A Season Filled With Reasons to Roll Over, But Ravens Refuse
In a game with two more injuries to star players (Lamar Jackson and Calais Campbell), the Ravens could've quit.
Both players suffered injuries early in the game and at one point in the first half, the Ravens were down 24-3. But rather than succumb to feeling sorry for themselves, they rallied behind backup quarterback Tyler Huntley and took the Browns to the brink before the comeback fell short in a 24-22 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
While some of the Ravens' season-long issues plagued them again, it was the team's refusal to quit that left media members impressed.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "It would've been easy for the Ravens to fold when Jackson left early in the second quarter with a right ankle injury. But Huntley nearly pulled off a remarkable comeback, throwing for 270 yards and running for 45 yards."
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "They were tough and resilient. Injuries forced them to rely on contributions from just about everyone on their roster. They gave themselves a chance to win the game."
Sports Illustrated’s Pete Smith: "The Ravens offense simply wouldn't give up and the Browns made a handful of costly mistakes, both on defense and special teams."
Though the Ravens fell to 8-5 and suffered their first back-to-back losses of the season, Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank J. Platko believed this game was worth claiming a victory.
"You can say there's no such as thing as 'moral victories' — but if there was, this might be the definition of it," Platko wrote.
Pundit Expect Only a Short-Term Absence for Jackson
The big question this week is how long Jackson will be sidelined by his ankle injury.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens will re-evaluate the ankle Monday morning.
That didn't stop the Twitter doctors from making their predictions, of course.
Media Lacks Confidence in Ravens' Playoff Hopes with Jackson's Status in Question
While the media applauded the Ravens' efforts in Sunday's game, they also were quick to look ahead and share their lack of confidence in the Ravens moving forward if Jackson is to miss any of their final games down the stretch.
The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon believes, "it doesn't get much worse than this," and his colleague, Tim Schwartz, sees the playoffs as far less likely.
"Depending on where you looked, the Ravens had somewhere between a 77% and 83% chance of making the playoffs before kickoff Sunday," Schwartz wrote. "Those odds are significantly worse after their 24-22 loss to the Browns to fall to 8-5 and quarterback Lamar Jackson's status for the remainder of the season very much in question."
Hensley, like Schwartz, also looked at the numbers in the games ahead and sees it as a challenge.
"The Ravens probably need at least two more victories to secure a playoff spot," Hensley wrote. "With an injured Jackson, Baltimore might be favored in only one of its remaining four games."
NBC Sports’ Peter King also doesn't see the Ravens capable of handling their last four games, and even called them Week 14's "Biggest Loser."
"The Ravens are not playing well, and they finish with Green Bay, at Cincinnati, Rams, Pittsburgh, and all three teams chasing them have a chance to catch them," King wrote. "Can the Ravens win two of four down the stretch? They could, but I am dubious."
One pundit, NFL.com’s Nick Shook, believed the injury, "exposed the Ravens for who they are."
"It seems Baltimore – a team that has secured six of its eight wins by a single possession – isn't quite equipped to weather the injury storm when its most important player is also banged up," Shook wrote. "The Ravens are far from the only team to be forced to admit this reality, but they haven't looked much like a division leader in the last month."
It's a bit puzzling of Shook to believe an injury to a teams' star quarterback – with over 20 players throughout the season also being placed on injured reserve, is "exposing" the team for who they are. It's unlikely any club can overcome such adversity.
Pundits Debate Harbaugh's Two-Point Conversion Decision
As Baltimore rallied from an 18-point deficit and running back Latavius Murray rumbled into the endzone to close within nine points of the Browns, Harbaugh opted for a two-point conversation attempt.
After the game, Harbaugh explained that it’s a “pretty much standard” decision to go for two earlier as opposed to later because it provides a better road map for clock management.
Media was split on the call from Harbaugh with those for including PFF’s Steve Palazzolo, who said it "makes sense," and Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, who "100% agree[d] with Harbaugh."
"I'd always rather know exactly what I need – be it one possession or two – with time running short, than just preserve the thinking I have a chance," Breer wrote. "I don't really understand people who wouldn't prioritize clarity in that situation."
There were also dissenting opinions, particularly from local media …
Ravens Hurt by Questionable Officiating in Cleveland
The penalty flags were abundant on Sunday, with a whopping 14 penalties accepted for 167 yards. It wasn't an even distribution for the two teams, as the Ravens were far more penalized. Shook of NFL.com saw the Ravens as deserving of that fate.
"Baltimore was incredibly sloppy, committing 10 penalties which were accepted for 125 penalty yards and assisted the Browns in their scoring efforts," Shook wrote.
While Shook saw it that way, others blamed the officiating, including Zrebiec, who described some of the defensive pass interference calls "questionable."