Media Believes Bengals Ran Up the Score*, But* Ravens Pay No Mind
Midway through the fourth quarter and leading by 20 points, Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor opted to keep starting quarterback Joe Burrow in the game, and have him air it out some more against a thin Ravens defense.
Burrow dropped back to pass on all six offensive plays, taking a sack on one but continuing to chuck it instead of running out the clock.
When the Bengals regained possession once more with 3:31 left to play, Taylor again brought out Burrow and the Bengals' starters to air it out. With two minutes left, Burrow chucked a 52-yard pass to running back Joe Mixon that put him over 500 passing yards.
The decision was met with more media commentary.
In the end, the Ravens lost, 41-21, and Burrow finished with 525 passing yards, the fourth-most passing yards in a single game in NFL history.
Though the media considered the Bengals' attempts as running up the score, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh didn't give it much thought.
"They call their plays. We call our plays," Harbaugh said.
"We're on the field playing football," linebacker Patrick Queen said. "So, [if] they've got a chance to do something … I know if I was on the other side, and I had a chance to do something, I'd try to do it. So, it is what it is, and we'll see them again soon."
"I really don't honestly care what they're calling on the other side," safety Tony Jefferson added. "If they're throwing it in the air, that's an opportunity for us on defense to get a turnover. So, I don't care what the score is or what time was left. They're going to do what they do on their side, we're going to do what we do on our side – and that's defend the ball."
Meanwhile, Burrow shared that he didn't like Ravens Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale's comment last week saying they're not ready to give Burrow a gold jacket already. The response came when asked if the Ravens were going to defend Burrow and wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase similarly to how the Ravens played Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams a week earlier.
"Davante Adams, he's one of the Top 2 receivers in the league, and he's not No. 2," Martindale said. "And Aaron Rodgers is a Hall of Fame quarterback, and I don't think we're ready to buy a gold jacket for Joe [Burrow] yet. But it's going to be a tough challenge."
Burrow said he found the comment to be "unnecessary."
After such a defeat, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec believes the Ravens will remember this loss and the manner with which it was delivered next season.
"In two games against the Bengals this year, the Ravens allowed 82 points, 941 passing yards and 1,095 yards," Zrebiec wrote. "Those numbers will give a proud but decimated defense plenty to chew on until the two teams meet again."
Ravens' Personnel Losses Have Reached "Critical Mass"
Burrow and the Bengals offense was sharp Sunday, but part of that success was obviously due to the overwhelming injuries to the Ravens' secondary, which saw two more Ravens, cornerbacks Anthony Averett and Tavon Young, exit the field during the contest.
The Ravens have been dealing with it all year, but multiple pundits, including NFL.com’s Nick Shook, believe the adversity may no longer be overcome.
"We may have fallen below the point of critical mass for Baltimore," Shook wrote. "First off, we have to credit the Ravens for their fight, even when the odds are stacked significantly against them. Baltimore battled to make it a 10-point game inside two minutes in the first half, but just didn't have the personnel to keep up with the Bengals. The Ravens' secondary is nothing more than a sieve at this point, and losing Anthony Averett to injury only worsened the situation for Baltimore. … With all of the injuries and COVID-19 issues, the Ravens are just a shorthanded squad fighting above its weight class. The latest losses -- in personnel and record -- might be the ones that finally break them."
The local media agreed with Shook's words. Zrebiec, ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker and Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich all used the word "decimated" to describe the current state of the team in terms of able bodies. Three members, Zrebiec, Walker and Press Box’s Bo Smolka said it "wasn't a fair fight."
Zrebiec went into further detail as to why this secondary couldn't be expected to hang with the Bengals' trio of wide receivers.
"For much of the afternoon, the Ravens were asking a combination of [Kevon] Seymour, on the practice squad for much of the season; Daryl Worley, signed to the practice squad as a street free agent Tuesday; Robert Jackson, signed last month to the practice squad; and Tavon Young, the last Ravens cornerback standing, to shut down one of the league's best receiving groups," Zrebiec wrote. "It wasn't a fair fight."
"We finally reached a game in which no amount of resilience was going to keep the Ravens competitive," Walker wrote. "Third-string quarterback Josh Johnson did his best, playing with poise and throwing accurately. Mark Andrews was incredible again. James Proche stepped up. But they were not going to score on every possession, which was what Burrow and Co. did against the practice squad call-ups and scrap-heap signings the Ravens trotted out."
Media's Confidence in the Ravens Reaching the Postseason Dwindling
After Sunday's loss, the Ravens actually moved back into playoff position as the AFC’s current No. 7 seed.
However, some pundits believe that it won't last long. Smolka went so far as to say, "The Ravens' playoff hopes are on life support."
"The Ravens still have a chance to win the AFC North, but for that to happen, they will need to beat the Los Angeles Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and have Cincinnati lose its final two games, to the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cleveland Browns," Smolka wrote. "All four outcomes are possible, but the Ravens at this point don't even know who will be suiting up for that Rams game next week."
Smolka wasn't the only one with a bleak outlook, with Zrebiec following suit when considering what the Ravens can do to stay in the hunt.
"Pray? Other than hoping some guys get healthy or come off the reserve/COVID-19 list, there is nothing much they can do," Zrebiec wrote. "They've been playing through injuries and illness all year, but it just seems like they have hit a wall. This is just the second four-game regular-season losing streak in the Harbaugh era and it's hard to imagine they're going to suddenly get right with the Los Angeles Rams coming to town."
Hensley wasn't as curt as the others when sharing the Ravens' chances of making the postseason.
"It's certainly not looking good," Hensley wrote. "Baltimore realistically has no shot at winning the AFC North after leading the division for most of the season. The Ravens fell one game back of the Bengals with two remaining, and they have lost the head-to-head tiebreaker after getting swept by Cincinnati for the first time since 2015. Baltimore is going to need help to secure a wild-card berth and reach the postseason for a fourth straight season. The Ravens' chances of making the playoffs have dwindled to 32%, according to ESPN's Football Power Index."
Though there is negativity, the Ravens' odds to win an AFC Wild Card spot did improve yesterday despite the loss.
The challenge that lies ahead for the Ravens isn't an easy one, but Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank Platko gives the reminder that the Ravens can and will compete for the final spot for their fourth straight postseason berth.
"Putting aside all that has happened between September and now, [the Ravens] are squarely in the playoff hunt with two games remaining," Platko wrote. "If there's one thing we know for sure, John Harbaugh's team will go down swinging over this final stretch, regardless of who is on the field."