Ravens 17, Falcons 9 – Week 16 – Recap & Grades :
Offense – A better showing than last week, still not great but effective enough to win against that kind of opponent. The running game is once again dominating as this group rushes for 184 yards on 34 carries, an average of 5.4 yards per carry, led by Gus Edwards’ 99 yards on 11 carries, an average of 9.0 yards per rush w/ a long of 37. J.K. Dobbins carries it 12 times for 59 yards, an average of 4.9 yards per carry & QB Tyler Huntley rushes for 26 yards on 11 carries, an average of 2.4 yards per carry. Huntley goes just 9/17 as a passer for 115 yards, an average of 6.8 yards per completion & 1 6-yard TD pass to WR Demarcus Robinson, his only catch of the day & the first receiving TD by a Ravens WR since Week 3.
The Ravens have out rushed their opponent in 14 straight games, a franchise record in a game that was 17 degrees at kickoff, the lowest for a home game in franchise history & a perfect game to do what they do best, stick to the ground game. They run the ball on the first 11 plays of the ensuing drive following a Falcons fumble, which ends w/ Huntley’s short touchdown pass to Robinson & caps a 13-play, 70-yard drive that eats up 6:46 & puts them up 14-3 @ the half. TE Mark Andrews hauls in 3 passes for 45 yards (36 of them coming on 1 play) an average of 15.0 yards per reception & WR Sammy Watkins hauls in his first pass of the season as a Raven for 40 yards, his only catch of the day after playing for the team last season & being claimed off of waivers by Green Bay last week. They gain only 15 first downs to Atlanta’s 17, but pick up 10 on the ground, they go just 4-12 on third down & run only 51 plays to the Falcons 68, while being outgained 327 to 299 while both teams have the same amount of drives (9) & average 5.9 yards per play. They lose the TOP battle 32:44 to 27:16 but win the turnover battle, 1-0. The play of the Offensive line is what stood out in this game, as they mauled in the ground game & dominated in pass protection, keeping Huntley clean on a day when he only dropped back to pass 17 times. When LT Ronnie Stanley is healthy & in the lineup this run game is absolutely dominant & just on a different level then when he isn’t & it’s as clear as night & day. This passing game isn’t going to toe to toe w/ the best offenses in the league but it was effective enough on this day despite needing to be much improved in the coming weeks as being one dimensional will not get it done. Down their top 2 WR’s, this patchwork WR room will definitely need to step up if this team has any ambitions of a deep Playoff run. OC Greg Roman continues to play around w/ throwing the football in situations when it’s not needed as if he just can’t resist trying to prove a point. The play calling & timing of plays coming in from the booth continue to be messy & the red zone offense is abysmal despite finally punching it in the endzone, they go just 1-4 in this game, w/ Huntley also converting on a nifty 2-point conversion w/ an RPO run up middle. The calls for OC Greg Roman’s head have only intensified as this team’s offensive woes continue to rear their head, game in & game out. It’s quite simple, let this offense run & they are a rushing juggernaut. Force them to throw & they look like very vulnerable. The running game has to carry this unit or they will most certainly crumble. That is something that they cannot fix this season, they are just too shorthanded & lack the explosiveness to be any type of threat through the air.
Grade : C
Defense : Another impressive performance by a group that has been carrying too much of the weight right now. The run defense is good despite missing DT Calais Campbell, not their best performance but still a good one as they hold RB Tyler Allgeier to 74 yards on 18 carries, an average of 4.1 yards per carry, including a long of 16 & he catches 4 passes for 43 yards, an average of 10.8 yards per reception, including a long of 26 yards. RB Cordarelle Patterson runs for 17 yards on 8 carries, an average of 2.1 yards per carry & hauls in 1 pass for 14 yards. The Falcons go to a run heavy approach to help their Rookie QB Desmond Ridder, who goes 22/33 for 218 yards, an average of 6.6 yards per pass, making only his 2nd career start in hostile environment & also had the cold weather element to deal w/ as well. They sack the Rookie twice for a loss of 6 yards as ILB Patrick Queen & S Brandon Stephens combine for a sack & DE Justin Madubuike gets to Ridder for the only other one despite generating pressure & forcing Ridder out of the pocket for most of the day. Rookie WR Drake London hauls in 7 catches for 96 yards, an average of 13.7 yards per reception w/ CB Marcus Peters out of the lineup but this secondary does play better, allowing only 2 plays of over 20 yards or more & they force a turnover when CB Marlon Humphrey forces London to fumble after a catch of 20 yards at the 26 when he punches the ball from the young WR, Queen recovers it at the Falcons 25 & returns it 5 yards to the 30. They allow 68 total plays by the Falcons offense for 327 yards & just 4.8 yards per play while holding them to 5-14 on 3rd down & 1-4 on 4th down, the Falcons also pass for 11 1st downs & run for 5. They stop the Falcons on 4 straight runs short of the end zone early in the 4th quarter after a 13-play, 73-yard drive that ate up over 7:31 but resulted in no points after Allgeier was unable to convert on fourth down from the 1. This group holds the Falcons without a touchdown on four red-zone trips, flexing its muscle as it bent but didn’t break all day long, holding the offense to just 3 FG’s despite missing some key pieces & doing its part to secure a much needed home win. This defense has allowed more than 14 points in a game just once since the start of November & ILB Roquan Smith has been a huge part of that as he leads the way w/ 15 tackles, 7 of them solo, but have all played much better as a unit & the communication has also been better in recent weeks. This group is playing well, getting healthy & gearing up for January, there isn’t a lot to complain about right now – they’re forcing turnovers, getting sacks, stopping the run & playing physical. Overall, exactly what you like to see from a team who has expectations to play deep into the winter. They look primed to be a Playoff defense but only time will tell how long they can carry the weight of an under performing offense.
Grade : B+
Special Teams – Another sketchy performance by this normally reliable group as they under perform for the 2nd week in a row. Pro-Bowl K Justin Tucker connects on 3 of his 4 FG’s w/ the only miss being another block & that is the 2nd week in a row that a blocked FG has killed a drive for the offense because this group couldn’t pick up their blocks. That has to anger ST Coach Chris Horton, who takes pride in having his groups ready to go week in & week out. Tucker connects from 21 on the offenses 2nd drive of the game, but on the 3rd drive he has his attempt from 55 is blocked by LB Adetokunbo Ogundeji which is recovered by TE Nick Boyle at the Atlanta 40. Tucker then connects from 27 to make it 6-point lead in the 2nd & Falcons Younghoe Koo hits from 32 yards for Atlanta as time expires in the 1st half w/ a doink off the left upright that bounces in. Koo would trade FG’s back & forth w/ Tucker – connecting from 34 in the 3rd to cut the lead to 8. Tucker then connects from 27 to make it 6-point lead & hits from 21 in the 4th to make it an 11-point game w/ 14:10 to go but Koo hits from 37 amongst the leaping arms of a few Ravens to cut it back to 8 w/ just 2:03 left but the Falcons run too much time off the clock & the Ravens close the game out by picking up a 1st down. RB Justice Hill fills in nicely for the injured Pro-Bowl returner, Devin Duvernay as he returns 3 kicks for 65 yards, an average of 21.7 yards per return, including a long of 24 & James Proche II returns 2 punts for 14 yards, an average of 7.0 yards per return w/ a long of 9 yards. Rookie P Jordan Stout punts it away 3 times for 115 yards, an average of 38.3 yards per punt, including 1 inside the 20 as he continues his fantastic Rookie campaign & is using the tutelage he received from former Ravens P Sam Koch to try to become one of the best punters in the game. The kick coverage is solid as Stout doesn’t allow a return on any of his kicks but 3 different returners get involved for the Falcons as CB Avery Williams returns 2 kicks for 35 yards, an average of 17.5 yards per return, Patterson returns 1 for 16 yards & FB Keith Smith II also returns a kick for 16 yards. ST Chris Horton has one of the best units in the league & seeing blocked FG’s from opposing teams in consecutive weeks had to raise a few eyebrows for him as to how & why they happened & what he can do to fix it because it was very uncharacteristic of this normally automatic & reliable unit. If this group can clean up the messy stuff from the last 2 weeks, combined w/ the way the defense has played & the only thing missing from this team is the passing game. They are sound in almost every area on ST from snaps to holds to kicks to tackles to blocks to returns, this group always finds a way to make an impact on the game or put their stamp on it, they did that in this one too but Justin Tucker’s stat line is 4/7 in his last 2 games & only one of them has come on a missed kick. This group has to perform better moving forward but history has shown that they will.
Grade : B+
Coaching – John Harbaugh is a very frustrating Head Coach. At times he can command the locker room & deliver a heartfelt message to his team that shows his experience & pedigree while showing why he has been regarded as one of the best. That’s the good John. Then there is the Bad John. The HC who constantly resorts to analytics, has no emotion & asks his players what they should do in critical moments & tucks his tail in between his legs when it’s time to take some accountability on the podium. This translates to how his team performs as they constantly play down to their competition, underestimate certain opponents & at times look downright awful. All that being said, this game was a gut check game that bordered on playing down to the competition while still performing well enough to win a game they had to have. They looked ready to go from the beginning, they looked inspired & fired up despite the blistering cold of 17° & the entire coaching staff seemed to understand the importance of what this game meant & how important it was that they do their job. OC Greg Roman stuck w/ the run all day to the tune of a 34 to 17 run/ pass ratio & let his offense do what they do best & run the football to the total of 184 yards. DC Mike MacDonald had his defense ready to go against a Rookie QB in a possible trap game, not getting away from what he’s done for most of this season & allowing things to flow without missing a beat, down a couple of starters. This coaching staff has enough talent around them to beat teams in every phase of the game. The problem is the lack of preparation or attention to detail has been where they have been outcoached at times. Failing to make in game adjustments was an issue earlier in the season as was the lack of communication in the secondary but those have gotten better as the season has gone on. The discipline has also been better as the penalties have gone down in recent weeks, the Ravens were only flagged for 1 penalty in this game for 6 yards, while Atlanta is flagged 5 times for 48 yards. This team will only go as far as the coaching takes them, they can play w/ anybody in the league but the coaching staff has held them back in recent years. Harbaugh took the points on the first 2 drives despite a blocked FG, he still turned to his Kicker early on after not doing so last week & seeing it be the catapult for one of the ugliest Raven games in recent memory. He continued to take the points all day as the offense amazingly never once went for it on 4th down & it showed up in the results, you begin to wonder what if that would of been the case in the Dolphins, Bills, Jaguars & Browns games. 4 games in which he passed up on points to resort to analytics & it came back to bite him. He also needs to make some tough decisions regarding his staff, especially S&C Coach Steve Saunders & OC Greg Roman but after clinching a Playoff berth for the 4th time in 5 years, this time w/ 2 games left in the season, those can wait until the off-season for now.
Grade : B-
Overall Grade : B-