Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Don Martindale out as Ravens defensive coordinator: Breaking it down

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have moved on from Don Martindale. It will go down in history as the Ravens mutually part ways with their defensive coordinator. This one comes as a surprise, so let’s unpack it.

Unpacking the Don Martindale news: 

Martindale clearly had his worst season as the Ravens defensive coordinator. In each season prior to this, he had a top 10 defense. This year the defense statistically ranked in the bottom tier. The Ravens gave up a lot of big plays down the field, with blown coverage being a common trend.

The injuries of the Ravens clearly gave Martindale some excuses. Not only did he lose Marcus Peters for the whole season, but by the end of the year, he was relying on raw corners like Keyvon Seymour and Robert Jackson.

You can make the argument that Martindale’s defense relies too heavily on personnel. When he doesn’t have a Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey combo, the defense doesn’t work. He needs great cornerbacks to lean on so his defense works.

You can also point to Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon’s immediate success after leaving the Ravens. Don’t forget, Yannick Ngakoue had a comeback season with the Las Vegas Raiders. Did Martindale struggle to get the most out of his pass rushers? It’s a fair question.

Why it doesn’t feel right: 

Here is the catch. Here is why this doesn’t feel right. Martindale held the Steelers to 16 points in the finale. Martindale held down the Los Angeles Rams to just 20 points. In the back half of the schedule, only the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals scored over 24 points on the Ravens. The defense was just as hampered by injuries as the offense was and kept the Ravens competitive in games the offense didn’t do much in. 

All things considered, this wasn’t even that bad of a year for the Ravens’ defense. It could have been a lot worse. If the Ravens want to move in a different direction, this move may make some sense. In that case, it was more of a parting ways thing than a firing situation. If this is the sacrificial lamb of the Ravens missing the playoffs, the organization missed the mark. Why this happened matters more than anything else because it completely changes the context for everything. 

This feels very much like a case of “They got the wrong guy.” If the point of this was to change things up after a tough season and to add some consequence to ending the year in a six-game slump, they got the wrong coordinator. If Greg Roman was told goodbye it wouldn’t have been surprising. It’s been near the front of our minds for months; whether or not you want Roman gone, you’ve thought about it. Martindale’s exit is a shocker. 

Change is coming post Don Martindale: 

This is a great chance for the Ravens to change directions and undergo a defensive youth movement. Moving on from Don Martindale allows the Ravens to start fresh defensively. The personnel could change as much as the philosophy if you think about it. 

Brandon Williams, Justin Houston, and Calais Campbell are all unrestricted free agents. The makings of a youth movement are already there for the Ravens with Odafe Oweh, Justin Madubuike and Tyus Bowser positioned to be key players in 2022.

Calais Campbell may retire, which would honestly help the Ravens if they’re moving in the younger direction. Justin Houston is a player you could go either way with. It’s very much like it was the last offseason, the Ravens should want Houston, but at a price, they’re comfortable paying. Houston was solid for the Ravens but he only had 4.5 sacks and he’s 32 years old.

The Ravens’ run defense has always been dependent on Brandon Williams. Williams is a space-eater who doesn’t; rush the passer much. He’s always been valuable because he’s been elite at what he does well- stopping the run and anchoring the defensive line. If the Ravens think he’s losing a step or it may be time to cut him loose before it’s too late, this is their chance to do so. Like Houston, Williams is also 32 years old.

What the Ravens lacked defensively were difference makers. Oweh had moments. He’s shown enough to make the franchise think he might be the next Terrell Suggs for them. The Ravens always want to be good at stopping the run, but what if they invest more in pass rush. What if the Ravens’ goals are to find the counter punch on the other side to Oweh and a defensive line that starts getting after the quarterback.

This is the Ravens’ chance to redo how they do things. They could theoretically switch to a 4-3 defense and commit to Oweh as a defensive end. Tyus Bowser, Patrick Queen and, maybe Josh Bynes (back at a cost-effective price) could be your three linebackers. The Ravens could draft some defensive linemen who could get into the backfield and play fewer two-gap responsibilities. Justin Madubuike may fit into this kind of defense a bit better anyway.

Martindale should be held in high esteem: 

Change is coming and thinking about that change is exciting. That doesn’t mean moving on from Martindale was the right decision. It just means that if the Ravens get the right hire in at defensive coordinator, this can be a positive when it’s all said and done. The Ravens need to get better at rushing the passer. Now a new coordinator will have to work towards that progress. 

Martindale was loved by the players. I’ve always respected his authenticity. Martindale’s stock as a defensive coordinator should still be high after all of this. He was with the Ravens organization since the 2012 season and when he supplanted Dean Pees it took the defense into a much better direction.

With Pees the Ravens died slowly. Soft zone coverage, typically a cover 3, allowed good quarterbacks to come back and put the final nail in the Ravens’ coffin too many times. Martindale went for it. Martindale would take chances in the situations Pees would sit back and fold his arms. I’ll always admire him for that. 

NEXT POST: Ravens NFL Draft spotlight: Evan Neal OT, Alabama

The Ravens defense did crumble and gave up late leads in the Ravens six-game losing streak. Ben Roethlisberger sent the Pittsburgh Steelers to the playoffs with an overtime drive that couldn’t have sat well with anybody in the organization. Moving on doesn’t feel right, but change is not unwarranted. It’s a sad day, Martindale was a huge part of this franchise for a long time. Change is hard, but if the Ravens do this right, it’s an opportunity to get back to dominant defense. 

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens coaching staff: 2021 exit assessment

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens didn’t make the playoffs. The season is over and it ended on a six-game losing streak. It was not an emotionally rewarding season and there are plenty of things to think about. The main conversation for the Ravens Flock is the fate of the coaching staff. Is John Harbaugh getting a pass? Should Greg Roman be canned? Is Don Martindale a head coaching candidate elsewhere? There’s a lot to sift through.

Greg Roman, should he stay or should he go?

Greg Roman has given the Ravens one of the most productive offenses in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens actually had the sixth-most yards per game in the NFL this season. The Ravens finished the season third in rushing yards per game. Even with Lamar Jackson missing the last portion of the season, the Ravens finished 13th in passing yards per game. These are numbers that make a strong case for Roman to come back in a year without Ronnie Stanley, Gus Edwards, and J.K. Dobbins.

That being said statistics could make a compelling argument either way. 22.8 points per game isn’t exactly where you set the bar in the NFL. A 36.4 percent conversion rate on third down isn’t exactly doing the trick either. Nobody wants me to get into the red zone stuff, Baltimore is scarred from their team’s inability to punch the ball in the end zone when it matters. There are numbers for both sides of the argument, but more and more, it feels like Roman deserves an exit.

Many people want to point to the Ravens’ postseason failures as a reason to avoid giving Lamar Jackson his big payday. Roman’s predictability and lack of flexibility have more to do with the Ravens’ missteps in 2019 and 2020. You actually don’t need a complicated answer here. Does it feel like the same old thing over and over again? Does it feel like Roman is hindering progress because you can only get to a certain point with his offense? It does.

Moving on from Roman would allow the Ravens to see if Jackson could do it with another coordinator. The results could go either way for Jackson, but if he shined with another coordinator it answers some questions before a big contract extension. A fresh start for Jackson could be what he needs to get back to playing at the insane video game like display of greatness we got way too used to. Giving Roman some leeway because of injuries is fair. Roman isn’t an awful coordinator.

That doesn’t mean he’s the right coordinator for next season. The Ravens don’t need a complete overhaul. They need to take the next step when their guys are back in action. If you feel deep down that Roman isn’t taking that next step moving on makes a lot of sense. It’s not going to happen but it would be a defendable action by the team.

Don Martindale: An undervalued treasure for the Baltimore Ravens

If you hold Don Martindale’s job on the chopping block because Kevon Seymour and Robert Jackson can’t cover to save their life, that’s a bit unfair. The Ravens’ defense was in a tough spot. The biggest difference-maker was also a rookie (Odafe Oweh) finding his footing in the NFL. Once Marlon Humphrey was hurt the Ravens’ secondary was basically a poorly stacked skid of freight with no shrink-wrap, if the truck hits a speed bump it’s all falling down.

The Ravens defense had some lumps and blown coverage was a big problem all year. But look at what pundits think is the Ravens’ draft needs. The Ravens need a true free safety, they need a better defensive line and as usual more pass rush. Martindale had the toughest assignment he ever had. The Ravens only allowed 23.1 points per game. The run defense was solid and with a little tinkering of responsibilities the Ravens were able to get Patrick Queen back to a very productive place. The defense wasn’t great. It also had no chance to be.

John Harbaugh was given a lot of praise for his resilience. But Wink needs to get some praise for his work. The Ravens were in every single game down the stretch when circumstances gave them very little chance. Look at the scores for the second half of the season. The Browns scored 16 and 22 points against the Ravens. The Steelers scored 20 points in their first battle with Baltimore and 16 in the finale. The Bears scored 13. The Rams only got 20. The Bengals game was an outlier but the point is that the Ravens had done enough defensively (With very little help from the injury front and Covid-19) to win games down the stretch.

The Ravens gave their offense a chance. The offense didn’t deliver too many times. Martindale made the best-case scenario out of a bad spot. He now draws some interest for head coaching jobs with the New York Giants reportedly being his biggest chance at a promotion. That’s great to see because I’ll root for this man till the day he dies. If the Ravens lose Martindale, Ravens fans may miss what they had.

John Harbaugh: Praise him or put him on the hot seat?

If you want to fire John Harbaugh… stop, just stop. He’s been the Ravens coach since 2008. He has a Super Bowl ring and an NFL Coach of the Year award on his resume. The Ravens haven’t had the playoff success you’re looking for, I get it. Mike Tomlin is 8-8 in the playoffs and hasn’t gotten the Steelers close to a Super Bowl in a while, should the Steelers fire him?

Probably not. Andy Reid is just 17-15 in the playoffs. He took the Chiefs job in 2013 and it took him a while to get that Super Bowl ring. Sean Payton has one ring and a bunch of failures on his resume, should the New Orleans Saints fire him? Probably not. The point is great coaches have a hard time chasing the Lombardi Trophy, if you have a guy who’s proven he can do it, sticking with him is usually the right idea.

The Ravens had their chance to part with Harbaugh. 2015-2017 was about as miserable of a time in Ravens history as there ever was. The Ravens were mediocre and the Ravens missed the playoffs three years in a row. We know that Lamar Jackson saved Harbaugh’s job. It’s not a secret. It’s a widely accepted fact. Since his job got saved the Ravens’ records have been 14-2, 11-5, and 8-9. The 8-9 record came when the Ravens had the most injury-plagued year in franchise history. The Ravens were in almost every game down to the wire. Love him or hate him, he proved a lot this year and he isn’t going anywhere.

Does the question become what the bar will become for Harbaugh? What is an acceptable result in the 2022 season? Does it become Super Bowl or you’re out of here? Does it become to make a viable run at it and if you get close you’re fine? Harbaugh deserves praise this season. The franchise has a great culture. Everybody wants to be here, the fight and heart this team showed on a week-to-week basis make a strong case for Harbaugh. The Bottom Line:

At the end of the day, the Baltimore Ravens have a strong argument for bringing all three core coaches back. While it doesn’t make the big talking points, I’d like to mention that Chris Horton has proven to be a strong special teams coordinator.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Top 3 offseason needs ranked

I’d like to see the Ravens move on from Roman, and see if they can build off the ideas he started here. Roman has my respect, but it’s time to find out some things we can’t know if he stays on as the offensive coordinator. A little change is needed, a full overhaul of what the Ravens are doing is not.

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens must beat Bengals: Subtle reasons for optimism

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens need to beat the Cincinnati Bengals, If the Ravens lose to the Bengals it could be the final blow that knocks them out of the playoffs. It’s an AFC North opponent, with the division up for grabs. If the Ravens fall out of their chance to win the division, losing to another AFC team won’t help them in the Wild Card logjam. This is a must-win game.

The Ravens are facing their usual amount of 2021 season adversity. Covid-19 casts a fairly large shadow on this game. The Ravens have about 15 players on the Covid/Reserve list, it seems to get worse on that front, not better. Injuries are still a major problem. This won’t be a full-strength team. They’re on the road and the season is on the line. Where’s the hope? Let’s go over some subtle reasons for optimism.

Defensive turnaround despite injuries/Covid

The Ravens defense has been playing better than you’d expect. Marlon Humphrey went down against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns didn’t torch the Ravens through the air. Aaron Rodgers had some fun last week, but come on, you thought that was going to be worse. This defense has been playing well and it almost defies common sense.

In the Bengals’ earlier 41-17 win over Baltimore they played a healthier defense. The Ravens are a changed team defensively and their front seven especially has stepped up. It was a bad October day for the Ravens, Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine made sure of that averaging over 4.5 yards per attempt and picking up over 50 yards apiece. Burrow was hot and the Bengals could do whatever they wanted. The story could change in Ohio this Sunday.

Think about it. Nick Chubb failed to launch in both of the Ravens’ battles with the Browns. The Ravens have been one of the best teams in terms of points allowed. The Ravens have been formidable on third downs and the quality of tackling has improved dramatically in the back half of the season. At the beginning of the year, it was about Lamar Jackson carrying the team. Now Jackson is out and the defense is giving this team a shot. Somehow, someway the defense has made things competitive.

Matchups that could work for the Baltimore Ravens on offense:

Lamar Jackson hasn’t practiced this week. Let’s cut to the chase, you’re going to see Tyler Huntley again. Huntley has looked incredibly sharp. He orchestrated a game-winning drive in the windy city against the Chicago Bears. He played well enough for the Ravens to come back and almost beat the Browns. The Ravens just dropped 30 points on the Green Bay Packers. Going with the guy who is in rhythm, who’s healthy, and working with some fresh new confidence doesn’t sound all that bad.

The Baltimore receivers were accomplished in the last outing against the Bengals. Both Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman had 80 yards receiving in the game. Brown and tight end, Mark Andrews, scored a touchdown. The matchups weren’t bad last time, Jackson was just a bit off and the Bengals had the right game plan. Look for the Ravens to be unafraid of taking shots with their backup quarterback.

The run game can’t be as bad as it was last time. Last time Lamar Jackson ran for 88 rushing yards and there wasn’t much else to speak about on the ground. Both Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray have been picking up some steam at the running back position. The Ravens just have to avoid playing catchup and their rushing attack is very much in play. Huntley can have the same impact on the ground that Jackson had. The Ravens could get 150-200 yards rushing on Sunday.

The Bottom Line:

The Bengals are a good team. They also lost to the New York Jets. Both teams are quite capable of defeating themselves; you never know what you’re getting from Cincinnati. The Ravens should count on nothing and take every bit of effort they have to Paul Brown Stadium. This game is a pressure cooker for Cincinnati too. John Harbaugh has more experience than Zac Taylor, and until the last game, Harbaugh has had Taylor’s team pegged.

NEXT POST: Ravens Flock: Can we just give John Harbaugh a break?

The reasons to worry smack you in the face. You don’t need the negative highlighted for you. Here are the reasons the Ravens can win. That doesn’t mean they will, it means they can. The fight is on.


Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens vs. Green Bay Packers: 5 early thoughts on the game

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have a battle with the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The Ravens have lost two straight games. They as banged up as ever and the Green Bay Packers are fighting for the number one seed in the NFC. Is there any hope to be had? What should we think about this game? Here are eight thoughts I have for Sunday.

1. The Ravens shouldn’t rush back Lamar Jackson

The Baltimore Ravens would be very much behooved by winning the game against Green Bay. Things are getting tight and the AFC North is up for grabs. As silly as it sounds, this isn’t a must-win game. The Ravens have to beat the Cincinnati Bengals. They have to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ideally, the Ravens beat the Packers, though the season isn’t over if they don’t.

Rushing Lamar Jackson back if he’s not 100 percent is a bad idea. Jackson has been struggling. The cure for being stuck in your head isn’t playing with limited mobility. Tyler Huntley just passed for 270 yards against the Cleveland Browns. He’s a good backup. A healthy Huntley is going to do better than a forcing it Jackson. The Ravens need Jackson for the three crucial games after this. They need him to be healthy, they need him to be back at his best. Give him a week off if he’s not ready.

2. Don Martindale is the X-Factor here

The Baltimore Ravens do not have a one-man answer for Devante Adams. The Ravens are stretched thin and when Marlon Humphrey went down it was easy to see it as the death blow. The Browns only put up 24 points and their offense only had 17 last week. The Ravens defense hasn’t had a bad game in weeks. Did it collapse when the dam broke against Pittsburgh? Yes, but the team needed more than 19 points at Heinz Field. In the last handful of games, the Ravens have given up 24, 20, 10, 13 and, 22 points. Martindale has his team unit playing well. He’s figured something out. It’s a 4:25 pm kickoff, so it will be under the lights at M&T Bank Stadium. Don’t be shocked if the Ravens defense makes this a game against Rodgers and company.

3. Ravens must win the time of possession battle:

If the Ravens are going to go with Tyler Huntley, they must think of this as a game in 2018 post-Joe Flacco. Don’t be afraid to run it with Huntley. Don’t be afraid to give 13 carries to Devonta Freeman and another 13 to Latavius Murray. Use Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews for high percentage completions and keep the offense on the field. The best way to beat Rodgers is to have long possessions that keep him off the field. It’s a 60-minute game. If the Ravens can keep it anywhere from 36-41 minutes of the game clock, they’ll have their optimal chance of winning.

4. The Ravens really need Nick Boyle and Pat Ricard to be active:

With Patrick Mekari unavailable for the game, and Alejandro Villanueva coming off a tough game, we know exactly what kinds of problems the Packers can present to the Ravens upfront. The Ravens need to win the line of scrimmage in this game with Tyre Phillips at right tackle. Preston Smith and Rashan Gary could live in the backfield if the Ravens don’t have the best blocking tight end and the best fullback available for this game.

5. A great chance for a rallying moment:

Should the Ravens win this game? Absolutely not. They’re going against a 10 win team with an MVP candidate at QB. The Packers do a lot of things right. They’re solid on defense and are a wowing +12 in the turnover ratio. When you look at the Packers you’re looking at a team with all the pieces, one that can win the Super Bowl. When you look at the Ravens you see them at their lowest point of the season. The adversity they overcame is starting to get to the team.

It’s a weird season though. It’s a really weird season. Could there be a better “Us against the world” pitch for John Harbaugh? Could there be a better chance to rally around the impossible and get the win pundits don’t see coming? Don’t go into this game expecting a win for the purple and black. That said, don’t expect Baltimore to lay down and die. It would be great to see how much fight this team has in them against a Super Bowl contender.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens who deserve a spot in the NFL Pro Bowl

Plenty more is on the way. Keep tuned in Ravens Flock.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

State of the Baltimore Ravens: 13 thoughts after loss to Browns

By Chris Schisler

1. John Harbaugh can frustrate like no other but he’s not the problem and shouldn’t be on the hot seat.

Rational thinking Baltimore Ravens fans can understand that John Harbaugh should be safe going into the next season of Baltimore Ravens football. In a game where the Baltimore Ravens had everything go wrong from the start, where their injury problems extended to their quarterback, and where the NFL officials helped their opponent out a lot, the Ravens almost won the game. The Ravens didn’t give up, showed resilience, and that Harbaugh had the train on the tracks.

Do the tracks lead to the playoffs? We’ll find out later. The thing is that the head coach hasn’t lost the team. The Ravens have an unprecedented amount of injuries and it’s starting to be too much. One thing is for sure, Harbaugh has done an admirable job with this beaten-up roster. The Ravens shouldn’t have eight wins. They shouldn’t have been able to give the Browns a scare down 24-6.

John Harbaugh is not mistake-proof. Because Harbaugh went for the two-point conversion at a questionable time, the Ravens needed one more possession than they would have needed. Harbaugh was being aggressive and not rational in that stretch. He’s not perfect. My question is this: What would this team be without him? I don’t want to know the answer to that question.

2. It’s troubling that Tyler Huntley looked better than Lamar Jackson in the past several weeks:

Is Tyler Huntley better than the 2019 NFL MVP? Absolutely not. The ceiling for Huntley is never going to be as high as it will be for Jackson, who is a truly generational talent. The floor for Jackson has been on display for the past handful of weeks and it’s relatively unbearable. Jackson is the quarterback of the now, and the quarterback of the future. There is no reality where Huntley replaces Jackson as the starter. That shouldn’t have to be explained, yet you know how the internet works, don’t you?

With that preface, we can get into the real conversation. Why did Tyler Huntley play better football than Jackson did in this game? If Jackson stayed in this game, it’s hard to see this comeback happening, and that’s hard to type into the keyboard. The difference is that Huntley was distributing the football and making quick decisions. Whether they were the right call or not, Huntley wasn’t hesitant and the offense stayed mostly on schedule. This highlighted the problems that Jackson is having. That’s something to be aware of moving forward.

3. The officials were unbelievably bad, especially with pass interference:

In the first half, the Baltimore Ravens were playing so poorly that it almost didn’t matter how bad the refs had been. Now that we almost saw the comeback nobody saw coming, let’s look into the refs. The Ravens were flagged 10 times for 125 yards, while the Browns only had four penalties. Early in the game, it seemed like the Ravens couldn’t have a play without a defensive pass interference call. Late in the game, Huntley missed Marquise Brown deep down the field, and the Browns more than probably got away with pass interference on the play.

Pass interference is always questionable. The NFL has made it complicated and reasonable fans just want it to be called consistently and as fairly as possible. The NFL officials have a built-in leeway on these calls, but several of them question the intelligence of the players, coaches, and the viewing audience. When Chris Westry got penalized for interference on a play where he played the ball and was in textbook perfect position, and the calls kept coming just like it, the integrity of the game was affected.

4. This offensive line is bad:

The offensive line is bad. Last week, there had to be a clear focus in my writing that the quarterback wasn’t immune from criticism. This game doesn’t allow me to cover anybody from the smear of blame. The offensive line was horrible. Alejandro Villanueva and Tyre Phillips struggled in a big way. Tyre Phillips should never be the plan at right tackle; I can’t watch it anymore. This offensive line is in a situation where nobody expected them to be good, but it’s still bad.

5. Opening up the offense isn’t a bad idea:

The Ravens didn’t have Nick Boyle or Patrick Ricard in this game. They had a bad offensive line. It forced the Ravens to spread out the offense and rely more heavily on their wide receivers and Mark Andrews. Mark Andrews, by the way, has an inspiring amount of heart and continues to be my favorite player not named Jackson. Opening up the offense was effective.

Huntley had 270 yards in the air and 45 on the ground. Ironically it felt almost like having Lamar back in stride. Rashod Bateman won his matchup in this game and had 103 yards. Seven different players caught a pass and Devonta Freeman still got 64 rushing yards as the main running back. The offense didn’t play in a box, and the ball moved more freely around the field.

6. The Baltimore Ravens defense deserves a lot of praise:

Anthony Averett came away with a huge interception that got the Ravens their first points. It stopped the bleeding and prevented this game from getting too out of hand in the second quarter. This was cracking the door open for a comeback attempt (at the time a comeback seemed like a distant dream). The Browns scored all 24 of their points in the first half. Did Don Martindale just have his guys pitch a second-half shutout? You bet your butt he did.

In a game, the Browns led wire to wire, Cleveland only managed an even 100 rushing yards. The Ravens were playing catch-up and still ran for more yards than the Browns. Nick Chubb had 17 carries and only picked up 3.6 yards a pop. The Ravens’ front seven did some serious work in this game.

7. How was this game close?

I still don’t really understand this. Cleveland had to be very generous hosts for this game to be close. They were up 24-6. They wasted a lot of chances. Cleveland won the time-of-possession battle, yet its not like we can reward them for chewing up big chunks of game clock. The Ravens shouldn’t have been allowed to get back into this game. It says as much about Baltimore’s resilience as it does Cleveland’s proficiency.

The Ravens were playing without Lamar Jackson for most of the game. Jimmy Smith didn’t play the week after Marlon Humphrey was lost for the year. The defense did okay, all things considered. Nick Boyle and Pat Ricard were out on offense. Patrick Mekari was out at the right tackle spot. This was an even more banged-up Ravens team than usual, after a heartbreaking loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns had a bye week before this game. That may have been the advantage that won them the game. One thing is for sure, you can’t make this up. The Browns have issues. The Ravens may not win another game (It’s a dark and conceivable thought) but the Browns should take no solace here. They have issues that will come back to bite them.

8. Mark Andrews should just live in the slot:

According to a tweet by sideline reporter, Aditi Kinkhabwala, Mark Andrews was lined up in the slot 10 times, targeted 10 times, and caught all 10 passes. I’m half-joking here, but why line up Andrews anywhere else? This has been his most impactful spot all season. Andrews has 75 receptions for 926 yards and he’s done a bit of everything for this offense. Tight ends have to block, especially without Nick Boyle. You want to show different looks and all that good stuff. One thing is for sure, the Browns couldn’t stop Andrews when he lined up in the slot. I’m not sure many teams can.

9. The Baltimore Ravens know how to hurt us the most, don’t they?

Most Ravens fans were probably ambivalent at the halftime intermission. If ever there was a game where you laughed not to cry and made a couple of extra drinks it was this one. The first half was about as fun as waiting in line at the MVA or sitting in traffic for an hour because there was an accident up ahead. It was what it was and fans just had to sit there and make the best of it. Then the Ravens came back and got hopes up.

The Ravens get the onside kick. Then a two-yard pass on fourth and six falls to the ground. Then the heartbreak is worse than watching the first half. Ravens fans, I know. This one stunk. The Ravens are competitive no matter what, getting steamrolled may have been easier to digest. It sounds silly, but the emotions of this game were universally felt among the Ravens Flock. Being a sports fan is signing up for punishment and the Ravens can take this to extremes, can’t they?

10. Young bright spots are what you have to cling on to:

The obvious example of a young bright spot is Rashod Batemen. He was incredible in this game. His explosive and tough style of play is working. We knew the Ravens needed to get him the ball more and this game just confirmed it. Let’s talk about some other guys though.

In the secondary, Brandon Stephens is going to have a long and illustrious career with the Ravens. Stephens played really well in this game. The Ravens were absolutely needy at cornerback and he was on the field almost the entire game for this defense. He had six tackles in this game and his quick and fluid skillset shined in coverage. Chris Westry was really sharp at cornerback as well. Westry was an undrafted free agent that made the roster. Stephens was a third-round pick nobody saw coming. Ravens fans, on a day where everything is bumming you out, enjoy this.

11. Where is the Baltimore Ravens- Cleveland Browns rivalry?

The Ravens split the season series with the Browns, so where is the rivalry? The Browns can’t be too happy with the power dynamic. This should have been an easy win. In the back of Kevin Stefanski’s head is that the Ravens took his team to the brink even when everything stacked against them. The Ravens have won four of the last six games against the Browns. It will be interesting to see what happens next time.

If the Browns beat the doors of the Ravens, the way it looked they would, we’d have to talk about the status of this rivalry. For the moment, the Ravens don’t fear the Browns. The Ravens wish they had another crack at Cleveland. The Browns are glad they’re done with the Ravens on their regular-season schedule, whether they admit it or not.

12. The Browns had a great game plan:

The Browns were incredibly prepared for this game. They throttled the Ravens’ offense at the start of the game. They knew exactly where to attack the Ravens defensively. Kevin Stefanski and his staff had more answers than John Harbaugh’s crew did. This allowed the Browns to get ahead from the start. While I think the Browns overthought the second half to their detriment, they had all the right concepts prepared for this game. You have to credit the Browns on that. They learned lessons from the last game and unleashed on Baltimore at the start of this game.

13. Hosting Green Bay could be another brutal Sunday:

The Green Bay Packers dropped 45 points on the Chicago Bears last night. Aaron Rodgers went 29 of 37 passing for 341 yards and four touchdowns. Devante Adams had 10 receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens defense is hurt most in the secondary, hasn’t had a great pass rush, and might be playing without the help of Lamar Jackson on offense. Hope for the best Baltimore. Still… brace yourself.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: How to get the offense rolling again

Thank you for reading my long-form thoughts. There is a lot to process here.


Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens vs Browns: 4 predictions and a score

The Baltimore Ravens are in first place in the AFC North. With an 8-4 record they have three more divisional battles. On Sunday they head to Ohio to take on the Cleveland Browns. Here are four predictions and a score for this very important game.

Lamar Jackson is turnover-free but sacks remain a problem:


Lamar Jackson has been a turnover slot machine in the last handful of weeks. He’s getting sacked a good bit as well. The Baltimore Ravens desperately need to get their quarterback back on track.

Pass protection is going to be an issue. Assuming Myles Garrett plays, the offensive line could face a bigger problem than it did last week. Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney take on Alejandro Villanueva and Tyre Phillips. A lot of things could go wrong there.

Jackson will be very cautious with the football. He’ll avoid turnovers. Being a bit gun-shy could worsen the problem with sacks. If Jackson is hesitant to take open shots down the field or to check the ball down, he’s going to get hit, way too much.

Jackson will avoid the boneheaded interceptions. He’ll cling to the ball for dear life. This will be his ultimate focus. Playing nervously at quarterback has negative symptoms though. With the offensive line facing a matchup that (at least on paper) they can’t win in pass protection, Jackson will take at least four sacks.

The defensive front keeps this a battle for the Ravens:

The Cleveland Browns may see Marlon Humphrey being out as their ticket to big plays down the field. While that may be true Kevin Stefanski and company just saw Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt shut down by this Ravens defensive front. The Browns have a highly acclaimed offensive line, though the Ravens won the battle two weeks ago.

Look for another big game from Tyus Bowser, who is crucially important in run defense. Look for Patrick Queen to string another solid performance together. Calais Campbell missed the first Browns game and the defense found a way to dominate the line of scrimmage.

Don Martindale and the Ravens defense are expected to fold without Marlon Humphrey and with a string of secondary injuries. The defensive front had three sacks and held Chubb to 40 yards last time. The Ravens’ defensive backs are a huge question mark. The front seven should have some trust and it will make this interesting.

3. Devin Duvernay makes an impact on special teams:

Devin Duvernay made a big impact against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s quietly having a year as the best return specialist in football. Last week it looked like one might break for a touchdown. He’s due for a kickoff or punt return to get him in the end zone. Look for the Texas Longhorns product to put points on the board via special teams.

Duvernay had a kickoff return for a touchdown last year against the Kansas City Chiefs. He leads the league in punt return yards per attempt. He’s a fast player who keeps coming close to a big play. This is his chance to shine. It’s his chance to make a difference in the game.

4. Rashod Bateman stays frustrated:

Much of the talk from this past week has been about Rashod Bateman’s frustration. The Ravens’ rookie wide receiver may have to stay frustrated one more week.

With Jackson trying to protect the football at any cost, he’s going to lean on his top two targets, Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown. It’s a very repetitive cycle. Jackson gets frustrated- Jackson locks on to the two guys he trusts no matter what. Bateman has looked the part and is looking at a matchup that he could win.  It should be a big day for him but the side effects of Jackson recovering from his struggles will resort to the ball not being spread around the way it should be.

And now a score: Browns win 24-21


This is a prediction I hope to be wrong about. The Ravens got away with four picks in the last contest with Cleveland; there’s a lot that goes the Ravens way in this matchup. Things are heading in the wrong direction for Baltimore though, and there are a lot of concerns.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: How to get the offense rolling again

Will the Ravens give Cleveland a fight? Absolutely. The calling card of John Harbaugh teams is being competitive, almost no matter what. To win in Cleveland though they have to play better than they have been. Ravens vs. Browns is almost always close now. A few big passing plays in a big spot will give Cleveland the tight victory.


Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens: Top concerns against Pittsburgh Steelers

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have a battle on their hands and it’s in familiar territory. It’s an unfriendly bout with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. The Ravens have at least one trip into their top rival’s den every season and they know exactly what to expect.

That’s the first thing you have to consider with this matchup. Games in Pittsburgh are never easy. The crowd is going to be relentlessly loud and present. The officials tend to give the Steelers some home cooking, whether they’re aware of it or not (see Bears vs. Steelers).

If you had to rank the toughest places to play in football, Pittsburgh may be at the top of the list. The Ravens have to pack their toughness and their mental resolve more than anything. Pittsburgh is a place where momentum is as important as oxygen. It seems to weigh heavily in that stadium.

Baltimore Ravens must buck turnover trend in these games:

The second concern for the Ravens has to be protecting the football. Lamar Jackson has a short history of turning the ball over to the Steelers. Jackson had two picks and two fumbles the last time he went against the Steelers. The Ravens lost 28-24 in a game the purple and black were mostly forcing the issue.

In 2019, Jackson had three interceptions against the Steelers in Baltimore’s 26-23 overtime win. His performance wasn’t as bad as it sounds, but in two games against the Steelers, Jackson has an uncomfortable amount of turnovers. It’s an especially present thought going into this game as Jackson is trying to rebound from a four-interception game against the Cleveland Browns.

Jackson has 12 interceptions in eight games. As great as he has been, Jackson’s also at times too careless with the football. Should the Ravens trust Jackson? Absolutely. He’s their field general and he’s proven himself beyond measure. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t a show-me game for the Heisman-winning quarterback. He has to show that he can control the game in Pittsburgh. Being concerned about Jackson’s turnovers is fair.

The Ravens have a lot to worry about offensively. Can the Ravens withstand the Pittsburgh pass rush? Whether or not T.J. Watt plays the Steelers have Alex Highsmith and a strong defensive front for the offensive line to deal with. It’s possible that neither Watt nor Cam Heyward will play in this game. That would be a huge boon for the Ravens’ in the trenches, it doesn’t mean things will be a cakewalk.

Concerns for the defense start with the injury report:

The Ravens’ injuries are racking up and it could cost them defensively. Chase Claypool and Pat Friermuth give Pittsburgh some big-play potential in the passing game. The injury report has Marlon Humphrey, Anthony Averett, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young and, Chris Westry as questionable. Should most of them be able to go? Sure, but having almost all of your cornerbacks on the injury report is a bit unsettling if you’re Don Martindale getting ready for this one.

The Ravens have had plenty of problems with tight ends this season. David Njoku was even able to score without actually catching the football so Friermuth is on notice, I guess. All jokes aside, the Steelers have a rookie tight end that may present Baltimore a bit of a challenge. He’s a 6-5 target with a very thick frame and obvious chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger. If the Steelers try to beat the Ravens with quick completions in the passing game, the Penn State tight end could be their pipeline for that.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Big Ben round 1,000

The Ravens will want to make the Steelers one-dimensional. Taking Najee Harris will take the same kind of commitment to run defense that neutralizing Nick Chubb took last Sunday. Harris is always capable of the big play, even if the Pittsburgh offensive line isn’t great and his average on the year is 3.6 yards per rushing attempt. The Ravens can’t let him get loose in the open field.

If the Ravens make the Steelers one-dimensional it all comes down to beating the man they call Big Ben. Roethlisberger hasn’t looked close to his prime, but he’s shown flashes of the brilliance that will make him a future Hall of Fame passer. If Roethlisberger is hot and his receivers are on point against a  banged-up Ravens secondary, it will change the dynamic of this game.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vs. Steelers: 4 predictions and a score

Do I think the Ravens should win this game? Yes. I think they’re the better overall team. Don’t think it’s going to be easy though. This is a coin flip of a game. Whenever the Steelers and Ravens meet it could go either way and it’s going to be a serious fight.


Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Why Ravens fans should actually feel more confident after their ugly win

By Chris Schisler

On paper, the Baltimore Ravens should feel comfortable with where they are at. They sit on top of the AFC at the moment. They essentially control their destiny in the AFC North with an 8-3 record. On paper, things are pretty. In the games though, things haven’t been pretty. The Ravens just scraped out a win in which Lamar Jackson had four passes picked off by the Cleveland Browns.

The Ravens haven’t been the buzzsaw that they were in the 2019 season and they have far less star power than they did in the 2020 season with a healthy Marcus Peters, J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards. Baltimore has needed amazing comebacks, a 66-yard field goal, and last-minute miracles to get the majority of their eight wins.

Ravens fans who are a little shaky right now have reason to feel like things aren’t going right. Fans have a reason to suspect that this isn’t sustainable, that the number of injuries this team has endured will eventually cripple their chances. The standings don’t mesh with the general feeling about the games. The Ravens are more flawed than an 8-3 team usually is.

What if I told you that horribly ugly game against the Browns convinced me more than ever in the viability of the 2021 Baltimore Ravens? It’s true. The Ravens won this game in spite of their quarterback. Lamar Jackson gave the Cleveland Browns four golden chances to mess with the Ravens’ plans of winning that game. The team lifted Lamar Jackson up in a role reversal from most of the season.

If the Baltimore Ravens can start winning on defense, they are a much more dangerous team. Lamar Jackson has had some rough games but this game was an outlier. He’s played at an MVP level most of the 2021 season and is still on pace to reach his career highs across the board. If Jackson gets back on track and the rest of the team plays as they did on Sunday Night Football against the Browns, the NFL is in trouble.

Even with four picks, the Ravens still ran 77 plays and controlled most of the game. The amount of good that the Ravens did was washed out by their quarterback having a case of boneheaded interceptions. The Ravens had 148 rushing yards and picked up almost half of their third-down conversions. Their opponent went four out of 13 on third down tries. This game got closer and tighter with each interception, however, the Ravens led wire to wire.

Let’s not forget that the Ravens imposed their will on the Browns. They had the football for about 15 more minutes of the game clock. If you keep everything the same for the next matchup but you eliminate the turnovers, the Ravens will win in a very convincing fashion. Four turnovers from your quarterback should equal a loss. The fact is the Ravens got away with their quarterback’s worst day. That was something this team wasn’t supposed to be able to do. When you’re watching the Ravens you aren’t watching a one-man play. You’re watching the most resilient team in the NFL.

The Ravens don’t have to be juggernauts. In fact, they can’t possibly make it look easy. Injuries have made this team have to go well beyond their blueprints for the season.

This game doesn’t shake my confidence in Lamar Jackson. Don’t get me wrong, Jackson had an awful game and there’s no defending his performance. It was awful. You also have to remember that he’s the hardest worker on the team and he’s going to get back on track. The Ravens may not be dominating teams. They have however shown they can find a way to win tough games.

The Ravens beat the Bears without Lamar Jackson. Baltimore beat the Browns even when Jackson made it very difficult. If they can win tight games without Jackson playing well, just imagine what they can do when he’s on top of his game.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens defense boosts team past Browns

Things may be coming together for this team. Winning a game or two on defense is fine. This win gave me confidence in the team outside of their star quarterback. Put my chips all in. I finally have bought into this team. At the very least they have a shot, a viable path towards a Super Bowl.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens defense boosts team past Browns

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens escaped Sunday Night Football with a victory. They won the game against the Cleveland Browns 16-10. With about a minute to go Baker Mayfield got the ball with a chance to go down the field for a game-winning touchdown. Don Martindale’s defense stepped up and got the stop, solidifying the best defensive effort of the season.

The Baltimore Ravens won a game in which Lamar Jackson committed four turnovers. That’s not a sentence I thought I’d write earlier in the season. It used to be that the Ravens couldn’t win a game without an amazing performance by Lamar Jackson. Now the Ravens won a game without him and got a victory where he handed the other team extra possessions.

The Ravens defense held the Browns to 10 points. The Browns’ only touchdown came in a controversial fashion, as it appeared from the back angle that the ball hit the ground and it wasn’t a catch. The Browns went four out of 13 on third down attempts. They ran 20 fewer plays than the Ravens and lost two fumbles.

Don Martindale was aggressive in this game. He used blitzes to stop both the run and the pass. The Ravens played incredibly disciplined football. The outside contain was on point. Brandon Williams and Justin Madubuike had strong showings and the defensive line stood tall even without Calais Campbell. The combination of Martindale’s game plan and the execution was something Baltimore had been waiting for all season long.

Baltimore Ravens held strong:

The Ravens weren’t going to let Nick Chubb beat them. He had eight rushing attempts and only picked up an average of two yards a pop. Kareem Hunt saw a similar fate on the ground. The only player who had a huge day for the Browns was Jarvis Landry. Landry had six receptions and 111 yards.

Landry didn’t make a huge imprint on the scoreboard though, so much of that production was inconsequential. The Ravens gave up some plays, but at the end of the day, they rarely broke. Three of Jackson’s interceptions were in the first half. The two takeaways Baltimore had kept that from costing the Ravens. One of the turnovers was Landry fumbling on a trick play attempt. He looked for somebody to throw the football to, the Ravens were ready and they got him in an uncomfortable scramble. Odafe Oweh strikes again.

Patrick Queen, who left the game at one point for an injury and then came back, had a great showing in this game. It could have been the best game that Queen has had with the Ravens. Queen had eight tackles and did a good job finding the football. Queen, and the Ravens in general stepped up their tackling for this game.

Having Anthony Averett back helped in this game. Marlon Humphrey was very impressive in this game. Other than a pass interference call (one that was weak sauce) he did a great job against the Browns. Tyus Bowser had a sack and was about as physically imposing as a player could be at the outside linebacker position.

The Bottom Line:

The Browns had 11 possessions and little to show for it. The defense stepped up and got stops on nine of these possessions. You can’t ask a defense to do much more than the Ravens defense did in this game. They stepped up and were the reason the Ravens won this thing. If the defense has figured everything out and can carry the offense on a bad day at the office for Lamar Jackson, the Ravens are a more dangerous team than people expect them to be. This is huge.

NEXT POST:  Baltimore Ravens: Top 10 Defensive Linemen in franchise history

The defense stepped up in this game. Don Martindale called a masterful game. The Browns got some yards, who cares. This defensive effort is one to be proud of.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens vs. Browns: Don’t make it harder than it has to be

By Chris Schisler 

The Baltimore Ravens have to focus on fundamentals: 

The Baltimore Ravens are taking on the Cleveland Browns on Sunday Night Football. It’s crucial that the Ravens don’t make this harder than it has to be. It sounds simple and almost too obvious but it’s the biggest lesson the Ravens can take to heart before the battle with the Browns. 

The Ravens defense needs to do the things that win football games without being noticed. It’s not about making a highlight play you’ll remember for the rest of your life; it’s about defenders being where they are supposed to be. The Browns are a team that is struggling on offense – yet they are playing a Ravens defense that gives up big plays. The Browns have playmakers. Mistakes will give the Browns life. It’s that simple. 

The Ravens are going against Nick Chubb. Chubb is one of the best running backs in the NFL and he may be this generation’s version of Jamal Lewis. Chubb is deadly when you let him get a full head of steam. Don Martindale can call all the crazy looks he wants, if the defense doesn’t win the battle at the line of scrimmage it doesn’t matter. 

The Ravens need to be in the right position in this game. The two biggest phrases of the evening are going to be gap sound defense and outside contain. Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston are crucial parts of this defense in this effort against Cleveland. They cannot allow the Browns run game to break to the outside. When Baker Mayfield tries to sell the play-action they must crash towards him with Ray Lewis-level passion. 

Don’t make it easy for them, Make it easy for you: 

Open-field tackling is crucial in this game. All it takes is a missed tackle on Jarvis Landry or Donovan Peoples-Jones for a big play to change this game in the Browns favor. If the Ravens win this game their defenders have to make use of their shoulder pads and they have to wrap up.

There can’t be big plays given up because of a bad attempt at a tackle. Blown coverages aren’t on the menu tonight, they simply can’t be. The Ravens have to communicate with each other in the backend, no matter who is out there on the field when it’s go time. 

A defensive shutout would be nice. It’s not expected. The Ravens are far more likely to have a back and forth kind of game with their division foe. What needs to be the expectation is doing the simple things. Fundamentals have lost Baltimore games this season. Defensively it’s been the biggest reason the Ravens are giving up so many big plays down the field. 

The offense has responsibility too: 

The offense has to finish drives. It’s a must. Field goals don’t win big games. The Ravens’ inept performance on third downs has been their doom too much this season. 

Lamar Jackson has the ultimate responsibility of not allowing things to go South. It’s up to him to avoid negative plays and take what the defense gives him. Jackson has to take off and run when he sees daylight. He can’t get greedy and wait for the deep routes to develop all day long. 

Greg Roman has to call a game that makes sense to the game on the field. If things aren’t going right he needs to be able to call adjustments out during the game. It can’t be like it was against the Miami Dolphins where he had the team stay a bad course. 

NEXT POST: Ravens showdown with Browns: 4 predictions and a score

You can watch all the tape in the world. You can come up with the best game plan. When you boil this all down there’s one thing that matters. The Ravens have to make a conscious choice not to do things the hard way this evening. When the Baltimore Ravens battle the Browns they must do the fundamentals. It sounds simple, but it’s true. The Ravens can make this game harder than it has to be, or they can choose to play the right way on a big night.