Late for Work 1/10: Pundits Reflect on a 'Frustrating' But 'Valiant' 2021 Ravens Season

011022-LFW
Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh

Media Ponders a Ravens' Season Without Overwhelming Injuries

The season finale between the Steelers and Ravens delivered. It was a close, physical game with one team making a play or two more than the other.

But in similar fashion to the past five weeks, the team making that extra play or two was Baltimore's opponent. It took overtime, but the Ravens suffered their sixth-straight defeat, 16-13, and with it, the media looked back on what the 2021 season was and what it could have been.

NFL.com's Nick Shook, among others, considered the overwhelming losses due to injury.

"Baltimore ends 2021 wondering what might have been had the injury bug not ravaged its roster," Shook wrote. "The Ravens have had to overcome incredibly significant hurdles to even put themselves in the position they were in Sunday, turning to a group of castoff running backs all season and a backup quarterback down the stretch, with both needing to try to secure their ninth win of the season. Baltimore did enough to take a lead and hang onto it for most of regulation, but those absences proved to be too much in the most important moments, with Tyler Huntley throwing an interception in the end zone (his second of two) and Marquise Brown dropping what would have been a key touchdown."

The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer: "In a season with staggering injury setbacks — 25 Ravens were placed on injured reserve — and coronavirus-related absences, the Ravens' shortcomings could not be neatly delineated. Their troubles compounded and their margin for error shrank and their frustration grew until it all became too much. Even Sunday, Huntley's red-zone interception was not a death knell but another grim data point in a season of what-could've-beens."

The Baltimore Sun's Ryan McFadden: "The Ravens' 2021 season will forever be defined by injuries, and Sunday's 16-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime was a fitting, yet heartbreaking conclusion. Throughout the game, the Ravens watched players such as outside linebacker Tyus Bowser and running back Devonta Freeman suffer injuries on the wet field at M&T Bank Stadium, continuing a turbulent season in which the Ravens went from being the No. 1 seed in the AFC to losing six straight and being knocked out of playoff contention.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "Nobody could question the effort of the Ravens this season and their ability to stay in games despite unrelenting injuries. That was the case again Sunday, as the Ravens were pretty much out of cornerbacks in the second half. Kevon Seymour, Tavon Young and Chris Westry all went down at different points, so they had to move safety Brandon Stephens to the outside. They were also down to only three outside linebackers after Tyus Bowser suffered what is feared to be an Achilles tendon tear. Losing Bowser, who has been arguably the Ravens' most consistent defensive player, was one final health-related blow in a season full of them."

The Associated Press' David Ginsburg: "A frustrating season marred by an assortment of injuries and close defeats ended in familiar, agonizing fashion for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. The Ravens played shorthanded — and valiantly — before falling 16-13 in overtime to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was Baltimore's sixth loss in a row, five of which were decided by a total of eight points. Despite losing three running backs, two star cornerbacks and playing the latter part of the season without injured star quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Ravens remained in the playoff hunt until the very end of this final, excruciating defeat."

ESPN's Jamison Hensley: "Injuries. Lots of them. It began in the preseason finale, when starting running back J.K. Dobbins suffered a season-ending knee injury. It lasted until the end of the regular season, when quarterback Lamar Jackson missed the last four games because of a right ankle injury. The Ravens suited up a franchise-high 75 players this season and started 45 players in at least one game."

Ebony Bird's Justin Fried: "In what was a cruel, horrible season marred by injuries and heartbreak, was there ever any other way this season could end? The Ravens fell short once again in overtime marking their sixth consecutive loss, five of which came by three points or less."

Baltimore Positive's Luke Jones: "It's neither exciting nor controversial, but a major key to the Ravens bouncing back in 2022 will simply be improved health. Their long list of injuries should prompt a careful evaluation of the organization's strength, conditioning, and training programs to determine if changes are warranted, but much of it will likely be chalked up to rotten luck. Of course, that's not going to calm anyone's anger in the meantime."

Ravens' Margin of Defeat Was Excruciatingly Close

While injuries were the main takeaway of the 2021 season, others noted the lack of making "that one extra play" to win one of their final six games.

Zrebiec: "Another grueling, gut punch of a loss, filled with mistakes, missed opportunities and injuries. Another game in which the Ravens were one or two plays from winning but instead wound up losing in the most discouraging of ways."

Baltimore Beatdown's Frank Platko: "The Ravens needed all the points they could get in this game, and they squandered some key opportunities to do so, which has been a recurring theme over the last stretch of games."

Russell Street Report's Rob Shields: "It just seems like they can't make those few plays needed to win these types of games. Making that one last play has hurt them six weeks in a row."

Jones: "After needing fourth-down conversions, record-setting field goals, and fourth-quarter comebacks to win six straight one-possession games earlier in the season, Baltimore couldn't make the key play in those one-score losses, especially with Jackson's magic stuck on the sideline."

Tyus Bowser Reportedly Suffers Achilles Injury

The Ravens' final game wasn't without one more significant injury, as it's been reported outside linebacker Tyus Bowser suffered what could be an Achilles injury.

While it has not been confirmed, Bowser's latest posts on social media allude to him suffering an injury.

Bowser was one of the defense's mainstays in a season full of rotating players and health issues. He started in all 17 games this season and made a career-high seven sacks, 59 tackles and four passes defensed. If it is a torn Achilles, it will be a while before Bowser is in playing form.

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