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Good, Bad, & Ugly: Here’s to You, Mr. Robinson

Robinson against Panthers
Phil Hoffmann/Baltimore Ravens
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Well…they survived. On a bitter cold Sunday afternoon in Baltimore, the Ravens were able to eke out a narrow victory against the Carolina Panthers, in a game that may have taken far more than it gave despite the win.

There were undoubtedly some major positives to take away, on one side of the ball far more than the other, but this is about as bad as you can feel about a win, all things considered.

We won’t waste any more time; let’s get into this week’s good, bad, and ugly.

THE GOOD

SHADES OF THE GLORY DAYS

The Ravens defense had an absolutely immaculate performance on Sunday, in every facet of the game. It began right from the opening drive, when Baker Mayfield seemingly had happy feet on every drop-back thanks to the Ravens pass rush. Patrick Queen in particular had an incredibly strong opening to the game, recording a sack on the opening drive and making a tackle for loss on the following one. He wouldn’t stop there though, en route to 12 total tackles, good enough to lead the team.

Is it possible that the acquisition of Roquan Smith was the final key to unlocking Queen’s full potential? With the way he’s been flying around the last few weeks, that may just be the case.

Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters also continued to rekindle some of that 2019 turnover magic, with Humphrey recovering a Peters forced fumble in the fourth quarter and following it up with a game-sealing interception. Given the other circumstances that transpired on Sunday in the injury department, turnovers and extra offensive possessions are going to be even that much more essential for the Ravens going forward, so seeing these two continuing to get their mojo back is a much needed relief from an otherwise rough afternoon.

Even the big fellas got in on the turnover fun, when Broderick Washington batted a ball right into the arms of Jason Pierre-Paul on the Panthers final drive of the day.

When all was said and done, the Panthers would only accumulate 205 total yards in the game and were a mere 3-for-12 on third down.

An old school Ravens performance if ever there was one.

RETURN OF THE MAN

We’ll just touch briefly on the sole bit of good injury news the Ravens had on Sunday. Mark Andrews was questionable all week to play in this game, and on late Saturday was announced to be a go. The question could have stood to be asked whether or not it would’ve been smart to hold him out for one more week given the quality of opponent (LOL), but his presence on Sunday was sorely needed and his six catches were crucial to the Ravens winning this game. He should only continue to get more and more healthy from here, which is likely the only prayer the Ravens have of keeping up with the AFC’s best offensively down the stretch.

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THE BAD

Greg Roman in booth

GREGYL AND HYDE

Greg Roman is undoubtedly the biggest recipient of criticism in the entire Ravens franchise, and has been for at least two years now. I’ve always been the first to say that a lot of times said criticism is a little harsh, but one thing that even his biggest supporters can’t deny is his inconsistency in the play calling department.

Was it all on him against the Panthers? Of course not, but a coach’s job is to put his players in the best position to succeed on the field, and his predictable running of the offense did not do that in this game. To be fair, the first drive was marred with drops and an ineligible man downfield penalty, but that’s about as much leeway as he gets.

For starters, the reliance on screens as the sole means of beating pressure has been stagnant if nothing else. Going all the way back to Miami last year, his answer to teams bringing heavy pressure has been non-creative and easily diagnosable. Even late in the game they continued to go to them, despite having zero success in doing so all afternoon prior.

The blocking schemes also left a lot to be desired, most notably on a third-down play late in the third quarter where the Panthers would clearly be bringing pressure to knock the Ravens out of field goal range. He left Morgan Moses all by himself on an island to pick up two pass rushers, one of which was Brian Burns. Burns delivered a crushing blow to Lamar Jackson, who rolled up Ronnie Stanley‘s ankle in the process. That one mistake in judgement could prove to be the most costly mistake of the season.

The rushing attack also suffered from this same ailment for the majority of the afternoon, only finally gaining some footing in the fourth quarter once again thanks to a late burst from Kenyan Drake. They finished the first quarter with -2 rushing yards, and it was far from due to a lack of trying. The rushing game is something you have to establish of course, it rarely just dominates from the jump, but for a team like the Ravens who have molded their identity around running the football, it just hasn’t been good enough. Early in games has been a struggle, and it has to be fixed.

Again, the players don’t get off scot-free here, but it all starts with Roman.

And where has the Devin Duvernay involvement gone? Don’t get me wrong, I know in a lot of cases the receivers that many people clamor for don’t get the extra work because they don’t deserve it, but Duvernay has shown nothing but improvement with increased touches this year. Despite that, over the last two weeks he’s been nowhere in sight. In the two games since Rashod Bateman went down, Duvernay only has two targets and ONE carry out of the backfield. He’s probably the most explosive player on the outside the Ravens have at the moment, but has essentially been relegated back to his special teams only role. It’s a head scratcher, and one that also ties back to the offensive coordinator one way or the other.

THE UGLY

HERE WE GO AGAIN

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Ravens suffered two crushing injuries on Sunday afternoon. The aforementioned Stanley injury was just the unfortunate cherry on top after first round safety Kyle Hamilton left earlier in the game with a knee injury. While I’m not a doctor, it didn’t take one to see that both injuries appeared to be very serious in nature.

If anyone knows about the next man up mentality it’s the Ravens, but it’s just such a crushing blow in both of these situations in particular. Losing guys to long term injuries is tough no matter what, but Stanley has worked so hard to get back on the field after losing essentially the last two seasons to his ankle injury, the same one he appeared to injure on Sunday.

After a shaky start to the season where he didn’t receive much playing time, Hamilton was finally starting to get his NFL footing. Over the last three weeks he was playing superb football on the back end, and was molding into a top tier safety right before our eyes. If he wasn’t making the tackle on any given play, he was right there to stick his nose in and clean up the play.

We obviously wish nothing but the best for both men, which comes first and foremost, but there’s also no doubt that the Ravens Super Bowl dreams just got a whole lot dimmer if they’ll have to be realized without Stanley and Hamilton. In Hamilton’s case, the sole (and I mean sole) silver lining in the situation is that Marcus Williams should be returning next month.

If the defense can play even half as well as it did today until he gets back, that side of the ball should be OK.

THE MARGOT ROBBIE

FILLING THE SHOES

We all wondered who would be the pass catcher to step up in the absence of Rashod Bateman in this offense, and today that title goes to Demarcus Robinson. On an afternoon where the Ravens offense was beyond dreadful for most of the day, he was the lone bright spot (along with the returning Andrews), to the tune of nine grabs for 128 yards. He also showed incredible field presence, toe tapping on a few of those and just getting the feet in.

Over the last three weeks he has 16 catches for 204 yards, and has been a real security blanket in crucial moments for Jackson when nothing else is working, especially in this game and against Tampa Bay. With the focus that Andrews is certainly going to get the rest of the way, along with teams stacking the box and forcing Jackson to beat them with his arm due to the lack of options on the outside, Robinson will almost certainly have plenty more opportunities at targets this year. If he continues to put up performances like he did today, he’s going to be an integral piece of this Ravens offense the rest of the way.

WRAP UP

While it was the furthest thing from ideal, a win is a win and the Ravens now sit at 7-3. Had the injuries not happened, this would be a lot easier of a performance to stomach, but now on top of correcting the offensive issues they’ve faced early in games they have to figure out how to replace their star left tackle and rookie first round safety.

Despite how incredibly the defense played, the feeling isn’t a great one coming out of this game. All we can do for now is hope for the best on all fronts.

Here’s to a much less stressful game next week…right?

One Response

  1. Lots of salient points in here, but the truth is this team was built for the defense to close out games and ugly. As long as they can keep doing that, they will make the playoffs. Pray they don’t need to score more than 20 points the ROS.

Comments are closed.

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