Week 14 – Ravens Recap & Grades

Ravens 16, Steelers 14 : Week 14 – Recap & Grades :

Offense – Getting back to what they do best was the recipe for success. Running the football to the tune of 215 yards on 42 attempts for an average of 5.1 yards per carry on the ground, led by the return of JK Dobbins, who carries it 15 times for 120 yards, an average of 8.0 yards per carry & a TD, including busting loose for a 44-yard scamper in the 1st quarter of his first game since undergoing his 2nd knee surgery in the last 2 years. Gus Edwards carries it 13 times for 66 yards, an average of 5.1 yards per carry & QB Tyler Huntley runs it 9 times for 31 yards, an average of 3.4 yards per carry while going 8/12 for 88 yards, an average of 7.3 yards per pass & is sacked 1 time for -6 yards. Huntley picks up right where he left last week, leading back-to-back scoring drives of 11 plays, 51 yards & a Justin Tucker FG & 2 plays, 48 yards which is falls all on the shoulders of Dobbins for a TD after a 3 & out on the opening drive. They go 4-13 on 3rd down & run 61 total plays for 309 yards & average 5.1 yards per play while winning the TOP 32:59 to 27:01. As good as Huntley has been backing up a former league MVP in Jackson, one area that he has to clean up is running out of bounds instead of taking big hits which is why he got knocked out of the game in the 3rd quarter on a vicious hit by Steelers S Minkah Fitzpatrick w/ a concussion. Jackson has made avoiding such hits look easy & Huntley absolutely has to fix that aspect of his game. Rookie Anthony Brown shows some poise to come in to the game when he did, backed up in his own territory, on the road, in Pittsburgh as a third string QB who has never seen any game action. He goes 3/5 for 16 yards including a huge 7-yard pass to TE Mark Andrews on 3rd & 4 from his own 39 w/ 8:31 left in the game which leads to a FG by Tucker & caps off a 13-play, 57 yard, clock chewing drive that eats up 7:55. They then put together the game-sealing drive right before the 2-minute warning as Edwards pounds his way through for 6 on 3rd & 3 to seal the deal & it’s a victory formation the rest of the way. Demarcus Robinson catches 5 passes for 52 yards, an average of 10.4 yards per catch & a long of 23 yards. The pass protection holds up well as they only allow 2 sacks for -10 yards on the day against a formidable Pittsburgh front 7 & you can see the difference between this O-line is night & day w/ LT Ronnie Stanley back in the lineup. He is really the X-factor of this entire group as his presence brings stability in the trenches & opens up the running game much better while winning most of his one on one matchups. Even without RG Kevin Zietler, this group got contributions from G Trystan Colon & G Ben Cleveland who fills in after Colon leaves w/ injury & plays well in his absence but it’s the presence of Stanley that changes the dynamics of this offensive line. Overall, this group just bludgeoned the Steelers w/ the run game, made some timely throws & did not turn the ball over despite being down to it’s third string QB on the road in a hostile environment, it doesn’t matter who is behind center when this team is able to run the ball this effectively & control the clock, they can play w/ anybody in the league when they play to their identity & don’t get away from who they are. This was a vintage Ravens offensive performance.
Grade : B-

Defense – This group once again rises to the occasion on the road as they force 3 turnovers, register 2 sacks & allow just 65 yards on the ground while hitting anything that moves & throwing it back to the Ravens defenses of old w/ a dominating performance in Pittsburgh to lift up an offense in need of any help it could get. This group was relentless all day, holding RB Najee Harris to just 38 yards on 12 carries, an average of 2.8 yards per carry, knocking starting QB Kenny Pickett out of the game & forcing backup QB Mitch Trubisky to throw 3 INT’s, all in Ravens territory. Pickett is sacked by LB Roquan Smith on 3rd down & leaves the game 1 series later after entering concussion protocol, only to be replaced by Trubisky who goes 22/30 for 276 yards, an average of 9.2 yards per pass & 1 TD to TE Pat Freiermuth while throwing 3 picks & getting sacked once. Freiermuth hauls in passes for 33 yards, an average of 11.0 yards per reception but WR Diontae Johnson totals 82 yards on 6 catches, an average of 13.7 per catch, while Rookie WR George Pickens hauls in 3 passes for 78 yards, an average of 26.0 yards per reception. No matter the amount of yards gained by the passing game this unit kept the pressure up & for stops when it needed to. Smith & Queen each register an interception on back-to-back drives in the 3rd & FS Marcus Williams makes his presence felt in this rivalry by snagging another on an overthrow by Trubisky which puts the ball on the 1 when Brown takes over for the first time. Smith & Bowser each pick up a sack, Smith on Pickett, Bowser on Trubisky & this group was just nasty all day long, holding the Steelers to 4 for 8 on 3rd down & out of 9 possesions they never allow Pittsburgh to run more than 9 plays on any of them They do allow them 4 1st downs on penalties as the discipline issues this team has had do show up again but they are able to overcome it in the end. The secondary plays better, there is better communication & better tackling then in recent weeks while forcing all 3 interceptions as DC Mike McDonald’s scheme continues to come together, rising to the occasion against their biggest rival on the road. This group will need to repeat these types of performances week in & week out if this offense continues to struggle to score points but that’s fine, this team has won many games that way over the years & it’s actually in their DNA to win that way, anything else is going outside their realm & getting away from who they are. While the offense was high-powered behind Jackson in recent years, the defense regressed & it became almost 1-sided, Roquan Smith has helped restore this defense to the way it used to be, the Ravens defense has allowed the 2nd fewest points in the league since acquiring Smith in Week 9. Having Smith at the MIKE allows Patrick Queen to take his play to the next level at the WILL next to Smith & it’s just a domino effect down the line the rest of the way. This group has the ability to carry this team down the stretch if need be & as a matter of fact, they relish the role of doing so. They are forcing turnovers, registering sacks & stopping the run, the only weakness this group really has is in the secondary but even that has gotten better of late. Overall, an impressive performance but not surprising at all, just flashbacks to the days of old which is a good thing moving forward.
Grade : A

Special Teams : Clutch. The backbone of this team shows up again when they are needed most but this time they do it every way possible & show why they are perhaps the best ST unit in the league. Justin Tucker connects on all 3 of his FG’s from 42, 35 & 30 yards out, Rookie P Jordan Stout punts it away 3 times for 174 yards, an average of 41.3 yards per punt, including 1 inside the 20. Also, the kick coverage is solid as Steven Sims Jr. totals 29 yards on 2 kick returns for 0 yards & 1 punt return for 29 as this group continues to be solid in kick coverage & has for a long time. RB Justice Hill returns 2 kicks for 39 yards, an average of 19.5 yards per return & WR Devin Duvernay returns 1 kick for 9 yards in a game that didn’t have a lot of scoring so neither team had many opportunities to make an impact in the return game. The biggest play made by this group was Calais Campbell blocking a FG attempt by Steelers K Chris Boswell on the 20 yard line on a kick that would of cut the lead to 3 & ultimately would of factored into the Steelers winning this game instead of losing it. This group showed why they are the best, why they can be depended on & why they are always just 1 play away from changing the outcome of a game. Campbell’s block was nothing but clutch & was something that had been missing from this unit for awhile. It also sparked the offense to all but close the game out as they execute a 13-play, 57 yard drive that takes up 7:55 & leads to a FG by Tucker to make it a 2-score game w/ 3:19 left. ST Coach, Chris Horton has had his group ready to go every single week & they continue to be one of the most dependable units in the league & one of the reasons that this team sits where it does. Tucker’s automatic leg, Stout’s precise punts, Duvernay’s excellent returns, Campbell’s blocks, Hill & Seymour’s solid coverage & one of the best ST coaches in the league on a team who’s HC cut his teeth as a ST Coach & the product you get is nothing but the best. This group is & always will be the backbone & it won’t change any time soon. The attention to detail that this unit has in top notch & that starts w/ the coaching & philosophy that this unit has had over the years, they have been amongst the top of the NFL forever no matter who leaves & who stays, the faces can change but the play & performance will be the same, the results will always be positive more then they are negative, nothing will be easy against this group & they can beat you in so many ways. Having a Kicker like Tucker is a weapon who can cut the field in half, Duvernay can break loose at any time in the return game & Campbell has blocked more than his share of kicks in his time. CB Kevon Seymour & RB Justice Hill have carved out roles for themselves on this unit & continue to get better every week while also contributing to their respected position groups. A great performance once again, perhaps their best showing of the season in a game where they were needed more than ever & they delivered once again in the biggest of moments.
Grade : A+

Coaching – The respect between Steelers HC Mike Tomlin & Ravens HC John Harbaugh is mutual & while both teams beat each other up twice a year on the field, both of these coaches are used to this hard-hitting affair & while they have seen the faces change over the year, their teams have maintained the same intensity in this rivalry that dates back over 2 decades & the record is now 32-25 in favor Pittsburgh. Something about this game brings out the best in this coaching staff & they seemed to know exactly what approach to take against their most hated but respected rivals in this one to snap a 4-game losing streak that lingered over this team regarding this rivalry. These 2 coaches may be holdovers from a different era of this rivalry, but they have maintained the same message about how to approach this game & what it means to these 2 Franchises. The faces have changed along w/ the records but these teams are still recovering from a 6-8 year run of some of the most intense & physical football we may have ever seen. As far as the game goes, the strategy should of been the same regardless of who the QB was because w/ Ronnie Stanley back in the lineup the running game is at it’s best & the passing game isn’t asked to do a lot. The preparation was good, the team seemed ready to go from the beginning & there was no slow start, the intensity was relentless & they never took their foot off the gas. This coaching staff seemed to understand the importance of this game & what it meant going forward, given the QB situation & needing to keep pace in the Playoff race, they never blinked & neither did this team. They were on the road & down to their third string QB, yet you still got the feeling that things were going to be fine & there was no reason to panic, which has been a rare feeling this season. OC Greg Roman understood that they were going to have to run their way out of Pittsburgh if they wanted to come out victorious, so he made sure they did just that. DC Mike MacDonald had his group ready to attack right away & led by LB Roquan Smith & FS Marcus Williams welcoming themselves to this rivalry, they feasted & were relentless all day long, as MacDonald himself made his imprint on this rivalry early by dialing up pressure early & often, forcing the Steelers to be one-dimensional for most of the game. The entire coaching staff was on the same page, there were adjustments made, there was communication, the attention to detail was there & there was no let down or lack of preparation, this team was locked in for all 4 quarters & the discipline was better as well, the penalties & red zone troubles didn’t show up like they have in recent weeks. These Ravens had lost 4 in a row to the Steelers, there were 8 Ravens who had never beaten Pittsburgh & seeing as how Coach Harbaugh hadn’t beaten them since Week 17 of the 2019 season, this win was refreshing in many ways. These are the kinds of games that start to make you believe in this team, they looked good in all 3 phases & were in control for pretty much the entire game. When this coaching staff coaches like this, the results speak for themselves & this team just plays differently no matter who the opponent is. They just have an edge to them that can’t be explained & it seems to always come out when the coaches use the talent they they have properly. No trying new things for the sake of trying them, no overthinking, no getting away from what they do best – just using the talent they have on this roster the way it should be used, imagine that? This team will go as far as this coaching staff takes them, it doesn’t matter who the QB is, they can win by running the ball & playing solid defense while letting one of the best ST units in the league do what they do best but the coaching staff is the deciding factor as to how well this team plays & how far they go. Overall, when this staff coaches well the results usually speak for themselves & this was just another example of knowing how to get the best out of your football team.
Grade : A-

Overall Grade : A-