Eisenberg: Time to Mount the Rebuttal

The defensive backs pray before kickoff.

The Ravens have plenty of positive attributes they can tap when adversity surfaces.

They have a winning culture, a feisty nature and a veteran head coach who loves a challenge. They have one of the NFL's most dynamic quarterbacks and other playmakers on both sides of the ball.

They're going to need it all as they wade into the meat of a 2021 season that so far is notable mostly for the amount of adversity it is generating.

The first piece was a run of major injuries to key players, which eliminated some star power, undermined depth, and forced adjustments to plans. Not fatal, but hardly ideal.

Then came Monday night's season-opening loss in Las Vegas, during which the Ravens seemed in control until they melted down late, with worrisome issues surfacing.

And now, instead of getting a relative breather of a home opener on a short week of practice, they get their nemeses, the Kansas City Chiefs, who toyed with the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium a year ago and are favored to win again Sunday night.

In other words, it's going to take an upset for the Ravens not to start 0-2 for the first time in six years.

See what I mean? The long season is just getting started, but the Ravens are already at a point where they need to wield their positives in an effort to stay on track. They're facing quite a challenge.

The situation probably wouldn't seem so ominous if the Ravens had somehow survived Monday night's wild affair, which included an incredulous great escape in overtime that, alas, went for naught.

The Raiders thought they'd scored the game-winning touchdown until a replay review revealed they were a foot short. It seemed certain they'd still get the job done until a pass attempt went through a receiver's hands, off a defender's helmet and high into the air before being intercepted.

It was a million-to-one shot that, in a movie, would have led to a happy ending as the credits roll. But in real life, Lamar Jackson fumbled the ball right back and the Raiders prevailed.

Even if the Ravens had won, though, they'd surely still be having the same, serious conversations about the issues that arose during the game. As ESPN noted, it was their first defeat in 17 years in a game in which they'd led by 14 points.

Offensively, the line didn't give Jackson nearly enough time to relax and do his thing. He was constantly on the run and took as many hard hits as I can remember in a game.

Defensively, the Ravens couldn't consistently create pressure without blitzing, a calculus that exposed the secondary to matchup problems.

The Ravens need to problem solve on both fronts.

The O-line run-blocked well enough for the Ravens to rush for nearly 200 yards, even though the interior didn't always get the desired push. Pass protection on the edges was the main problem, as tackles Ronnie Stanley and Alejandro Villanueva struggled.

Rust was entirely understandable for Stanley in his first game back from a major ankle injury. The expectation is he'll round into shape, which would help.

Villanueva, repeatedly beaten by the Raiders' Maxx Crosby, needs to perform better, period.

As for the defense, it's not new for the Ravens to use blitzes and packages to help create pressure. But Las Vegas handled it all for the most part, passing for a ton of yardage. The answer, it seems, is for the Ravens to start winning some one-on-one battles up front, as the Raiders did. That would ease the pressure on the secondary.

Fixes won't come easily against the Chiefs, who also have an active defensive front and won easily a year ago when the Ravens tried to blitz them into submission.

The Chiefs were favored by less than a field goal before Monday night; now, the spread is four points and growing. Fairly or not, it seems the injuries, Week 1 loss and Week 2 opposition has the football world thinking the Ravens are knocked off stride, searching, possibly vulnerable.

They have plenty of positive attributes to wield in rebuttal, and the time has come to put them all to work.

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