By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens got absolutely worked by the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s not an opinion. It’s a fact. In every way imaginable the Ravens came up short on Sunday. Their offense made things harder than they needed to be. Their defense had one of the worst showings in franchise history. The Cincinnati Bengals put up 520 yards of offense and 41 points. There’s nothing nice to say on this deflated Monday.
The Ravens had full control of the AFC North. They had the top spot in the entire conference. The Ravens had their five-game winning streak snapped and invited every doubt that anybody ever had about this year’s installment of the team. Let’s take a look at everything that went wrong. Let’s start with the coaching.
John Harbaugh mismanaged the game:
John Harbaugh went out of his way not to make sense in this game. The experienced coach, who has won a Super Bowl and was the 2019 NFL Coach of the Year, looked unprepared and made some tough to defend decisions. It’s time to talk about these errors:
- The challenge on the Ja’Marr Chase fumble was a bad decision. If the play bounced differently, it could have stopped the bleeding and halted the Bengals momentum. You didn’t need 100 replays to understand it wasn’t going to work out that way.
- After the Ravens intercepted Joe Burrow in the end zone they were trailing the Bengals by 10 points in the fourth quarter. Harbaugh decided to take two big risks on fourth down inside the Ravens’ own territory. Harbaugh basically pinned the game on that drive. It was an all-or-nothing decision that wasn’t motivated by analytics, there aren’t a lot of 4th & 7 plays that are high percentage conversions.
- Harbaugh didn’t take points when he had the chance in the first half. In Justin Tucker’s field goal range he chose to keep the offense on the field. After a timeout, he called on the punt unit. This was a weak call that was inconsistent with his reckless decision-making later.
Call out the coordinators too:
The team looked unprepared. It wasn’t until the third quarter that it was truly fair to question effort, yet once the team gave in, it was obvious. This game wasn’t all on the coach though. There isn’t a player or coach that can write home about this one with pride. It was a bad performance. While we’re on coaching let’s talk about the mistakes the coordinators made in this contest.
- Greg Roman chose the hard way in this contest. The Ravens couldn’t pass protect and Lamar Jackson was struggling to get rid of the ball in a timely manner. What does Roman call? Big shots down the field were called which forced Jackson to hold onto the ball for the routes to develop downfield. This was lighter fluid to the fire, especially after Pat Mekari left the game due to injury.
- Don Martindale went away from pressuring Joe Burrow. In the first quarter pressure wasn’t the problem. The defense went soft not just in play but in the plan of attack. The result was easy routes torching the Ravens bit by bit.
The list of players on the Baltimore Ravens with blame is long:
Now it’s time to get the players some constructive criticism. We’ll start with the leader of the team, Lamar Jackson. Jackson looked much like he did against the Los Angeles Chargers in his first playoff game as a rookie. He held onto the ball too long. He took sacks that he should not have taken. Jackson missed throws he’s made all year long and his footwork and fundamentals all went away. He was overthrowing passes down the field and failed to find a rhythm. Long story short, he was awful.
Jackson’s offensive line didn’t help him. When Pat Mekari got injured it forced Tyre Phillips back at right tackle. That went about as poorly as it did last season. The offensive line wasn’t much better than that. Does Jackson have some culpability in the five sacks the offensive line allowed? Sure. Let’s not act as if the offensive line did much in this game though, it was rough to watch.
If you take out Jackson’s rushing yards the Ravens only had 27 rushing yards. The running backs were a non-factor. Their lack of explosiveness combined with an offensive line that provided no daylight made the offense one-dimensional. It was a bad day for Jackson to be so off. Everyone on the offense not named Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, and Rashod Bateman had a rough day where nothing could go right other than a play here or there.
That Baltimore Ravens defensive “effort” was horrible:
Defense isn’t something I would say the Ravens actually participated in this game. Not in the first half. The Ravens made it a 17-13 game after the halftime intermission. The Bengals scored with very little resistance and the momentum never swung back in Baltimore’s favor. The Bengals scored 28 points and put up the bulk of their yards in the second half.
Anthony Averett fought hard in this game. He was tested an unfair amount considering Burrow could basically go any direction and complete passes at will. There just wasn’t one defensive back who won the fight from beginning to finish.
The traits of the Cincinnati receivers, the size, quickness, and toughness when fighting for the football won the day. Cincinnati’s receivers played great. Ja’Marr Chase looked like a younger version of Randy Moss and lived up to his early draft position. Tee Higgins had seven catches, almost all of which were made with a cornerback in position to make a play. The Bengals receivers were tougher. They wanted the ball more. It was as obvious as the night being dark.
Horrible is almost being too nice:
Marlon Humphrey had the worst game he’s ever had as a Ravens player, maybe in his entire lifetime playing football. It was a bad showing for somebody who is known as an All-Pro level player. The secondary in general was horrible. C.J. Uzomah scored two touchdowns. The second touchdown was on one of the most embarrassing blown coverages ever.
Three Ravens guarded the flats and the tight end ran right down the field for an easy catch and score. It was not only a miscommunication it was a lack of awareness. It was symbolic of the entire game. The Ravens were seemingly asleep at the wheel.
This was the sorriest excuse of tackling I have ever seen from the Baltimore Ravens. It’s absolutely befuddling how bad the Ravens are at open-field tackles. Part of this was clearly an effort problem. The Ravens knew that up multiple scores in the final quarter the Bengals were going to run the ball.
Still, Cincinnati moved defenders out of the play. Still, the Bengals were able to run the ball for chunks of yards. Part of it was taking horrible angles to the football. This team needs to do some pursuit drills more than any team I’ve ever seen. The coaching staff may not think they have time for teaching the fundamentals of football in practice, however, the fundamentals are what this team is lacking an understanding of. It’s enough to numb the brain. It makes no sense.
The Bottom Line:
It was very clear that the Ravens could lose to the Bengals. The final outcome isn’t shocking considering how well the Bengals have played this season. Losing and becoming 5-2 didn’t have to be the doom and gloom situation we’re looking at right now. The way the Ravens lost, however, is an unacceptable path to the outcome.
It’s not very often that you can look at a loss and say that a team should be ashamed of their performance. Nobody is perfect, bad days happen and you can’t win them all. Still, the Ravens put forth an unorganized, mismanaged mess of a game, where effort became a valid complaint. As a team, they failed to “Play like a Raven” and they lost a game in which their opponent’s will to win outshined theirs. There is not a single nice thing to say.