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 Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens vs Steelers: 4 predictions and a score

By Chris Schisler

1. Ravens score a special teams touchdown:


I’m going to speak this info existence. Every week, I think Devin Duvernay is due for a kickoff return for a touchdown. The Texas product has been close to breaking one and is statistically an elite return man. We’re talking about a Pro Bowl return specialist here. For the last week of the season, I say it’s time Duvernay scores.

The Baltimore Ravens special teams have quietly been string all season. Duvernay, who had a lengthy return in the first battle with the Steelers, is just one example of special teams excellence. I’m calling a Duvernay touchdown, but don’t rule out a fake kick leading or resulting in a score. John Harbaugh is going to be aggressive in this game, because he knows this team needs to get points anyway they can take it.

2. Baltimore Ravens say goodbye to Big Ben with 4 sacks

Terrell Suggs is rightfully the legend of the game at M&T Bank Stadium, and he’ll get the crowd hyped. While you kind of wish he could play one more game against Ben Roethlisberger, the current Ravens will get the job done. A chance to say goodbye to Ben is a chance to get as many hits on him as possible. That’s how Don Martindale is going to look at this.

You may say that with a team spread thinly on defense Wink can only be so aggressive. Here’s the thing, it may be the only path to victory. The Steelers are going to attempt what they did in Pittsburgh. They want to tire out the defense and have the dam break in the critical moments. Martindale has to blitz. He has to force the issue. Put Patrick Queen and Tyus Bowser down for a sack each. Give Justin Houston one and Chuck Clark one as well. In the spirit of Sizzle, the sacks will come. 

3. Justin Tucker will make five field goals 

Sometimes predictions are formed by following the trends. The Ravens aren’t scoring a lot of points. In their five-game skid, they averaged 22,2 points per game. Last week, Tucker hit four field goals for 12 of the 19 points the Ravens scored. The Ravens keep moving the ball down the field and collapsing in the red zone. The inability to finish drives is arguably the most costly problem for the Ravens other than injuries. It’s hard to see the Ravens becoming a touchdown scoring machine all of the sudden. The Ravens could move the ball the last time they played the Steelers, they just didn’t score when they had their chances. The Ravens will take the points they can get in this game, meaning Tucker should be a busy man. 

4. Ravens win but don’t get the help they need

Winning is just one of four things the Ravens need in this finale weekend. Ultimately they’ll leave the 1:00 pm slate of games out of the playoffs. The Jacksonville Jaguars have to beat the Indianapolis Colts. Half the fun of being a sports fan is getting your hopes up. That being said that’s a lot not in the Ravens’ control to ask for. I’ll give the Ravens a win in a rainy slop fest of a game, but it may have to be solely for pride, not keeping the season alive. 

And now a score: Baltimore Ravens win 22-17 

Give me five Justin Tucker field goals that I predicted and a touchdown. Give me the Ravens defense making this finale for Roethlisberger a personal matter and stepping up to the plate. If you can keep the Rams down to 20 points, you can keep this Steelers team under 20. I’ll go with a win in the finale. What the heck. But help is needed and the Ravens don’t want to know the odds. 


Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Top 3 offseason needs ranked

By Chris Schisler

Technically, the Baltimore Ravens season isn’t over. If you can’t start looking to the offseason and turn a bit to free agency and the NFL Draft though, you’re not living in reality. The Ravens are in a better situation than many teams faced with a likely elimination from a postseason berth. They have their quarterback (stay off the dark corners of Ravens Facebook – they have their quarterback and he wears number eight). The Ravens have their head coach and are looking at a 2022 season where they’ll get back key pieces to the puzzle.

The Ravens are going to miss the playoffs in all likelihood though, so let’s get ready. The first step for any problem solving is admitting you have a problem. What are the Ravens’ team-building problems? Let’s talk about where they need to get better.

1. The Baltimore Ravens need the offensive line fixed

One could say that the secondary is the biggest area of need. It’s a close second. But when the ravens get Marcus Peters back (assuming he returns next season), and Marlon Humphrey is back, a lot of the secondary problems will go away or at least be severely muted. There is no quick fix to the offensive line. The return of Ronnie Stanley will be a great boost, but the unit isn’t set the second he returns.

In the 2020 season, the Ravens were plagued by that awful combination that is Tyre Phillips and D.J. Fluker. In 2021, the offensive tackle was a mess for the Ravens. Alejandro Villanueva made it pretty clear that he’s only comfortable on the left side and he’s not a great left tackle. Villanueva was somewhat solid and on the offensive line’s most important position group that will never fly for long.

The real problem was on the right side though. Patrick Mekari did admirably in fill-in duty but he’s not who you want starting at tackle. Mekari will be back, rightfully so after signing a nice extension with the team. Ideally, he’s your most valuable fill-in who can play every offensive line position.

When Mekari wasn’t at right tackle it was ugly. One goal of the offseason has to be never seeing Tyre Phillips play right tackle again. The Ravens can’t go into next season with Phillips even a plan B at right tackle. The Ravens would be wise to load up on tackles. Maybe Villanueva stays as a backup to Stanley- there are worse situations in the world – but the Ravens need to address this position. From the NFL Draft or maybe even free agency, they need a starting right tackle and a plan B, that doesn’t make Ravens fans cover their eyes.

The Ravens have Stanley, Bradley Bozeman, and Kevin Zeitler. That’s what works for the starting offensive line for next season as of now. Adding two starters and filling out the depth chart for the big guys up front is essential. The Ravens have to win the line of scrimmage before they can worry about anything else. It’s that simple.

2. The Secondary

What the Baltimore Ravens need more than anything is a free safety. The Ravens need a defensive back who can play the middle of the field, who has the range to take away big plays and make some in the process. Think about how different this defense would be with a player like Ed Reed. Then find a player who gives you the closest possible match to that. You’ll never find another Reed but the idea is getting a ballhawk, with range and football instincts you can’t coach. A play-making free safety who takes the ball away would make Don Martindale a more dangerous defensive coordinator.

If this season taught us anything it’s that you can never have enough cornerbacks. Anthony Averett is a free agent and I could see him getting paid elsewhere more than the Ravens should pay him. The Ravens have to add a bit to the cornerback position. Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young, and Brandon Stephens make a nice start. You need to draft a guy who can chip in right away and has a chance to develop. You could make an argument that the Ravens should go with a defensive back in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but with many picks, they need to address the secondary with a couple of players.

3. Defensive Line/ Pass Rushers:

The Ravens added a piece to the puzzle with Odafe Oweh in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Ravens need to add another young edge rusher to the mix. They need to find a complementary talent that will grow up with Oweh in this defense. You always need pass rushers. You always need more pass rushers. We already know that. With Justin Houston being a free agent, an edge rusher could be a bigger need.

Let’s look at this defensive line though. Calais Campbell may call it quits after this season, and if he does continue his career he’s a free agent. Brandon Williams is getting up there and even if he’s solid we’re seeing diminishing returns. Justin Madubuike’s okay but he didn’t have the year two breakout we were looking for. The defensive line is not a high-impact group right now. The Ravens may have needs in front of this one, but they have to fix that.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens fall to Rams: Good, bad, ugly



Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens fall to Rams: Good, bad, ugly

By Chris Schisler

A quick recap of a painful loss for the Baltimore Ravens

The Good

Most of the first half went the Baltimore Ravens way. Chuck Clark has two interceptions for the Ravens’ defense including a pick-six for the first score of the contest. Mark Andrews set the franchise record for receding yards in a season.

Outside of one bad decision, Tyler Huntley was incredibly efficient. The end of the first half was excellent. The Ravens managed the game well and therefore had all three-time outs. Huntley led an impressive march to get Justin Tucker a big field goal to make it 13-7 at the half.

The second half could have started disastrously for the Ravens. While they sure would have liked a 3rd & 7 stop on the initial set of downs, things worked out. Matthew Stafford fumbled under duress in the red zone and Justin Houston got the ball for Baltimore. That was huge and it kept things on track for the Ravens.

One thing that went according to the script was the time of possession battle. The Ravens shortened the game, limited possessions for Stafford, and the defense gave their offense a couple of extra possessions. The Ravens held the ball for over 33 minutes of the game clock. They only got 19 points with it, but it was there for the taking. This game in so many ways went the Ravens’ way… Oh, man. What can you say? 

The Bad

The Ravens were up 10-0 when Tyler Huntley got greedy and forced the ball downfield. Instead of setting up a lead-extending score before halftime, Huntley put the Rams back into the game.  It didn’t take long for Cooper Kupp to get the Rams on the board with a touchdown reception. The Ravens could have been in full command. A self-imposed error put the pressure back on the purple and black.

The Baltimore Ravens ended up with field goals on two drives in which they picked up a fourth-down conversion. The lack of finishing drives was the biggest eyesore for the offense. The Ravens could’ve closed the door in this game before they did. The outcome doesn’t change that fact.

The offensive line had some struggles. In fact, Ben Cleveland‘s red zone poor pass protection probably prevented a Tyler Huntley touchdown pass in the first half. The Ravens left points on the field and theirs no way around it. Change one field goal for a touchdown and this is a completely different outcome.

Stats that killed the Ravens:

  • Cooper Kupp had six receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown.
  • Huntley was sacked five times.
  • The Ravens went 3/14 on third downs. The Rams got the fourth down conversion that mattered.

The Ugly

Run defense was bad in this game. Linebackers we’re getting caught in the trash. Tacking was suspect at times and the defensive line was getting pushed off the ball. Sony Michel‘s average per carry was way to healthy.

Up 16-7 in the third quarter, the Ravens had pass protection cost them. A quick stop by the Rams was helped by a second-down sack and a hopeless third-down play where Huntley just had to make an escape and protect the football. Roman’s play-calling was frustrating. It put a ton of pressure on the five offensive linemen. Too much for this unit against Von Miller and Aaron Donald.

Open-field tackling was awful. A lot of the plays that Cooper Kupp and Sony Michel made early were too easy.

The Ravens’ lack of killer instinct was potentially murderous in this game. Baltimore had a chance to put the game away. With a 1st and goal opportunity, the Ravens ended up with a late fourth-quarter field goal. The Ravens were up five with about five minutes left in the game.

It was a bad spot to be in. The Ravens needed a stop. The Rams got to the red zone with a little over two minutes remaining in the game. The absolute inability to stop Cooper Kupp loomed large, as it got the Rams in a dangerously close position.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vent session: A tough month

The Ravens had a fourth-down situation on defense. Odell Beckham Jr. caught a first down reception with 1:01 left on the clock. Baltimore had to use a timeout. It didn’t matter. The Rams scored with 57 seconds left. The Ravens stopped the two-point conversion, but they knew they may have lost the hard-fought game. And they did.



Posted in Pregame Content

Why the Baltimore Ravens can’t be taken lightly by the Rams

By Chris Schisler

The title of this article may be grabbing your attention, so let’s talk about it. Is it ridiculous that the Baltimore Ravens pose a legitimate threat to the 11-4 Los Angeles Rams? The Ravens have lost four straight games. The Cincinnati Bengals destroyed them 41-21 last Sunday. The Rams didn’t lose a game in December, and the new year is an exciting thought for Sean McVay and company. The title is bonkers right?

Here’s the thing, it’s not. The Baltimore Ravens can beat the Rams. This doesn’t mean they will, it should just be noted that it’s very possible. The Baltimore Ravens were a shell of themselves last week because the Covid reserve list and injuries put them over 30 players down. The Ravens won’t be healthy against the Rams, but they’ll be much more equipped than they were against the Bengals. Basing anything on that game is a dangerous practice, but I’m not your typical talking head so what do I know… right?

Look this is a game in Baltimore. The Green Bay Packers thought the game was going to be an easy breeze through the Charm City. They got an amped-up crowd and a game that went down to the two-point conversion. John Harbaugh has gotten the Ravens to fight their wings off this season, and if you think the purple and black are just going to lick their wounds and get the Rams a cupcake before the playoffs you don’t know this team.

The Ravens have reportedly been getting a lot of players back from the Covid Reserve list. Most recently, it’s been Tyler Huntley, Justin Madubuike, and newly rejoined with the Ravens, Tony Jefferson, Tyus Bowser, Justin Houston, Geno Stone, Chris Board, and Kristian Welch are back from the Covid list. Defensively, this team has a lot more working for it. Are they still a bit strapped at cornerback? Yes. But the Ravens are in a much better position going into this game.

The Ravens have been close in desperate situations on a weekly basis. The Bengals game was the exception, and the situation dictated that. Does anybody want to realize that the Ravens went to Josh Johnson at quarterback and still had a productive day on offense? The Ravens game against the Bengals went the way it did because the defense couldn’t get one stop. We saw against the Packers that the defense doesn’t have to be immaculate, it just has to get a few key stops.

Nobody expects Don Martindale’s unit to hold the Rams under 20 points. They don’t really have to, though it is worth noting that the Rams have scored 20 or fewer points four times this season. If the Ravens can keep the Rams under 30 points they can win the game. Remember the Packers got 31 points on a day where Aaron Rodgers could do almost no wrong. This is in the realm of possibility.

Lamar Jackson returned to practice on Wednesday, but it;’s looking more and more like Tyler Huntley. Well, that’ll work. Huntley made things interesting against the Browns and Packers. If nothing else, Huntley is a fun quarterback to watch. Having either Jackson or (most likely) Huntley back is a huge boost to this offense. This offense is also designed well to frustrate the Rams.

The Rams’ run defense isn’t their strength. When teams can run the ball on the Rams, they have a lot of success. It’s why the Rams struggled so much against the San Francisco 49ers, In that NFC West clash, the 49ers provided a decent blueprint to stopping the Rams. The Rams gave up 159 yards on the ground, and dominated the time of possesion. This tired out the Rams defense, nullifying Aaron Donald and Von Miller. It also prevented Matthew Stafford from finding a rhythm. Stafford is a player that needs to find his groove to have a big day and the 49ers said no.

While the Ravens offense called by Greg Roman isn’t exactly like Kyle Shanahan’s offense is in San Fransico, the Ravens can provide similar challenges for Los Angeles. On so many levels this is expected to be another bad week for the Baltimore Ravens. It doesn’t have to be. Some of the key ingredients are there for an upset.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vent session: A tough month

So Baltimore has a chance. The game got moved back from 4:25 to 1:00. The joke will be on Fox if they televise the top upset of the NFL season. Will it happen? We’ll see. The moral of the story is that there is a reason to watch this game, there is hope.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens vent session: A tough month

By Chris Schisler 

Perhaps the hardest part of the Baltimore Ravens four-game skid is how much has been out of their control. Weekly injury reports, the Covid-19 reserve list, and in-game injuries have held down a team that has shown incredible spirit.

The Ravens lost 41-21 against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a game you couldn’t even get angry about. What adjustments could have been made that would have changed the outcome? It went beyond calling on the newly anointed plan C at quarterback Josh Johnson. The Ravens had practice squad corners going against Tee Higgins and Ja’Mar Chase. That could only go one way, and when Anthony Averett left the game hurt, it went that way even quicker.

The Ravens were decimated. Circumstances they couldn’t have prepared for and they couldn’t have any control over forced them into a farce of a contest. The Bengals were awarded their ninth win and the inside track to the AFC North crown.

The Ravens were essentially like Superman tied down by Kryptonite under a red sun projector. They were powerless and stuck in a bad spot. Let me indulge in a nerdy reference, it’s been a bad month.

The first stab of the heart:  

Things started with the slow and painful fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Heinz Field crowd relished when the Ravens defense tired out and the Steelers took complete control of the game. After the worst fourth quarter in recent memory was almost in the books Lamar Jackson fought back.

The Ravens were able to match down for the last-minute score. Instead of kicking the extra point and going into overtime, John Harbaugh elected to go for two. It didn’t work out and the Ravens lost by one point. Marlon Humphrey, by the way, sustained a season-ending injury. That night felt like a heavy death blow for the Ravens.

Then the Ravens got a rematch with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns got out to a commanding lead. Lamar Jackson got hurt (on a passing play). Tyler Huntley was able to lead a remarkable comeback. Justin Tucker even got his first successful onside kick. Then the Ravens fell short on a fourth down. The Ravens lost by two points, 24-22.

This is when Covid-19 decided to be a problem for the purple and black. The Ravens went into a game against the Green Bay Packers without much help at all in the secondary. The Ravens’ chances were severely hampered with that and a torn through the offensive line.

Tyler Huntley didn’t care about the odds and the Ravens went for it. Huntley led the Ravens to 30 points. For the second time in three weeks, Baltimore lost on a failed two-point conversion attempt instead of chancing overtime.

The knife turning: 

Then the Ravens had to play the Bengals with the most outmatched secondary the league has ever seen. That’s not a hyperbolic statement. Joe Burrow had over 500 yards passing for a reason. The Ravens’ only healthy starting corner was Tavon Young. The rest of the corners were replacements of replacements. If you told me the Ravens were filming the sequel to The Replacements I might have believed you. The Ravens were stuck playing guys who only get on the field in the preseason.

The Ravens managed to get eight wins despite being the most banged-up team in the NFL. Down went Marcus Peters, Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins, and Ronnie Stanley, and the Ravens won five of their first six games. There was no point of the season where the Ravens weren’t without a handful of key players.

The four-game losing streak is simply everything catching up to them. The Ravens were out in a position where they couldn’t survive many more hits to their roster.

The hits came and came and came. The big bad wolf essentially huffed and puffed until the 53 man roster was almost unrecognizable from the one that battled the Las Vegas Raiders in week 1.

Every hit that came changed the roster. The Ravens have had to constantly adapt. The Ravens are a much different team than the one that started 6-1. The team that beat the Chiefs and came back against the Colts doesn’t exist anymore. That team needed luck with injuries and Covid to stay away. To no fault of their own, the Ravens have crumbled.

A search for a perspective beyond emotional pain: 

It’s both remarkable and frustrating that the Ravens aren’t even out of playoff contention. There’s a part of every Ravens fan that’s just waiting for next season. There’s a part of every Ravens fan that wants to see their team pull through, win out and see if they can steal a game or two in the postseason.

The Ravens went down to the wire against the Steelers, Browns and, Packers. If the Ravens just won two of those games they’d have 10 wins and would be in a much different situation. That’s three games settled by a total of four points. That’s brutal. Those were games a healthier Ravens team found a way to win early I’m the season. It’s just too much now. The last straw was had and for some reason, the Ravens still fight and still have a heartbeat.

What’s been missed in the four-game losing streak is how much there is to be positive about. The Ravens don’t have to rebuild – they have to get healthy and regroup for next season. They don’t need a new coach – if anything John Harbaugh’s proven himself with this season. The Ravens are going to be good next year if they simply get any luck at all on the injury front. 

Positives to keep you going Baltimore Ravens fans: 

Mark Andrews is having the best season a Baltimore Ravens tight end ever has. Andrews is dangerously close to breaking receiving records for the Baltimore Ravens. Marquise Brown isn’t far behind him. Could you imagine this offense with a healthy Lamar Jackson and J.K. Dobbins back in the fold?

We asked all offseason for growth in the passing game and the Ravens receiving options are about the only thing going for this team. The very fact that the Ravens don’t need a receiver with great desperation should be something to applaud, even when we’re hurting here in Maryland. 

The Ravens lost core players. Imagine though how much greater the impact of the young talent on this team would be with that core talent back. Odafe Oweh, Brandon Stephens, Rashod Bateman… guys Baltimore has some players for the future. 

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

This has been the worst month of Baltimore Ravens football in quite some time. Nothing has gone right, the team has a million built-in excuses, and talking heads still want to use the last game to prop up Joe Burrow as the next big thing (…cool). This is the season that nobody signed up for. This is the season where the Ravens have a chance when injuries and Covid never gave them a fair shot. While there’s always next year – and that’s the focus if you are not a masochistic fan, this season isn’t over. 





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 Hot Take of the Week

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

By Chris Schisler

The Ravens Flock needs to appreciate what John Harbaugh has accomplished this season. There’s no coach in the NFL that would have the Baltimore Ravens in contention of the AFC North crown with what he’s had to deal with. Bill Belichick may not even be able to make this work.

Don’t get me wrong, Harbaugh drives me crazy. I wasn’t in love with either two-point conversion attempt. He makes decisions that get me throwing my Ravens hat on Sundays. It’s the amount of vitriol that Harbaugh gets from pockets of this fanbase that I don’t get. I’m not talking about irrational anger at the moment – every Ravens fan felt that when a two-point try was unsuccessful against the Packers. Some fans just don’t appreciate what we have and social media can become ugly.

Think about what went wrong this season. All of it. Ronnie Stanley missed all but one game after coming back too quickly from his injury last season. Marcus Peters, Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins, Justice Hill, and L.J. Fort didn’t get to play a regular-season snap before they went down to injury. During the season, the Ravens have had to shuffle their offensive line due to injuries and it’s never been a strength. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Marlon Humphrey suffered a torn pectoral muscle. The Ravens lost Deshon Elliott about halfway through the season. Nick Boyle has missed most of the season, and now Pat Ricard is missing time hurt. Forgive the long paragraph but you can’t fit every bit of adversity the Ravens have faced in a normal chunk of words, not even this one.

The Big Picture vs. the Ravens three-game losing streak:

The fact that the Ravens have had 21 players on injured reserve is astounding. The fact that this isn’t a miserable and hopeless repeat of the 2015 season (The only season with comparable injuries) is astonishing. This should have been a losing season from the jump. We just watched Browns fans complain about being shorthanded against the Raiders – when it pales in comparison to the pressure that bad fortune has inflicted on the Ravens.

John Harbaugh went for two against the Packers. Don’t let the outcome sully the actual story here. The fact that the Ravens were in a position to either tie or take the lead at the end of this game is incredible. Against Aaron Rodgers, who arguably is the best quarterback in football, the Ravens were as strapped for corners as they’ve ever been. The 2014 secondary that gave up two 14 point leads to the New England Patriots, almost felt sorry for this unit.

Every pundit under the sun predicted a Ravens loss. Almost every pundit under the sun thought it would be a blowout or at least a 10 point win for the Ravens. A significant Covid reserve list + an extensive amount of injuries created an insurmountable mountain for Baltimore… Harbaugh had his team scale the dang mountain. The Ravens were right there. I didn’t love going for two there. I admit it. That being said, Harbaugh was one play away from the greatest regular season upset in Ravens history.

2021 Ravens: Making the best out of the worst

When you consider the fact that almost every game has been decided by a razor-thin margin, you have to be impressed with the grit of this team. In the Ravens’ three-game losing streak, the Ravens haven’t lost by more than two points. The Ravens have only been blown out of the water once. The Cincinnati Bengals dominated the Ravens. That’s it. End of list. Every other game has been a brutal fight worthy of at least a little admiration. Harbaugh has his team bought in.

The 2021 season feels like the best possible worst-case scenario. Harbaugh has built-in excuses. His energy level hasn’t dipped. His effort on a weekly basis hasn’t dipped. In fact, it looks like he’s getting more involved with his coordinators -eschewing one of his biggest faults, his unwavering trust in the play-caller. If Harbaugh’s biggest crime is letting two games come down to one final play – and both times it didn’t work out – fine. He’s earned a little latitude.

I remind you that this isn’t a moratorium of the 2021 season. John Harbaugh has a lot of work to do. The goal is to get his franchise quarterback back up and running for the all-important game against the Cincinnati Bengals. If the Ravens beat the Bengals, this season is back on track. If Lamar Jackson can return to the MVP style of play from the first half of the season, the Ravens can become dangerous once again.

The Bottom Line:

The AFC North doesn’t know a team with more adversity faced than this version of the Baltimore Ravens. The Browns are a distant second in the bad luck department. Still, the Ravens are right in the thick of things. Give this pile of adversity to Mike Tomlin, Zac Taylor, or Kevin Stefanski and their teams would have worked themselves out of the mix.

I’ve heard so many times this season that the Ravens are lucky. They won their eight games in unbelievable fashion. Five comebacks in the fourth quarter were tallied. Justin Tucker hit a 66-yard field goal. There was a bit of magic earlier this season, but calling this team lucky would be like calling a giant a dwarf. The Ravens have created their own luck by fighting through a frustrating pile-up of injuries.

If you are able to see the problems the Baltimore Ravens have had as inevitable… dominoes falling, a chain reaction that you can’t quite control, a video game set on extreme difficulty… whatever your metaphor of choice is, you can’t see Harbaugh as part of the problem. Harbaugh came into the season with a powerful sportscar right off the lot. He’s ended up with a nearly totaled ride that he’s had to completely rework.

NEXT POST: Ravens 30 Packers 31: The Good, bad and the ugly

Harbaugh would probably say “It isn’t pretty, but it’s us.” It’s odd that I feel a surge of pride in this team after a painful three-game losing streak, but I’d say this is a season that reaffirms what “Play like a Raven” means.

Posted in The good bad and ugly

Ravens 30 Packers 31: The Good, bad and the ugly

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens had a valiant effort against the Green Bay Packers. In the end, the Packers inch closer to the number one seed, while the Ravens put themselves in a tough spot with three games left. The sun has come up – proving that there’s always another day. Since we have to process this game and move on to Cincinnati (literally) let’s talk about the good, bad and, the ugly vs. the Packers:

Whatever you expected, chances are that the Ravens surpassed your expectations. This game came down to the end. The purple and black had a lot of guys out of this game for injuries and the latest surge of Covid-19. The Packers won, but they did not get the easy win that they were supposed to have. They got a fight. The first thing you have to praise is the Ravens’ effort in this game. They wanted it and they protected The Bank honorably.

The Good:

Tyler Huntley continued to be the best backup quarterback in football. He’s going to be a starter somewhere else sooner rather than later. Baltimore let Huntley sling it. They didn’t change their offensive approach and go into an ultra-conservative ground and pound mode. Huntley completed 28 out of 40 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Huntley put up a Lamar Jackson-like performance and he was incredibly fun to watch. 

Latavius Murray showed great burst and averaged 6.8 yards per rushing attempt. He only got the rock seven times, but he had some high-impact runs. Baltimore had 143 yards rushing, which is usually a good sign for this offense.

Mark Andrews was amazing in this contest. He had 10 receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers had trouble with Andrews on a regular basis in this game. He somehow kept slipping open. Eight Ravens caught passes in this game showing a healthy distribution and flow of the football. Huntley’s decisions were quick and the offense was efficient.

Defensively, you have to like what you saw. The Ravens were without Chuck Clark and only had five healthy cornerbacks for the game. When Tavon Young left the game hurt, the Ravens were even more shorthanded. If you would have told me that the Packers would only score 31 points and Rodgers would be held under 300 yards before this game, I would have a hard time believing you. The defense got a clutch stop that gave the Ravens a chance at the end. When you have Robert Jackson and Kevon Seymore filling in at cornerback, this is about as good as this thing can go.

The Bad:

Believe it or not, the Packers and Ravens had the same number of penalties. The Ravens had some very dumb things that hurt them in this area though. The Packers caught Justin Houston failing to get off the field in time and it got the Packers a free first down. The Ravens were going to go for it on fourth and one in the fourth quarter. They settled for a field goal when a false start penalty knocked them back five yards. The Ravens needed to play more flawlessly to win this game. They couldn’t afford the self-inflicted mistakes.

While the Ravens did spread the ball around in this game, Rashod Bateman seemingly vanished from the game. The rookie receiver looked unstoppable against the Cleveland Browns. His momentum completely halted in this game.

The Ravens had trouble getting off the field on defense. To be fair, this was to be expected. Still, one of the big problems in this game is that Green Bay won the time of possession battle. While it may look like the Packers didn’t do that much on the ground, their running backs had a huge mark on this game. Aaron Jones only had 58 yards but that came with a healthy 4.5 yards per attempt. Some of those runs were backbreakers – the front seven didn’t have the excuses that the secondary did.

The Ugly:

The play-calling and game management of this game could make eyes bleed. The Ravens march down the field at the beginning of the game. They had every chance to make a statement on the opening drive and they walked away with no points. On a seemingly long three-yard fourth-down attempt. Tyler Huntley was bottled up on a quarterback keeper. It was a fourth-down call with one option, remember that point for later.

It ended up working out. The Ravens got the Packers to punt. The Ravens marched back down the field and scored. Still, in a game where you have every disadvantage you have to take any points you can have. The Ravens lost 31-30. They didn’t need that many points. If they kick that field goal it would have played out differently. You can’t say the Ravens lost because they didn’t take the points on the first drive. You can say though, that the Ravens mismanaged that whole situation from the idea to go for it to the play-call itself.

Let’s fast-forward to the end of the game. With what Baltimore had to deal with, they get a pass for some things and the ugly section doesn’t need to be that intensive. The Ravens going for two at the end of the game… We have to talk about it. Whether or not you think it was the right decision the play-call gave the Ravens very little chance.

The Ravens rolled out to the right and looked for Andrews. That was it. The way the play unfolded, that’s all Huntley was even going to see. The Packers knew it was going to Andrews. Brown was technically open, on the run, Andrews was the one true shot the Ravens had. The Ravens failed to get the touchdown early and failed to get the two-point conversion. Both play-calls essentially gave the Ravens one choice and it wasn’t there. You can blame execution all you want, that’s bad concepts being played out.

Next Post: Baltimore Ravens who deserve a spot in the NFL Pro Bowl

When you consider that the Ravens were playing with all the cards stacked against them, this was the best possible bad situation. Even though the Ravens lost, they showed the team hasn’t given up. At the end of the day, the Ravens have their third straight loss and desperately need to beat the Cincinnati Bengals next week. When you look at what the Ravens had to work with, it has to fuel your belief in John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ mission this season. With everything this team has been through, they haven’t given up.