The 2017 Baltimore Ravens are the most inconsistent football team I have ever witnessed. One week, they completely dismantle their opposition and cruise to an easy victory. However, in the next week, they completely lose all momentum and fall to a team that they should have defeated. This team went from dropping 40 points on the Dolphins, to scoring their only two touchdowns in the fourth quarter against the Titans. If the Ravens had won this game, they would have been sitting atop a 5-4 record, heading into their bye week in the AFC playoff picture. Instead, they are now sitting on a 4-5 record, on the outside looking in at the AFC playoffs. If the Ravens are going to make the playoffs this year, it will take an outstanding effort from both sides of the ball, especially on offense.
The Troubled Ravens Offense
This Baltimore Ravens offense was so close to breaking out against the Titans. The Ravens were able to move the football throughout the game but were unable to find much success after crossing midfield. Baltimore, as usual, relied too heavily on small deek and dunk plays to move the ball. Flacco rarely looked down the field, and when he did, he was not very successful. It was not very surprising that the Ravens passing attack struggled against the Titans. Baltimore’s air attack has struggled all season. What was surprising, however, was the fact that the Ravens rushing attack barely moved the ball all game.
Ravens Passing Attack
Marty Mornhinweg has learned nothing during his tenure as the Ravens offensive coordinator. The Baltimore Ravens throw too many screens, too many short passes, and do not attempt enough big plays. Joe Flacco outplayed Titans’ quarterback Marcus Mariota, except in a key area. Mariota averaged 7.8 yards per attempt, while Flacco averaged just 5.0 yards per attempt. How can Marty Morhinwheg let this happen? Flacco has one of the best arms in the NFL, but he is not given opportunities to use it. In a recent interview, Dennis Pitta confirmed something that I had been suspicious of for a long time. Pitta confirmed that “Right now, Joe has one read and then he’s got to check it down if it’s not there,”. That is the worst passing strategy possible for the Ravens. Marty Mornhinweg is treating Joe Flacco like a college quarterback with a gameplan like that. It is not like Joe Flacco is some bum off the street. He is a ten-year veteran and is a former Super Bowl MVP. There is no reason that the offensive gameplan should be dumbed down in the slightest. The Ravens have Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, and Benjamin Watson that are all viable options to throw to in the passing game. Flacco should not be forced to stare down the barrel on one receiver, and check down to Javorius Allen when the receiver is not open. “Buck” Allen, a running back, currently leads the Ravens receiving corps in receptions and targets, at 39 and 50 respectively. When he is thrown to, Allen averages 4.8 yards per catch. Meanwhile, Mike Wallace averages 13.4 yards per reception, Jeremy Maclin averages 11.5 yards, and Ben Watson averages 6.9 yards. There is no reason to continue this awful strategy when passing the ball, as it is only going to lead to more pain and misery. Also, special shoutout to Breshad Perriman for only catching 3 of his 7 targets, for 28 yards, and causing one interception. On Flacco’s rare deep bomb, Perriman did not fight for the ball, and the ball was tipped and intercepted as a result. Despite having his best game yardage wise, Perriman continues to disappoint and frustrate. He is officially a bust.
Ravens Rushing Attack
Baltimore must have caught something from Miami. On Miami’s first rushing play of the game, Jay Ajayi ran for 21 yards on the first play of the game but got shut down by the Baltimore defense for the rest of the game. The same thing happened to Alex Collins against Tennessee. On the first rushing play of the game, he ran for 14 yards on the ground. However, on 12 carries after that, Collins gained just 29 yards. What is supposed to be the only strength of Baltimore’s offense, failed to carry the offense to victory. The Ravens were missing a key piece of their rushing game against the Titans. Tight end Nick Boyle, sat out the game with a toe injury. Boyle has become the premier run blocker of the Ravens offense, and his absence was visible in Sunday’s loss.
Ravens Offensive Line
I criticized the Ravens offensive line a lot earlier this season. The unit simply was unable to give Joe Flacco any time to throw the ball. However, in recent weeks, Baltimore’s offensive line has become a much-improved unit. The offensive line was frankly the best offensive unit on the field for the Ravens in Nashville. For the most part, Flacco had plenty of time to sit in the pocket and make throws. Although, this really does not matter as the passing game is poorly schemed, and doomed to fail regardless. Despite the poor performance of the Ravens rushing attack, the offensive line is not to blame. Tennessee honestly just made more plays on Baltimore’s running backs than the opposite. Again, Baltimore was also missing Nick Boyle, who is a key blocker in the Ravens’ offensive run scheme.
Ravens Two Minute Offense
Reviewing the Ravens two-minute offense is not typically part of Ravens Retrospective Review, however, the sluggish performance on Sunday merits some dialogue about it. The Ravens are down 10 points with 3:58 left in the fourth quarter. In less than two minutes, Joe Flacco takes the team down into the red zone, and the Ravens score a touchdown to bring the game within 3 points before the two-minute warning. That is what is supposed to happen. Instead, the Ravens decided to slow-walk the entire drive and were cautious not to get tired or run out of breath. It took the Ravens 3 minutes and 12 seconds on a TWO MINUTE OFFENSE DRILL to score a touchdown. This basically sealed the game as a Titans victory, as the Ravens would only have 46 seconds to score again, contingent that they are successful on an onside kick attempt. The Ravens were unable to come up with the onside kick. If Baltimore had simply scored before the two-minute warning, they could have gotten the ball back without having to attempt an onside kick. However, they came up a whole minute and 14 seconds short. The snail-like pace of the Ravens offense in late game situations has been bugging me for years. There is no urgency in the most urgent moments of the game. This needs to change.
The Choking Ravens Defense
The Ravens defense was able to hold back the Titans offense for most of the game. Aside from a quick drive in the first quarter that resulted in a Rishard Matthews touchdown, the defense kept Marcus Mariota and the Titans in check. However, when it really counted, the defense faltered. Baltimore scored a touchdown with 8:56 left in the game to bring the Ravens within three points of the Titans. The Baltimore defense then failed to stop the Titans from scoring a touchdown, the only score they needed to prevent. Tennessee drove down the field in a 9 play, 75-yard drive, that shaved off 4:58 from the clock. Simply put, the Ravens defense was unable to close the game and choked.
Ravens Passing Defense
The Ravens pass defense and secondary was solid throughout most of the game but failed to succeed in crunch time. Marcus Mariota threw 28 passes for 19 completions, yielding him a 67.86% completion rate. Mariota also threw for 218 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Unsurprisingly, cornerback Jimmy Smith was on lockdown all game. However, his counterpart, Brandon Carr, was not. Carr was torched a couple of times during the game, on two consecutive plays. Brandon Carr got beat by Corey Davis, then Rishard Matthews for the Tennessee touchdown. Other than that mistake that occurred in the first quarter, the Ravens secondary was stout. They were lights out until the final Tennessee drive. Marcus Mariota on his final drive threw for 63 yards and scored an all but game-clinching touchdown with 3:58 left in the game. The Ravens secondary was built to close games but failed to do so against the Titans.
Ravens Rushing Defense
The Ravens rush defense seems to have found direction again. Before crushing the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore’s run defense was one of the worst in the league. Since completely shutting down Jay Ajayi and the Dolphins rushing attack, Baltimore’s rush defense has been stout. In the loss to the Titans, the Ravens held the elite rushing trio of Marcus Mariota, DeMarco Murray, and Derrick Henry, to just 51 yards on 20 attempts. The three averaged a combined 2.55 yards per carry. Tennessee’s best run actually came from a player who does not normally play offense, cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. Jackson found a way to gain 20 yards on one rush. Aside from that play though, the Titans rushing attack was completely lackluster. If the Ravens defense can continue to play like this, they will be able to shut down opposing offenses on a regular basis.
Ravens Pass Rush
The Ravens rounded out their solid defensive performance with a strong showing by the pass rush unit. The Ravens were able to drop Titans’ quarterback Marcus Mariota three times, as Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon each recorded their own sack. C.J. Mosley and Carl Davis combined for another sack on Mariota. The pass rush also hit Mariota seven times during the game. Overall, Mariota was pressured enough to give the Ravens defense the edge on the Titans passing attack. Mariota did not have a lot of time in the pocket and had to escape multiple times using his legs. However, towards the end of the game, the Ravens pass rush was not able to keep up to pace with the Titans offense. On the final Titans scoring drive that put the nail in the coffin, Mariota was rarely pressured, and that allowed him to make plays down the field. When it really counted, the pass rush was unable to come through and make a play.
Overall, this was a very frustrating game to watch. The performance that the Baltimore Ravens gave on offense was pitiful. While the offense was stumbling over themselves, the defense was able to keep Baltimore in the game. However, late in the game, the two sides of the ball traded places. The Baltimore offense was able to drive down the field and put much-needed points on the board in the fourth quarter, but the defense was unable to hold the Tennessee offense one last time. If the Ravens use the bye week to focus on creating more big plays on offense, and closing games on defense, this team will be a very different squad for their next game. For this dismal performance in a crucial game, I give the Ravens offense a C- grade. The defense played well throughout the game but failed to come up in the clutch, so they receive an overall B grade for their performance in this loss. Overall, the Ravens get a C+ grade for their performance as a team.