By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens beat the Chicago Bears. Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned:
Baltimore Ravens: 7 lessons learned in Chicago
1. Thank Goodness Tyler Huntley won the QB2 Job:
The Baltimore Ravens won this game in large part because their backup quarterback handled himself with poise and confidence. Tyler Huntley edged out Trace McSorley for the understudy position behind Lamar Jackson. Huntley winning that job paid off in a big way against the Bears. The Ravens were able to stay true to the general outline of their game plan. Huntley managed the game, and played solid football.
If I told you before the game Tyler Huntley would be filling in for the rightful MVP of the league, Lamar Jackson, you’d be a little nervous. If I told you the Ravens would let Huntley throw the ball 36 times you’d expect a big old loss. The Ravens deserve credit for letting Huntley have command of this offense. Huntley deserves credit for avoiding the big mistake and stepping up to make the plays he needed to hit on for this game to come out this way.
219 yards and a weird interception of the hands of Mark Andrews is far better than you’d expect from any backup quarterback making his first NFL start. Can we talk about how efficient Huntley was in this game? Wow. That’s all I have to say. Only 10 incomplete passes in your first start? That’s impressive.
2. Mark Andrews is an absolute treasure
As impressive as Huntley was there weren’t a lot of big plays to be had in this game. Marquise Brown was out and the Bears pass rush was intense. Huntley got sacked six times and he needed to either run for his life or get the ball out quick to have a shot in this game. Mark Andrews was the proverbial safety blanket. The Pro Bowl tight end had a strong showing. Andrews got Huntley out of dodge with several impressive grabs.
Andrews had eight receptions for 73 yards. Everyone in the stadium knew that 89 was getting the football. Andrews got clobbered by attention from Bears defenders and he still had a huge performance. Give Mark Andrews the respect he deserves. The Ravens couldn’t win this game without their star tight end. He can make a rough day a lot easier.
3. The inside run is starting to have some life
The Ravens didn’t live off of the run game against the Bears, but it had some moments. Most of the successful runs worked inside against the Bears. This has been an area that the Ravens have been especially struggled with. The game-winning touchdown run was a nice example of power football. Freeman chipped in 49 yards and Latavius Murray had 32 yards. If you take away the runs from Huntley, most of the yards earned came in between the tackles. Was it great? No. It was solid though, and it worked when the Ravens needed it to.
4. This offensive line is as bad as advertised
That doesn’t mean I can’t dog the offensive line a bit here. The Ravens allowed Huntley to get sacked six times. You don’t like seeing your backup quarterback getting clobbered. As elusive and fast as Huntley is, the difference between him and Lamar Jackson was easy to see. There were some plays that Lamar probably could have made something happen that Huntley couldn’t do anything with. This isn’t dogging Huntley. This is pointing out how much of the negatives that Jackson hides.
The Ravens don’t have an answer at right tackle. Pat Mekari got hurt again. The Ravens are seeing free rushers off the edge on a way too often basis. Pass protection is a real problem for this team.
5. Giving up big plays has gotten very old:
The Baltimore Ravens gave up a long touchdown to Darnell Mooney. It was on a short pass. Two defenders got blocked on the outside, fine that happens and the Bears executed. The way the Ravens attempted to rally to the football was problematic. The lack of field tackling made a quick screen pass a long touchdown strike. That took a 6-0 game and made it 7-6. One play erased all the good the Ravens had done up to that point.
So on the 4th and 11, late in the game, the Ravens gave up what probably should have been the game-winning touchdown. Don Martindale had his defense playing Cover 0. The Ravens all of a sudden required a miracle because instead of just giving up a first, they gave up the lead.
The Ravens’ inability to fix their big-play problem on defense is inexcusable. It’s great that Tyler Huntley led a game-winning drive. That said, it’s horrible that the defense put their backup quarterback in that position. Right now, it’s impossible to defend Don Martindale on the 4th and 11. It’s impossible to defend the players on the field on the Mooney touchdown strike in the third quarter. The frustration level with stupid mistakes giving up huge plays at bad moments is through the roof and flirting with the clouds. It’s a problem that the Ravens must not get a pass for.
6. Take out the big plays and this defense has something working:
One of the reasons this is so infuriating is that the defense did so many things correctly in this game. The defense held the Bears to 13 points. The defense forced and recovered a fumble while tallying three sacks. The Bears converted on just two of their 11 third-down attempts. The Ravens got a fourth-down stop and Chicago only had 57 plays on offense.
This could have easily been a day where the Ravens won without us all collectively having a near-death experience. Your heart didn’t need to go through that stress at the end of the game. This was never going to be pretty, but the defense wiped out all the credit it earned for the majority of the game. For a defense that is doing so many things right, these big plays take all the wind out of Don Martindale’s sails. I want to give the defense a standing ovation. Despite admiring a great effort, I’m ranting about their failings at key junctures of the game. That’s the paradox with this defense.
7. Thank you Sammy Watkins
Sammy Watkins is an example of an underrated pickup. Watkins had three receptions for 48 yards in this game. The former Bills and Chiefs star caught Huntley’s first pass and he caught his last pass. Did Watkins get wide open on the play that set up the game-winning score, because of a blown coverage? Yes. It’s just so impressive that he caught a wild pass from Huntley, who had to dodge defenders just to launch the pass into the red zone.
In seven games he’s had 22 receptions for 347 yards. If you take out the Dolphins game (where he seemingly came back a bit too early) he’s having a masterful season considering his role in this offense. He’s been an important player to this team and the Ravens saw him step up in the clutch on Sunday.
Things are about to get interesting. The Ravens have three divisional opponents in a row. Stay tuned Baltimore.