, or to beat you with no time constraints, and they have an opportunity to extend every drive until they get in field goal range with four downs. There’s nothing less safe in the National Football League than a three-point lead, a four-point lead, a five-point lead or a six-point lead. That’s kind of been proven, and I trust our defense to get a stop with three points; I trust our defense to get a stop with three, seven or a tie game. Any one of those scenarios, I trust our defense to get the job done, and we were close to getting off the field, especially on that third down. So, we can do it that way, but the options were, now we’re in a situation where, if we score – and we’re right down there to score, we’re moving the football – now it’s a seven-point lead. Instead of putting them on the 25-yard line in a four-possession game with a field goal 75 yards away from the end zone, it’s a seven-point lead. I think we have a better chance of defending that; it’s better for our defense to have a seven-point lead in that situation.”
I get the analytics. I get the decision. Not crazy about the play call but the replay shows the play was there, Devin Duvernay was open, but just as he had throughout the game, Lamar hesitated and was late with the football as evidenced below.
That said, if John really does trust his defense as he claims, why not take the 3 points?
On John Harbaugh's decision to go for it, the #Ravens had a man 𝐰𝐢𝐝𝐞 𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐧
— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) October 3, 2022
On To The Bengals
The Ravens opened as 3 ½ point home favorites against the Bengals. The line has already tumbled to 3 points, probably persuaded by Cincinnati’s dominance in 2021 when they beat the Ravens twice by the combined score of 82-38 including a 41-17 pasting at M&T Bank Stadium.
Bengals QB Joe Burrow threw for 941 yards in the two contests with 7 TD’s and 1 INT. Looking back, on October 24, 2021 the Ravens were 6 ½ point home favorites over the Bengals. By December 26th, they were 7-point road dogs. Just goes to show you how a season can change. Have the Ravens done enough this offseason to temper Burrow’s 2021 passer rating of 131.1 against them?
We shall see…
The Ravens are currently tied atop the AFC North with the Bengals and Browns, all at (2-2). A Ravens win combined with a Cleveland loss to the visiting Chargers would place Baltimore in sole possession of first place. And let’s keep in mind that winning the division is the first goal of any team. What happens after that is open for the taking.
We only need to look back at the 2000 and 2012 seasons for proof.
What a Hit!
If only the highly entertaining Kevin Harlan was around to make the call on Curtis’ hit. However he was on hand for Wagner’s takedown last night. Take a look and have a great day Flockers!
THE TRADITION IS BACK! Idiot On The Field, as called by Kevin Harlan: pic.twitter.com/5oRvHo0qTJ
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) October 4, 2022