Football World Shocked at Justin Tucker's Miss
OK, there is really only one place LFW could start this morning: kicker Justin Tucker's extra point miss with 24 seconds left, which left the Ravens on the wrong side of a 24-23 score against the New Orleans Saints.
Tucker's miss was obviously shocking. As NBC Sports’ Peter King put it, "Since Tucker began shaving, he had jogged onto the field 356 times at Westlake High in Austin, at the hometown University of Texas and for the Baltimore Ravens and never missed a PAT."
Right before the ball was snapped, Fox's play-by-play announcer Chris Myers mentioned his impressive streak. After the ball sailed wide right, Myers could only ask, "Are you kidding me?"
Myers reaction was shared by many on social media, who were simply astounded that Tucker missed his first extra point in the NFL. Sometimes, a gif of Joey Tribbiani from Friends is just the best medicine to get over a tough loss.
Here are some of the most shocked reactions from social media:
Takeaways from New Orleans Defeat: Pass Rush Struggles; Key Inactives Are Major Absences
Pass Rush Slows Down Considerably
Much of the talk after last week's victory against the Tennessee Titans was about the Ravens' pass rush recording the most sacks (11) in a single game in franchise history. The pass rush followed that performance by managing just one sack of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, as well as three quarterback hits.
"The Ravens' inability to affect Brees' throws really showed itself down the stretch," Pro Football Focus wrote. "They only got pressure on six of his 31 dropbacks on the day."
Getting to Brees was always going to be difficult as he's known for being able to get rid of the ball quickly. However, the lack of a pass rush came against a New Orleans' offensive line that was not at full strength. Starting Saints left guard Andrus Peat was not active and his replacement, Josh LeRibeus, left the game in the second quarter and didn't return.
That meant third-stringer Cameron Tom played for the majority of the game, and did so well that Saints.com’s John DeShazier named him the New Orleans Offensive Player of the Game. As Russell Street Report’s Mitchell Wolfman put it, "with all the injuries on the Saints offensive line, you would have liked to see some more sacks, especially after last week."
"The pass rush was basically non-existent with the exception of the ageless wonder, outside linebacker] Terrell Suggs, taking down Brees,” [Russell Street Report’s Cole Jackson wrote. "Brees is a hard quarterback to get to. You send multiple guys, he hits a short receiver. You give him too much time and someone shakes loose. I'd have liked to see some more blitzes, and [Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale] to force the issue a bit."
It should be noted that Jimmy Smith whiffed on one potential sack on a cornerback blitz and safety Tony Jefferson nearly took Brees down on a key second-half third down, but the future Hall of Famer made a spectacular play to get rid of the ball. After the game, Brees credited the Ravens with throwing some creative blitzes at him.
Key Inactives Are Major Absences
The Ravens have always believed in the "next man up" mentality when it comes to injuries, and that's certainly the right way to approach them. However, there were a couple of players that weren't able to suit up on Sunday that the Ravens sorely missed.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey couldn't play because of a thigh injury he suffered in practice this week. Russell Street Report’s Derek Arnold felt it was a crucial loss , writing "Humphrey's surprise absence had a lot to do with today's result, I'm afraid," while The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker noted, "Humphrey has become an indispensable man in the Ravens' secondary."
With Humphrey out, Brees frequently picked on cornerback Jimmy Smith, who was playing in his third game since returning from suspension. By the end of the game, Smith committed three penalties, missed a surefire sack and gave up the game-winning 5-yard touchdown to Michael Thomas.
"This was Jimmy Smith's third game back," Arnold wrote. "He should be up to speed by now. Instead, Drew Brees identified him as the weak link."
The offensive line was always going to be shuffled up a bit after left guard Alex Lewis suffered a pinched nerve in his neck against Tennessee last week. That meant either right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., or guard/center Bradley Bozeman were likely going to start.
Instead, starting right tackle James Hurst joined the injury report unexpectedly on Saturday with a back issue, and ultimately didn't play against the Saints. That meant both Bozeman and Brown played.
Some were complimentary of the duo's performance, with Baltimore Beatdown’s Logan Levy writing, "Each of them struggled during stretches of the game, but it was a solid showing for both of them." Walker highlighted Bozeman for his toughness, and felt Brown improved as the game went on.
Still, Jackson was among those that were more critical of the offensive line after the changes, referring to it as "just a nightmare." Quarterback Joe Flacco was only sacked once, but Jackson credited that more with how the 33-year-old was able to navigate the pocket, writing "he had to showcase his mobility quite often, sometimes against three-man rushes."
And as Walker noted, "the Ravens still couldn't get their ground game going." The running back trio of Alex Collins, Javorius Allen and Gus Edwards managed just 46 yards on 16 carries as open run lanes were hard to come by against the Saints' No. 1 run defense in the NFL.
Backup Quarterbacks FeaturedHeavily
Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson's role in the offense has been a frequently discussed subject amongst pundits this season. Some think that Jackson should be utilized more, while another contingent believes the Ravens would be smart to not call his plays often.
I wonder what the second group thinks of how frequently New Orleans used backup quarterback Taysom Hill. Hill was on the field for 37 percent of the Saints' plays on offense, while also getting 20 snaps on special teams. He was also very effective, finishing with 35 yards on six carries, which included a fourth-down conversion on a fake punt on New Orleans' first drive of the game.
Hill also produced the game's lone turnover on a bad pitch to Saints running back Alvin Kamara in the red zone though, prompting USA Today’s Nate Davis to write "Best policy? Keep Brees out there."
Meanwhile, Jackson played five snaps on offense. He scored his first regular-season NFL touchdown on a 1-yard run at the end of the first half, and threw a 5-yard completion on his only pass attempt of the game.
"We can only imagine Brees and Baltimore's Joe Flacco commiserating post game after watching their backups, Taysom Hill and Lamar Jackson, respectively, combine for nine carries while operating packages that minimize the old guys," Davis wrote.
As USA Today’s Jarrett Bell noted, "Although Brees and Flacco remained on the field flanked out wide as receivers, the approach was weird enough in red zone situations --but no mere window dressing."
Not the End of the World
Yes, this loss was extremely frustrating. The Ravens, who had not allowed a second half touchdown all season, entered the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead, gave it up, then appeared to force overtime only for Tucker to miss the extra point.
Still, a lot of pundits don't believe this loss is a reason to press the panic button.
"If this was supposed to be a referendum on how good the Ravens really are, they showed again that they can go nose-to-nose with anyone," The Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck wrote. "Two solid teams played a close, tough game and one of them had to lose."
Levy agreed, writing "Moral victories do not exist in the NFL, but the Ravens showed they are not pretenders."
In fact, if you want to know if the Ravens are a credible team or not, just ask the Saints' running backs. After the game, Alvin Kamara said "It's a big win against a great defense in a tough game in a tough environment." Mark Ingram agreed, saying "That's a really good team. Good team, good coaching. They don't take anything from anybody. Really good program, and it's a great win for us."
PressBox’s Bo Smolka noted that it won't get any easier for the Ravens over the next few weeks. Baltimore goes on the road to Carolina next week, then has two home games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Bengals.
"By the end of that stretch, the AFC North picture could be drawing into focus," Smolka wrote. "The Ravens know that they have to rebound immediately from one of the more stunning losses many players could remember."
John Brown Does John Brown Things Again
After consecutive quiet games against the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans, some thought wide receiver John Brown may have already peaked this season during his impressive first month as a Raven.
Instead, Brown put that talk to rest against New Orleans by turning in an electrifying performance. He caught all seven of his targets for 134 yards, easily a game-high for either team. In fact, it's the most receiving yards in a single game that any Raven has had all season.
"Brown was nearly the hero of the day for his last-second touchdown catch that should have brought the game to overtime," RavensWire’s Nathan Beaucage wrote. "Prior to that pivotal grab, Brown was also instrumental in setting up the Ravens' first touchdown of the day with a 56-yard catch-and-run. This was a remarkable performance in what has been an equally remarkable season."
Brown signed a one-year, $5 million contract this offseason that Smolka noted "wasn't the marquee signing of this revamped receiver corps." There's no question that of all the new signings, Brown has become the biggest hit in Baltimore though, leading all receivers in touchdowns (four) and yardage (558). The next closest wide receiver in terms of yards is Michael Crabtree, who has 409.
Brown's 19.9 yards per catch is No. 3 in the NFL, giving Baltimore's offense an explosiveness it has sorely lacked in recent seasons. However, having signed just a one-year contract, talk of if Baltimore will be able to keep Brown has reared its head again.
"Brown, 28, has proved to be everything the Ravens had hoped for and more – stretching the field, running precise patterns, flashing explosive speed and making tough, contested catches despite his 5-foot-11, 178-pound frame," Smolka wrote. "The Ravens have had far too few of these receivers over their 23-year history. They would be wise to keep Brown around, but that appears to be getting costlier by the week."
PFF Offensive and Defensive Ratings
- PFF rated Brown and Crabtree as Baltimore's top contributors on offense. Brown finished with a 2.5 score, while Crabtree was given a 1.8 mark. Center Matt Skura rounded out the top three with a 1.7.
- Wide receiver Willie Snead IV was given a PFF score of -3.3, while Bozeman finished with a -3.2. Collins scored a -1.3.
- Cornerback Brandon Carr and defensive end Chris Wormley tied for the best PFF score for the defense with a 2.2. Defensive tackle Michael Pierce also scored well, and was given a 1.9 mark.
- Smith was given a -4.3 rating, while safety Anthony Levine Sr. scored a -3.1. Suggs was given a 0.5 mark.
- The biggest winners in the AFC North yesterday? The Pittsburgh Steelers, who jumped into first place after both the Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals lost.
- New Orleans Saints offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod, who played collegiately for Towson University, was inactive for Sunday's game after his week-old daughter, Jordyn Lynn Bushrod, passed away on Thursday.