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GOOD, BAD & UGLY: Ugly Win, Still a Win

Ravens win ugly
Photo Credit: Phil Hoffmann, Baltimore Ravens
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I’ve been told that my style of writing aligns with the teaching moments of a coach. Translated, when a team or player does well, I tend to focus on the negative, the mistakes and ways to improve. When the team fails, I focus on the positive aspects of a loss as way to encourage and grow. Today, my approach will be no different.

The Ravens won. That’s great news as they retain top dog status in the AFC North. But there’s still a lot to sort out, particularly if this team plans to compete with the likes of the Bills and Chiefs by the time January rolls around.

Yet it’s important to remember that an NFL season is a journey consisting of ebbs and flows, twists and turns. Even the best regular seasons in team history, included games won that weren’t exactly picturesque. But when the end of a regular season draws near and we ponder how the playoff scenarios will shake out, winning games like yesterday’s, particularly a divisional game, can’t be taken lightly. How a team wins in October, when we look back in early winter isn’t all that important. Only the W is.

The Ravens now find themselves with a (4-3) record and a (2-0) start in divisional games. A loss yesterday, another with yet another double-digit lead to a then (2-4) team, could have been devastating. Thankfully, although it was close, that didn’t happen.

Let’s get to it…

THE GOOD

Lamar Jackson ran well and converted a few key third-downs with his legs. He averaged 5.9 yards on his ten carries. He also protected the football despite frequent pressure during his 19 drop-backs…The return of Gus Edwards was far more significant than most had anticipated. He wasn’t spoon fed. He jumped in head first. Gus’ great footwork inside the tackles was on display despite any potential accumulated rustiness that may have set in during his 644 days between games. Gus had 66 yards (44 after contact) on 16 carries including two scores.

Side Note: Browns’ safety John Johnson signed a three-year, $33.75 million deal with the Browns in 2021. His “effort” above has all the markings of “a business decision”.

Justice Hill was effective when called on to spell Edwards but his fumble during a crucial moment of the game (Q4, 3:20) with the Ravens driving and holding on to a 23-20 lead was a near deadly mistake…Kevin Zeitler, Tyler Linderbaum and Ben Powers were productive contributors to the running game…Nicely designed play from Greg Roman on a critical fourth down, featuring a solid block from the inspired Hill to seal a running lane. Good ball skills from Mark Andrews as well. Oh, and that stiff-arm from LJ… The Ravens were 8 of 9 on third and fourth down from 3 yards or less.

Calais Campbell was a disruptor across the defensive front. Knifing in to redirect Browns ball carriers and his strip sack of Jacoby Brissett during Cleveland’s first possession of the 3rd quarter was a huge momentum shifter after the Ravens opened the second half with a 3 play drive that took 1:37 to produce a whopping negative 19 yards…Justin Houston looked like he watched the movie Cocoon during his down time and discovered the fountain of youth. He had two sacks and a couple other pressures…Odafe Oweh had 5 pressures but he struggles to finish. To his credit he dove on the loose ball following Campbell’s strip-sack instead of trying to scoop it and risk losing the turnover. No one can question is energy or hustle on the field. That said, Outside LB Coach Rob Leonard should put this video clip below on replay for Oweh. He needs to learn how to set up opponents and create a few moves to disengage. The athleticism is clearly there.

Special teams were outstanding! Justin Tucker was perfect on his attempts from 32, 34 and 55 yards, the last of which was his 62nd consecutive FGA made in the fourth quarter or later.

For anyone who watched Jordan Stout during training camp, yesterday was the day we all knew was coming. Down 10-3, the Ravens were forced to punt from their own 25 after a 3-play drive that produced zero yards – nada! Stout hit a 69-yard missile to the Cleveland 6 yard line where it was returned to the 12 by Donovan Peoples-Jones. The punt flipped the field and after a very successful three-and-out defensive stand, the Browns were forced to punt from their own 8. That punt was returned by Devin Duvernay forty-six yards to the Cleveland 21. Duvernay’s patience on the return really helped to set up his blockers. Stout also hit punts for 62 and 50 yards, the last of which was nearly a beauty to pin the Browns inside the 2 if not for a heads up play by Peoples-Jones to knock gunner Kevon Seymour on his back before he could down the well-placed punt.

The Bad

Without the benefit of the All-22, which wasn’t yet available at the time of this writing, Lamar held the ball far too long and once again looked indecisive. In the past, when plays weren’t developing downfield, Lamar would take off. Not 2022 Lamar. Perhaps that contract or lack thereof looms large. The Ravens had a nice screen set up (not a misprint) to Kenyan Drake. If Lamar had delivered it properly, the play would have resulted in a house-call from the Browns 16. The Ravens had to settle for a field goal…Drake had just 5 more rushing yards than I did but, in my defense, he also had 11 more carries than me…I get that Rashod Bateman is coming off an injury, but there’s no excuse for him dropping and easy toss from Lamar Jackson in the fourth quarter just before Tucker’s 55-yarder. Like death and taxes, a drop from Bateman per game is a near certainty…James Proche was the retaliator in a skirmish on the field late in the 3rd during a 19-yard screen to Patrick Ricard. His unsportsmanlike conduct foul cost the Ravens all but four of those yards. It’s things like that, that will keep Proche as an afterthought on offense…Morgan Moses versus a speed rusher is a bruise waiting to happen for Lamar. Might Pat Mekari be a better option now that Stanley is back?

The Browns were targeting Marcus Peters and they found some success on 9 routes to his side. The veteran CB was NOT the beneficiary of over-the-top help as the Ravens’ safeties were at times late to the ball, particularly Geno StoneChuck Clark had 9 tackles to his credit but he and Kyle Hamilton disappear more often than my socks. Hamilton whiffed once as a run blitzer and then on another occasion he blitzed again in a passing situation and hung around the line of scrimmage like he was waiting for his turn at the deli counter. Marcus Williams can’t return soon enough.

The Ugly

The Ravens offensive line was being beaten like a drum in pass pro and that’s why the creatively challenged Greg Roman opted to run the ball 44 times out of the 63 offensive snaps the team had against the Browns. More on the play calling in a moment…Jacoby Brissett was 22 of 27 for 258 yards for a passer rating of 106.5. In his three previous starts Brissett ratings were 54.5, 79.3 and 68. And this was during a game in which the Ravens did get after the quarterback, registering a season-high five sacks and a total of 19 pressures. That’s an indictment on the team’s coverage or lack thereof.

The Browns opening drive was as surgical as a Joe Montana-led first possession from the 80’s: 11 plays, 75 yards, 6:37, TD, only it was Jacoby Brissett, not Joe Cool…Kevin Stefanski should be given a Ravens game ball for not calling Nick Chubb’s number more often. Chubb had 91 yards on 16 carries, many of those yards coming after contact. He b-slapped Ravens defenders around. Tackling was atrocious, especially when Chubb toted the rock… Once again, the Ravens failed to put away a team despite a double-digit lead.

 

What has happened to the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium? Is it the Ravens style of play? Their inability to put games away? Less expensive and more convenient ways to watch? Unruly fans? Crime in the downtown area? All of the above? Whatever the case, this (below) is a problem!

Now, on to Greg Roman and his offense.

Let’s start with a few facts. The Browns were 23rd in the league in yards/game allowed (361.3) coming into the game and the Ravens finished with 254. The Browns were 30th in the league in points allowed (27.2) and the Ravens had 23. Last week Patriots rookie backup QB Bailey Zappe threw for 309 yards and two scores against Cleveland while Lamar was 9 of 16 for 120 yards. Sixteen passes!

Down 10-3 and after Duvernay’s return gave the Ravens offense a start from the Cleveland 21 the balance of the series went like this:

• 1-10-CLV 21 (11:43) G.Edwards right tackle to CLV 16 for 5 yards
• 2-5-CLV 16 (10:58) (Shotgun) G.Edwards right tackle to CLV 16 for no gain
• 3-5-CLV 16 (10:12) (Shotgun) L.Jackson pass incomplete short middle to K.Drake
• 4-5-CLV 16 (10:09) J.Tucker 34 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-N.Moore, Holder-J.Stout.

On the team’s previous first quarter possession, the Ravens faced a third and 3 from the Browns 14. The play call? Lamar rolls to his left and overthrows his only option on the play – Mark Andrews. Incomplete. Kick the field goal. Why limit Lamar’s options? And if you want to roll him, go right and serve up more targets heading in his direction. Rolling left forces a right-handed QB to square up to the LOS. That takes a little more time and it limits options…And speaking of Andrews, how does an All-World TE get shut out? How do you not get the ball in his hands? If the Browns were deploying extra resources to take Andrews out of the game then someone else has to be open, right? Call plays for Bateman or Duvernay or Isaiah Likely. By the way, how does Roman opt to send Ricard onto the field 56 times and Likely just 7 times? Someone help me with that. Oh, and why don’t the Ravens spread things out sometimes? Do they not trust the O-Line? I can only recall a handful of plays when there was 1 RB and 1 TE.

I get that the Browns D-line was manhandling the Ravens offensive front when Lamar dropped back, so do something to slow them down. G-Ro has the most mobile QB in the history of the game yet there are no designed boots (other than the train wreck described above) or waggles or QB draws or draws to the backs. They did use a screen three times. Once to Ricard (19 yards), once to Duvernay (11 yards) and once to Drake that was aborted by a bad throw. Why not use more screens to calm down the rush?

How many times are we going to see Ricard in motion – motion that only serves to tip the play or nearly hits the motion guy? Did you see Ricard play a little dodge ball? How often are they going to wind the play clock down to zero, a clear green light for pass rushers?

Two seasons ago when talk of a new Lamar Jackson contract began to surface, I wrote that the Ravens need to improve their offensive line and to separate Lamar from Roman in order to really see what they have with Lamar. If Lamar’s inconsistencies continue after the improvements and changes, then at least the picture becomes clearer. Yet Roman remains and so do the inconsistencies and questions about Lamar’s worth. It’s a frustrating conundrum. The Ravens have this very unique talent in Lamar but they fail to unleash that uncommon skill set.

Let’s give Roman credit for designing a great running game. He’s proven that in Baltimore and elsewhere. But maybe he should hand the play calling duties over to someone else. This offense is just stuck in the mud, with all due respect to the mud.

The Margot Robbie

Patrick Queen has been the target of much criticism since his arrival in Baltimore. But over the past three games, he has discovered a new level of play, a consistent level of play that even his biggest detractors (and I’ve been one) can’t deny. Credit Mike Macdonald for employing Queen in a manner that gets the most from his 23-year-old talents. Yesterday Queen chalked up 11 tackles, completely took over one series of downs with the Ravens trailing 10-3, and he added a sack, 3 tackles for loss and a QB hurry during which he adeptly side-stepped Brissett to eliminate the possibility of a roughing the passer call.

Parting Shots

The Penalty

And as we get ready to turn our sights towards Tampa where the Ravens are currently listed as 1-point favorites…

Yesterday’s win wasn’t pretty but style points don’t count in the NFL. Learn your lessons, get better, prepare harder, get the dub, move on to the next.

Embrace the grind…

9 Responses

  1. Thanks, Tony. I was thinking those same thoughts last night about designed (and delayed) boots on LJ’s part. It’d slow down the pass rush, and make the spy stay honest instead of becoming a fifth rusher. We are now more than 3 years into this experiment with Lamar, and why are we still spinning our tires as an offense.

  2. I’m not so sure that the problem with the offense is all Roman! This is Harbaugh’s team and his system and the only time it changed since his arrival here is when Flacco was literally on his own during the spectacular SB run and when Gary Kubiak was brought here in 2014 without consulting Harbaugh, brought his own assistants and answered to no one! Flacco had his most productive season of his career that year! And, Kubiak won a SB in Denver the following year! So, Cameron, Caldwell, Trestman, Mornihinweg, and Roman were all Harbaugh hires and all ran his system and all answered to him! Just saying’………

    1. I think Biscuit and EDC and even Lamar would like to see what LJ and the offense can do with a different play caller before they have to make a significant offseason contract decision. The time to do that is the BYE. If they wait, and we flame out in the playoffs (or fail to get there), it won’t just be an OC that could be shown the door this offseason.

      If we don’t make a change at OC until the offseason, I’d like to see Lamar in a Shanny/Kubiak system. Heavy on zone blocking, simplified play action pass reads to half the field at a time, and plenty of bootleg opportunities for the QB. It’s a system that makes average guys look very good (Flacco, Tua, Garrapolo). It could make Lamar look great.

  3. Addendum: remember the reason Marquise Brown wanted to leave the Ravens was their offensive..…..SYSTEM! It’s the same reason good WRs don’t want to play here…..

    1. so wrong.. Davante Adams left Aaron Rodgers because Vegas has a much better QB and he is killing it in Vegas. No one wants to be a WR with the horrible passer Rodgers and Packers system and left for Carr a much better QB.

      Want to try again?

  4. Weren’t Oweh and MicahParsons teammates at P-State?? Maybe MP could show Oweh a few moves!!

    Why does the O-line seem to always be over-run?

    This is a mediocre team in a mediocre NFL. All the remaining games that seem like a likely win – think again.

  5. good man tony…..queen (and to a lesser extent harrison) deserve some credit when they make impact plays….both did….and deserve some recognition(both have been savaged by spoiled fans here around town)….

    and as i wrote in the latest injury/practice report,i think andrews has a legit injury….he doesn`t go entire games vs mediocre defenses without making a few grabs….the team used him as a decoy sunday…the guy`s a gamer…

  6. The offense is far too predictable. Alignment and motion are tipping the plays to the defense. On the running plays, we have had enough beef at the point of attack to work through the smallest defense in the NFL. Pass plays are a totally different story. Defenses aren’t buying play action like they should, the line gets overwhelmed, and the route concepts are predictable and without a check down option for Lamar. As he gets hit in the pocket, he reverts to holding the ball and trying to find Andrews deep. His many sacks were perhaps better than ill-advised throws into traffic. The architecture of the offense is still sound, but needs tweaks and a new play caller ASAP

    The defense played really well except for 2 blown coverages to Cooper and DPJ on the outside. They were going to stay in zone and allow shorter stuff so they could keep eyes on Chubb. They contained Chubb all game aside from the one drive in the 4th quarter where he went off. We never adjusted.

    We still haven’t changed the narrative that we aren’t a 4th quarter team. Until and unless we do, we won’t win playoff games.

Comments are closed.

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