Five Things Learned From Rare Look at Ravens' Upcoming Opponents
With the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings battling it out on Monday Night Football, the Ravens got a rare opportunity to scout their next two opponents on the schedule.
If you didn't stay up late with Head Coach John Harbaugh, who said he'd make sure to get home in time for kickoff, here's a CliffsNotes study guide of what we learned:
1) As expected, rookie Mitchell Trubisky's career debut was a mixed bag and he had trouble with pressure. Ahem, Terrell Suggs.Chicago is probably hopeful for the future after watching the start of the Trubisky era, as he showed the game isn't too big for him. At the same time, he's not a veteran yet and the Ravens have the opportunity to take advantage of his inexperience by bringing some heat.
"Trubisky struggled under pressure, going 1-of-7 for only 9 yards on nine dropbacks," wrote the Pro Football Focus (PFF) analysis team. "He can expect to be blitzed often by opposing coordinators going forward and how he copes with that will play a large role in his success this year."
Down by eight points in the fourth quarter, Trubisky orchestrated an 11-play, 79-yard scoring drive that was capped off by what can only be described as a suuuuuuuper lucky touchdown completion that was caught off a deflection and near interception.
Trubisky had the chance to be the hero in his debut, but instead committed a costly turnover. With two-and-a-half minutes remaining and the game tied at 17, the rookie forced a pass that wasn't there, resulting in a game-altering interception. It was a gift to the Vikings in a low-scoring affair, as all Minnesota had to do was line the ball up and convert the game-winning 26-yard field goal.
2) Beware of the Bears' trickery.
With the 30th ranked scoring offense (15.6 points per game) and a rookie quarterback under center, the Bears dug deep into their bag of tricks to find ways to get some points on the board. Nine of their 17 points were scored with trick plays, including a fake punt and a two-point conversion in which the ball was handed off or pitched three times. While trying to follow the ball, I felt like a cat chasing light.
3) The Vikings' quarterback situation is murky.
After sitting the last three weeks with a knee injury, quarterback Sam Bradford returned to start the game, but didn't finish it. He was clearly still favoring his knee and looked like a sitting duck as the Vikings piled up four sacks.
Minnesota pulled Bradford before the end of the half, and Case Keenum immediately provided a jolt by leading the offense on a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. He finished 17-for-21 passing for 140 yards and the touchdown.
Meanwhile, CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reported that starter Teddy Bridgewater is expected to be activated off the physically unable to perform list after Week 6. Even so, it's unlikely he would be ready for the Ravens in Week 7, as he'd need more practice time after suffering a ghastly knee injury prior to the 2016 season. He's been sidelined for more than a full season.
"With Bradford clearly still hobbled, Keenum playing solid, and Teddy Bridgewater on a path to possibly return, the Vikings QB situation remains a murky jumble," wrote NFL.com's Kevin Patra.
*4) Joe Flacco and the newly-found offense that scored 23 points in Oakland will get big tests the next two weeks. DEFENSE is both of these NFC North teams' strength. *
The Bears and Vikings are ranked as the NFL's sixth and seventh-best overall defenses, respectively. The Chicago defense notched a safety for the Bears' only points in the first half, and Minnesota's defensive unit forced two turnovers that led to six points.
The Ravens' newly-found offense that scored 23 points (seven came on a defensive touchdown) in Oakland will get a tough test the next two weeks.
"The Vikings defense is the reason why they won. They're the reason why the Vikings are a legit player in the NFC playoff picture. And they're the reason why the Vikings can survive without their starting quarterback," wrote CBSSports.com's Sean Wagner-McGough. "The Bears aren't a contender, but their defense deserves better. Don't blame the Bears' defense for the loss."
5) Ravens players need to step up their touchdown celebration game.
With the NFL relaxing its celebration rules, the Ravens have yet to take advantage. But they can't have another team upstaging them by pulling off something like the hilarious "Duck. Duck. GOOSE!" celebration the Vikings featured last night.
C'mon, guys! Even former teammate Torrey Smith is getting in on the action.
"The Philadelphia Eagles' 'home run' celebration is unlikely to be topped this season, but teams will try," wrote Yahoo! Sports' Frank Schwab. "And the Minnesota Vikings made a strong run at the 'best celebration' title on Monday night."
6) Bonus takeaway: The Star Wars trailer looks amazing.
If you're not a Star Wars nerd, feel free to move on …
The new "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" trailer premiered during halftime of the ESPN broadcast, and, for me, it stole the show. We saw Luke Skywalker's robotic hand, Rey seemingly reaching out to the dark side, and Kylo Ren contemplating killing his own mom. I can't wait.
With Terrance West and Matt Skura Down, What's the Plan?
As is customary when an injury isn't long-term or season-ending, Harbaugh didn't make any announcements about running back Terrance West (calf) or Matt Skura (knee). Both left Sunday's game and didn't return.
Harbaugh referred journalists to reports from other media members. So here's what we know …
Neither player looks like they'll be out for a very long time. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted that an MRI revealed "good news" on West and that he'll miss some time but won't have an "extended absence." The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec reported that an MRI revealed Skura sprained his knee and is expected to miss two to four weeks.
With both likely to miss at least the next couple of weeks, that leaves the Ravens with just two healthy running backs and an increasingly thin* *guard position. Baltimore still has a strong one-two punch with Buck Allen and Alex Collins, but Harbaugh indicated the Ravens could add more depth.
"We have to see if we can execute it right now in terms of what we're going to do, who we're going to look at," Harbaugh said. "We'll just wait until we know. I don't want to start putting the plans out there until we know if we can pull it off."
"Ironically, this week the Ravens could see Taquan 'Smoke' Mizzell, the undrafted rookie running back who impressed in training camp for the Ravens but did not make the 53-man roster and then was claimed off waivers by the Bears," wrote Press Box's Bo Smolka. "Mizzell is on the Bears' 53-man roster but has not played a snap."
The Ravens are really digging deep to make up for the loss of Skura as the team has already lost All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), starting left guard Alex Lewis (shoulder), fourth-round rookie Nico Siragusa (knee) and veteran John Urschel (retirement).
"Eluemunor could make his first career start Sunday against the Chicago Bears," wrote Zrebiec. "Veteran Tony Bergstrom, who was the initial replacement for starting right guard Marshal Yanda when Yanda went down with a season-ending injury in Week 2, is also an option to start."
Ravens Pass First Test With Jimmy Smith Sidelined
People are coming to appreciate first-round pick Marlon Humphrey more and more, especially now that starter Jimmy Smith is fighting through a sore Achilles.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome had plenty of quality options when he was on the clock, including Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, and with the defensive backs unit already bolstered in free agency, some didn't think another pick should have been used on Humphrey.
But Newsome loaded up more at the position anyway, and Humphrey is living up to the first-round billing so far. He was a key piece of the Ravens' win over the Oakland Raiders and their dangerous receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.
The Ravens went 2-5 in games in which Smith missed a significant amount of time last year.
"Perhaps it would have played out differently had two-time Pro Bowl selection Derek Carr been under center, but the Ravens passed their first test in the exact situation for which they'd prepared this offseason," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "[U]nlike past instances when the secondary all but collapsed without its best talent on the field, the Ravens persevered to hold Raiders quarterback EJ Manuel to 159 yards and a single touchdown pass for the game.
"Not only is Humphrey continuing to learn on the job, but he's affording the Ravens the luxury of being able to rest their top corner without the fear of a collapse coming."
- Ravens opened as early seven-point favorites over the Bears. "The Ravens have been absolutely dreadful going up against NFC opponents over the past two seasons," wrote John Breech. "Of course, maybe you shouldn't bet against the Ravens and that's because the Bears have never beaten them in Baltimore." [CBS Sports]
- "Matthew Judon [has] finally lived up to the preseason hype," says Childs Walker. "The Ravens were thrilled with their second-year linebacker's progress throughout training camp. And then he did very little to justify that praise through the first four weeks of the season. Against the Raiders, however, Judon made several plays that demonstrated his ability to range all over the field." [The Baltimore Sun]