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The Baltimore Ravens survived a late-game scare to realize the team’s first winning record since 2014. The Indianapolis Colts put up a fight against the Ravens but ultimately fell short of a victory. Baltimore’s win puts the team in excellent position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014. If the Ravens defeat the Bengals in Week 17, Baltimore punches their ticket to the postseason. The Ravens desperately needed a win against the Colts. The Colts lingered around, but the Ravens were eventually able to take control and win the game.

Ravens Offense

Baltimore’s offense against the Colts played well, but not up to standards of the previous few weeks. It seemed that the play calling was mostly conservative throughout the game. The impression I got is that Marty Mornhinweg wanted to play not to lose. The Ravens rarely targeted receivers deep throughout the game, and typically relied on runs and short passes. Baltimore’s two leading rushers, Alex Collins and Buck Allen, ran the ball 26 times, for a total of 88 yards. This yields the two backs a combined average of 3.4 yards per rush attempt. The Ravens seemed to limit Alex Collins’ success, by not allowing him to do what he does best. Alex Collins is best running towards the sidelines. The Ravens tried to mix things up by having Collins go up the middle on some runs, and towards the outside on others. Collins was very good running on the outside but failed to move the ball efficiently through the middle. The Ravens gave mid run opportunities to Buck Allen. This plays to Allen’s strength, as he is best used as a downhill runner.

Going back to the passing game, the Ravens played very conservatively. Baltimore started the game aggressively, targeting Mike Wallace for a 23 yard gain on just the second offensive play of the game. That would be the longest pass of the game. By the second half, most of Flacco’s passes were short, deek and dunk plays to the running backs and wide receivers. This included slants, screens, and other short routes. If Baltimore played more aggressively, the Ravens could have put the game away much sooner. This would have prevented the late game scare, where the Colts almost spoiled Baltimore’s playoff plans.

The final piece of the puzzle for Baltimore’s offense is the offensive line. The line played well for most of the game but failed to be a stable presence for the offense. The offensive line did not open up enough room for running lanes for Collins and failed to keep Flacco without pressure on some key plays. On one specific play, left tackle Ronnie Stanley got beat, and Flacco got sacked for 17 yards, killing a drive that was on its way to generating points. The Ravens offensive line just needs to be consistent. When the unit is consistent, it is one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

Ravens Defense

Baltimore’s defense played well against the Colts, but the unit was unable to dominate like it should have. Specifically, the Ravens were not able to bottle up running back Frank Gore for most of the night. Gore ran the ball 17 times. He gained 68 yards on the ground, for an average of 4.0 yards per rushing attempt. Gore by no means was dominant, but the Ravens defense knew going into the game that he would be a featured player, and should have done more to stop him. The Ravens also had the same problem with T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis’ leading receiver of the night. Hilton caught 6 passes, for 100 yards, putting Baltimore’s secondary on notice.

Hilton caught the ball an impressive 6 times for 100 yards but was targeted 12 times by Jacoby Brissett. The Ravens’ secondary was able to prevent Hilton from catching the ball on a few plays, including the game-winning pass deflection by Maurice Canady. Most of the incompletions to Hilton, however, were the result of a bad pass from Brissett. Brissett, in fact, had a bad night overall. The Colts’ quarterback completed only 48.48% of his passes. Of the 16 of 33 attempts he did complete, he was able to garner 215 yards and one touchdown. Brissett was off the mark for the majority of the night for two main reasons. The first of which is that the secondary was able to bottle up most of the receivers Indianapolis tried to utilize. The second reason Brissett struggled is that the Ravens were able to pressure him.

Baltimore was able to pressure Brissett enough to make him uncomfortable in the pocket. The Ravens pass rush unit hit him three times, sacking him on two of those occasions. Baltimore also rotated pass rushers around. For instance, Terrell Suggs was moved from one side of the line to the other to change matchups. This worked for the Ravens, and Brissett was unable to be confident in the pocket. He often had to change gears and run out of the pocket. Brissett was also forced to throw hurried and inaccurate passes.

The Verdict

Baltimore’s 23-16 victory over the Colts is vital in the Ravens’ push to the playoffs. With the win, they set themselves up for a win and in situation against the Bengals in Week 17. The Ravens played well against the Colts but could have done better. The offense gets a B grade for putting up 23 points, but being too conservative. The defense gets an A- grade for holding the Colts to just 16 points, but not being completely dominant against a team they should have been. Overall, the team gets a B+ grade for their performance against Indianapolis.

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