Week 18 – Ravens Recap & Grades

Bengals 27, Ravens 16 : Week 18 – Recap & Grades :

Offense – Suprisingly better than expected. Given the fact that TE Mark Andrews, RB J.K. Dobbins, RG Kevin Zietler & QB’s Tyler Huntley or Lamar Jackson weren’t active, either due to rest for the Playoffs or injury & this group still moved the ball the way they did against a Cincinnati team that was playing it’s starters is impressive. RB Kenyan Drake leads the way on the ground w/ 60 yards on 17 carries, an average of 3.8 yards per carry & a TD on the ground w/ a long of 18 on the day, after not being used in recent weeks & RB Justice Hill rushes for 34 yards on 7 carries, an average of 4.9 yards per carry w/ a long of 12 yards & they rush for 110 on the day on 27 carries, an average of 4.1 yards per carry against a good Bengals front 7. Rookie QB Anthony Brown goes 19-44 for 286 yards, an average of 6.5 yards per pass & 2 INT’s, he is also sacked 4 times for a loss of 10 yards, including a sack in the end zone by Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson – DE Joseph Ossai recovers it for a TD & puts Cincinnati back up by 17 after the Ravens had just cut the lead to 10. This group registers 20 1st downs w/12 coming through the air & theybrush for 7 while picking up another on the penalty by Hendrickson. They run 75 total plays on 9 drives, for 386 total yards – 276 passing & 110 rushing & average 5.1 yards per play but turn it over 4 times & go only 1-3 in the red zone. They lose the T.O.P. battle 31:19 to 28:41, while going 6-16 on 3rd down & 0-2 on 4th down. The pass protection is suspect all though as they allow the 4 sacks & can’t prevent Brown from being under duress for most of the day. They do well opening up running lanes for Drake & Hill but this line is a better run blocking group than they are in pass protection & missing RG Kevin Zietler they weren’t at their absolute best, yet still performed admirably. There were still a couple bright spots that stood out as well. First off Rookie TE Isaiah Likely had another great game filling in for Andrews as he catches 8 passes for 103 yards, an average of 12.9 yards per catch w/ a long of 28 yards. He lines up at WR on numerous occasions & shows glimpses of what he can do as a true receiver & route runner, which is the role that he should play moving forward given how thin the receiving core is & the lack of depth that this group has at that position. Another bright spot was the other Rookie TE Charlie Kolar, who hauls in 4 passes for 49 yards, an average of 12.3 yards per reception in his first real action as Ravens fans have been waiting to see what he could do. The third bright spot was Brown, who struggled early but got into a groove towards the end of the 1st half, using his arm to throw the Ravens back in the game despite the Ravens taking their foot off the gas. Trailing by 3 scores, he leads a 10-play, 76-yard TD drive that eats up 4:08 & is helped out by a out by a roughing the passer call on Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson & the drive ends w/ a TD run by Drake, the only TD of the day by this group. The drive also includes a pretty 28-yard pass to Likely up the left sideline & a 15-yard pass over the middle to Kolar which got the ball into the red zone & Drake punches it in 5 plays later to get the Ravens on the board. Brown also leads a drive of 8 plays, 47 yards on the previous drive but Harbaugh elects to go for it on 4th down at the Cincinnati 28 but is stopped for a loss of 1 & the Ravens turn it over on downs. Brown hits WR Sammy Watkins twice for 79 yards, an average of 39.5 yards per catch, including a 47-yarder that takes it down to the Bengals 33 but Bengals CB Cameron Taylor-Britt & S Jessie Bates force him to fumble & Cincinnati recovers at the 32. This group performed well given the circumstances of who was out there & who wasn’t, while a super raw young QB directed the offense against the teams Division rival in January. They played much better than expected while also giving us a slight glimpse of the future in the process. However, the Bengals took their foot off the gas once they got up by 3 scores so this almost had the feel of a Preseason game to it despite the implications that it game had. Overall, this group needs to stick to what it does best in January, lean on the run game, don’t turn the ball over & don’t kill themselves w/ penalties, if they can do that, they might have a chance to win in a game in the Playoffs, no matter who is under center if their current skill position players are healthy but it isn’t likely.
Grade : C+

Defense : This group was physical all day long. Despite the outcome on the scoreboard, they knocked some heads in & made some bodies drop while reminding the Bengals who they were. They hold RB Joe Mixon to just 27 yards on 11 carries, an average of 2.5 yards per carry & a TD, while holding Cincinnati to just 55 yards on 20 carries, an average of just 2.8 yards per carry as a team, a week after allowing nearly 200 against Pittsburgh. The difference maker was DT Calais Campbell who returned after missing the last 2 games & showed why he is so valuable to this defensive line, making a huge impact as a space eater without even making a tackle all day. Joe Burrow goes 25-42 for 215 yards, an average of 5.1 yards per pass & a TD, while being sacked twice on the day for a loss of 13 yards. Rookie OLB David Ojabo gets to Burrow for his first career sack, a strip sack that is recovered at the Bengals 9 by ILB Patrick Queen, while OLB’s Justin Houston & Odafe Oweh combine for the other. They rev up the pass rush against a Bengals O-line who lost their starting RT L’aell Collins for the season & also lost their starting RT Alex Cappa in this one & after taking their foot off the gas, the Bengals should have taken out their starters because Burrow took a few unnecessary hits, they lost Cappa & even WR Tee Higgins was banged up before returning. This group was even accused of playing dirty because of the level of physicality they exerted in this game & you could tell they are Playoff ready even without CB’s Marcus Peters & Brandon Stephens out in the secondary. Those 2 being out allowed guys like CB Daryl Worley to shine & shine he did – Worley might of had the game of his life, as he registers 5 tackles, 4 solo w/ 1 tackle for loss & 2 passes defensed, as he plays one on one numerous times w/ All-Pro Ja’Maar Chase & holds his own despite Chase catching 8 passes for 86 yards, an average of 10.8 yards per catch w/ a long of 26 & a TD which comes against Worley, who plays the ball well but is beaten for the score. ILB Roquan Smith leads the way defensively w/ 16 tackles, 12 solo as he flys around all day long, hitting anything that moves, welcoming himself to this Divisional rivalry in a major way. The Bengals run 64 total plays, on 13 drives & total just 257 yards on the day, an average of 4.0 yards per play, while picking up 15 1st downs, 12 coming via the pass, 2 coming on the ground & 1 coming via penalty. They hold Cincinnati to 5-15 on 3rd down, 0-1 on 4th down, while also forcing 1 turnover. This group got after it all day long, although you can’t put too much stock into it, as the Bengals weren’t tipping their hand for next week but the Ravens weren’t playing scared either. They hold Cincinnati to just 90 yards of total offense in the 2nd half & force them to punt it away 5 times while also forcing a turnover on downs & a fumble. There has been a whole lot of strain on this group to be great every single week & they have held up for the most part but it matters now more than ever. This unit had it’s back to the wall right away & was put in some difficult situations but stood tall, the score didn’t indicate how good they played, despite facing a team who just wanted to finish the game healthy & was keeping it very conservative. The regular season is over & this unit will now have to do what they have prepared to do for the last month – get ready to play January football. DC Mike MacDonald will have this group ready to go & they will rise to the challenge, the problem is, they may have a little too much weight to carry.
Grade : A-

Special Teams – Just another day at the office. Justin Tucker connects on all 3 of his FG attempts from 26, 51 & 27 yards out, all 3 coming in the 2nd half as Tucker gets points on the board to salvage the strip sack by Ojabo when the offense goes 3 & out after the turnover as he connects from 26, then caps off an 11-play, 42 yard drive w/ a FG from 51 before he hits from 27 to salvage a 9-play, 73 yard drive as the offense continues to struggle in the red zone & also elects to not use him to kick a 47-yarder which would of cut it to a 2 score game in the 1st half. Rookie P Jordan Stout kicks it away 3 times for 137 yards, an average of 45.7 yards per punt w/ 1 inside the 20 & a long of 54 yards as he continues to shine in his first year & use the tutelage he received from former veteran Ravens P Sam Koch. Justice Hill has 2 kick returns for 51 yards, an average of 20.5 yards per return, including a long of 30 yards & James Proche II returns 1 punt for 8 yards as this unit is solid in the return game as well as kick coverage. Bengals RB Trayveon Williams returns 2 kicks for 48 yards, an average of 24.0 yards per return & WR Trent Taylor returns 2 punts for 12 yards, an average of 6.0 yards per return of Stout’s kicks. This group has been so good for so long & when you mention them week in & week out & it starts to sound like a broken record in terms of the things they do & the continuity they have as a group but these guys just continue to be one of the best groups in the league, year in & year out. ST Coach Chris Horton has his group ready to go every week & they, as well as the defense have had to carry most of the weight in the last month or so. That hasn’t been a problem for them though, they embrace the challenge & like their chances to match up against any ST unit in the league & win. Even w/ All-Pro Bowl return man, Devin Duvernay out for the season, Justice Hill has been a good fill in, a few guys who were counted on to contribute have missed some time but yet in still, this group hasn’t missed a beat. Guys like Del’Shawn Phillips, Tylan Wallace, Daryl Worley, Kristian Welch & Brent Urban others have contributed when called upon & this unit hasn’t allowed a ST TD all season long. That goes to show how good the attention to detail has been despite some new faces, how this group has carried this team when the offense has sputtered & how much of the backbone they have been for years. They have been one of the most underrated parts of this team’s success & they can thank a HC who cut his teeth as a ST guy & passed that down to his team but to be honest, this team has prided itself on Special Teams since their very existence. Moving forward, Tucker has hit some clutch kicks in the Playoffs, including 2 in the Super Bowl & many in the Playoffs – he should be leaned on more then he has in the regular season if this team wants to have it’s best chance to win this January. You simply have to use your best weapon when you have the chances to do so, he can cut the field in half & is much more than just a Kicker. Field position matters, FG’s are important & kick returns can play a huge factor, all 3 can help to swing a game in the Ravens favor & I have a feeling Coach Horton has something up his sleeve for the Playoffs. If the offense stalls in the red zone, they absolutely must not turn down opportunities to use the best Kicker in the league as he will give them their best chance to win if they are unable to reach the endzone.
Grade : A

Coaching – Waving the white flag, not showing much & playing for next week. This one was hard to guage in terms of preparation but the coaching staff definitely wasn’t concerned enough w/ a possible coin toss to win the Division & was more focused on resting players to get get guys healthy & put all their eggs in 1 basket for the Playoffs. This coaching staff will be under the microscope more than ever now, the Playoffs are here & there is no more room for error, there is no “get em next week” the pressure is on this entire staff to come up w/ their best game plan going forward & even that might not be good enough w/ the way this staff had failed to make in-game adjustments & been out-coached in numerous games. HC John Harbaugh needs to keep his coordinators in check & he hasn’t shown an ability to do that yet, so you can’t believe in his ability to do it now. He also chose to play RB Gus Edwards when he didn’t need to & Edwards ended up leaving the game w/ a concussion & is now in concussion protocol which will hurt this team going forward if he is unable to go for the Playoffs. It’s almost like he chose to wave the white flag, while still partially playing to win, i mean sitting out some starters but playing others doesn’t really make any sense seeing as how he’s going to need all hands on deck & now he has players like Edwards as question marks in a game where they will be needed most. OC Greg Roman can feel his seat burning up but in this game you saw some things that he hasn’t done all season & using Likely as a wide out is the perfect example of something that should of been done weeks ago due to the injuries at WR. You saw some interesting wrinkles offensively & Roman stuck w/ the run until this was a 3 score game & then abandoned it while letting Brown turn it loose which is understandable & makes sense seeing as this game was all but over. It just makes you wonder what could of been if he had started tinkering w/ things like that a little earlier when this receiving core was decimated last month. DC Mike MacDonald has his group ready to go from the jump & it showed up right away despite them having their backs to the wall early & the 2nd half is when you saw his group really show off despite the Bengals possibly holding back but they still get the credit for playing well anyway. It seemed like the entire staff had this team playing well in every phase in the 2nd half despite both teams not wanting to tip their hand for next week. The Playoffs are here & out of the 14 teams in the tournament, this staff may be one of the most inconsistent of all of them. You just can’t believe in this staff, given the way the season has gone but you get the feeling they may let it all hang out next week. This team still lacks discipline as they are flagged for 5 penalties for 22 yards, including giving the Bengals a 1st down on another. It’s time to stop w/ all the antics & get serious now, how far this team goes despite their lack of offensive weapons will fall on this coaching staff 100%, they will be the ones who have to answer the tough questions when the season ends & for Coach Harbaugh, there will be much more than questions to answer, he may be coaching for his job while others are coaching just to remain on his staff. John Harbaugh has been here for almost 15 years now & in that time a message can become stale if the team isn’t responding to you as an HC, Harbaugh hasn’t lost the locker room & he has now made the Playoffs for the 5th time in the last 9 years but still has yet to advance past the Divisional round in that time. He has a chance to do that now but the chances of it happening aren’t likely, Harbaugh hasn’t shown any ability to get the best out of his players like other great coaches do & one could argue his OC has done nothing but hold all the talent back instead of make it better & maximizing it’s potential. This is the time, right here, right now – no room for error, no margin to slip up, no more bad play calling & overuse of analytics, no more pointing the finger or lack of accountability. This is the Playoffs & this team is 3 wins away from the Super Bowl. It’s time for this Coaching staff to coach like they never have before, it’s time to prove everyone wrong, it’s time to show the rest of the league that the Ravens aren’t to be slept on, it’s time to make a deep Playoff run – the thing is, this staff has given us no reason to believe they can do any of that anymore, those days are long gone.
Grade : C

Overall Grade : B-