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 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.