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.

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens host Green Bay Packers: 4 predictions and a score

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the late afternoon window. The Packers are fighting for the number one seed while the purple and black are just trying to stop the bleeding. Who wins? How does it happen? Here are four predictions and a score:

1. The Ravens rush for 200 yards

The Baltimore Ravens will probably be without Lamar Jackson. Jackson’s backup also has the ability to impact the run game, so expect Tyler Huntley to operate a ground and pound offense. Last week, Huntley passed for 270 yards but had to play catchup from the very beginning. This week, the entire point of the offensive attack is to prevent this game from getting out of hand.

Huntley had 45 yards on the ground last week. That number will go up this week with some designed quarterback runs being sprinkled in. Give Huntley an even 100 yards on the ground. Devonta Freeman had 64 yards last week. He had 52 yards the two games before that and had 49 rushing yards against the Chicago Bears. 50-60 yards can be seen as Freeman’s standard output. Let’s say he has a good week and it’s 65 yards for the veteran back. That gets the Ravens to 165 yards rushing and, Devin Duvernay and Latavius Murray will get that number to 200.

2. Aaron Rodgers will have 300 yards in the air:

The contreversy making Packers quarterback that is Aaron Rodgers is on fire. Rodgers has four games this year with 300 yards or more passing. The last three games make three of those four tallies. Guys, he’s hitting the 300 yard mark. Against a fairly depleted secondary this seems like an inevitablity. The Ravens run defense will also factor into this equation. Aaron Jones likely won’t play in this game which means if the Ravens stop A.J. Dillon on the ground, Rodgers will have to be the big play-maker. The Ravens face a lot of challenges in this game. Rodgers is problem numero uno.

3. Ravens get out to a fast start for a change of pace:

The Ravens have nothing to lose. Nobody expects them to win. There’s pressure in the sense that a loss hurts the teams chances a bit. For the most part though, the pressure isn’t there because the expectatons are lower than usual. At this point losing the game is thought of as a formality. The Ravens can put a ton of pressure on the Packers. The Packers are expected to win – scratch that – they expect to get the win. The more of a fight this becomes, the more pressure the Packers will feel.

Assuming it’s Tyler Huntley starting for the injured Lamar Jackson, I actually love the idea of a fast start. The young and unproven quarterback has nothing to lose and a huge stage to show his worth. For the first time in weeks the effects of expectations don’t work against this team. I think you’re going to see John Harbaugh gear up for a crazy game. I think the Ravens will get up 10-0 to start this game. A touchdown drive and an early stop will boost this team into having a chance.

4. Reality will set in:

The Ravens situation will eventually catch up to them. They’re the most injured team in football. A backup quarterback is the field general for the Ravens’ offense. It looks like Chuck Clark (The field general of the defense) will miss the game. Eventually the reality of being outmatched will sink in and solidify. The Ravens will get outgunned by the Packers offense. The second half of this game, in particular the fourth quarter will be a bad thing for Ravens fans to watch. A tired and exhausted Rvens defense will start to crack. The dam will break and the Packers will prevail.

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

And now a score: Packers win 31-20

The Ravens haven’t put up more than 20 points in a long while. They need too much to go right for them to win a game with this hand they’re dealt. I think you need 30 points to win this game and I just can’t see the Ravens getting there.