Late for Work 12/6: Media Debates Decision to Go for the Win

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QB Lamar Jackson

Media Give Their Opinion on Ravens' 2-Point Attempt Call

The late-game drama the Ravens have so frequently transmuted into a win fell short on Sunday with the Ravens losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-19.

Predictably, the biggest reaction was to Head Coach John Harbaugh's decision to go for two points and the win at the end, which didn't work out as Lamar Jackson's pass skipped off Mark Andrews' outstretched hand.

Prior to the play, many were enthusiastic about Harbaugh's mentality.

Once the result had all but sealed the Ravens' defeat., commentary broke into two faction.

And then there were those who did not like the decision …

Further commentary was made on the decision during the Halftime Report on Sunday Night Football. Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, along with NBC's Mike Tirico and Drew Brees, analyzed the play.

"[The Ravens] decided to play for the win and have a well-designed play but can't execute," Dungy said. "They had a really well-designed play. They're going to go misdirection. Fake the ball to their running back [to the left and] try get the action this way and then tight end Mark Andrews is going to sneak behind the line of scrimmage [to the right]. They're trying to fool two of Pittsburgh's best defenders. Minkah Fitzpatrick's got Andrews man-to-man and they're hoping T.J. Watt chases the run."

"First things first, T.J. Watt not fooled at all," Brees said. "He knows Lamar Jackson's going to have this ball in his hands, so he is up-field in his face."

"And it's a good thing he did because Minkah Fitzpatrick's eyes are in the backfield," Dungy said. "Andrews is wide open, but Lamar has to step up. You still think he's going to deliver this ball and make an accurate throw and it's just…"

While nearly everybody wanted to debate if it was right or wrong, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec echoes linebacker Josh Bynes' post-game commentary.

"It should have never come down to that decision, that final offensive play," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens should have never let the Steelers (6-5-1) hang around for three quarters in a game where the Ravens controlled possession and only gave up three points over the first 45 minutes."

Ravens Offense Is at a "Crisis Point"

The offensive struggles for the Ravens persisted through Sunday, and according to Press Box's Bo Smolka, it's hit a "crisis point."

"At this point it's fair to question whether Jackson is suffering from a crisis in confidence, but there's no doubt that the execution, the field vision, the internal clock, all appear to be a little out of whack," Smolka wrote. "The Ravens have been held under 20 points in four straight games, and every possession seems to be labored, with gains hard won. Nothing is coming easy."

Critiques on the offense also came by way of The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker and Tim Schwartz.

"[The Ravens] were again defined by Lamar Jackson's flaws on offense," Walker wrote. "He cost them a golden opportunity to score on their first drive with an inexplicable interception. His slow trigger gave Pittsburgh's pass rush too much time to reach him, and he did not compensate with explosive plays. Again, the Ravens dominated time of possession without much to show for it. Fans love to rip offensive coordinator Greg Roman, but this erratic performance was on Jackson first.

"Jackson found his compass on the Ravens' final drive and came within those aforementioned few inches of pulling another rabbit out of his helmet. But that last gasp obscured a harder truth: the Ravens' franchise player has not performed well enough over the last month."

"Jackson's issue holding the ball far too long is becoming an ugly theme now, as he took seven sacks that were not all the offensive line's fault," Schwartz wrote. "Outside of a 99-yard touchdown drive that ate more than 10 minutes off the clock and the almost-game-winning drive at the end, Baltimore had very little going offensively."

Along with the criticisms came concern from Zrebiec in how the fourth quarter could make many forget about the offensive woes throughout the contest.

"The defense's fourth-quarter collapse and Harbaugh's pivotal decision, though, shouldn't disguise the primary takeaway from Sunday's loss," Zrebiec wrote. "And that's an offense that continues to struggle, a quarterback that is making weekly questionable decisions and throws and an offensive line that gets overwhelmed far too often. … Over their past four games, the Ravens have scored 10, 16, 16 and 19 points. That's nowhere near good enough."

Ravens Defense A "Tale of Two Halves"

In the first half, the Ravens defense held the Steelers to 93 total yards. The time of possession between the two squads was "ridiculous," according to NFL.com's Chase Goodbread.

"Baltimore dominated the first half in an old-school fashion befitting a Steelers-Ravens game, scoring only seven points but winning repeatedly on third downs, on both sides of the ball, for a ridiculous 23:30 - 6:30 edge in time of possession entering the break," Goodbread wrote.

Baltimore Beatdown's Frank Platko saw it extend into the second half, where the defense was "piecing together another stalwart performance."

"The Steelers had mustered just one scoring drive, which ended in a field goal, and punted the ball five times," Platko wrote. "Baltimore's defense was largely controlling the line of scrimmage and regularly getting off the field thanks to sticky pass coverage."

But after such dominance that had become the norm over the past month, issues of allowing big plays reprised.

"Then, after the Ravens punted the ball back to Pittsburgh just before the fourth quarter began, a flip switched," Platko wrote. "The Steelers began to run more no-huddle and go up-tempo offensively, which saw them find much more success. It was a sudden turn of events for a Ravens' defense that had been playing at a near-dominant level. For perspective, they gave up more points in the fourth quarter, 17, than they had in each of the past three games."

Zrebiec believes the defense should have been rested enough to handle the fourth quarter.

"The defense surely played a role in the loss," Zrebiec wrote. "It should have been fresh in the fourth quarter due to how much time it spent on the sideline through the first three. Instead, it looked like it ran out of gas, missed a few big tackles and had its weekly communication breakdown that led to an uncontested 29-yard touchdown by Diontae Johnson."

Devonta Freeman Secures No. 1 Role

Throughout the 2021 season, the Ravens brought in numerous running backs to shoulder the load.

It began early in the season with the signings of Devonta Freeman, Le'Veon Bell and Latavius Murray to go along with Ty'Son Williams and Nate McCrary, who were already on the roster. Each week, the Ravens would roll out a combination of different runners. But as the dust settled following Sunday's game, Freeman, according to Smolka, "has become the lead back."

"The Ravens have tried a lot of options to rebuild the backfield this year, but Devonta Freeman has emerged as the clear-cut No. 1 guy at this point," Smolka wrote. "In previous years, Lamar Jackson rarely used his running backs as checkdown targets, usually choosing to just tuck the ball and run instead of dumping the ball to a running back. Lately, Jackson seems more willing to use the backs as receivers, and Freeman and Latavius Murray (2-34) totaled 79 receiving yards in this game, the most by the Ravens' running backs all season."

"Devonta Freeman thrived in his role as Baltimore's lead back, racking up 97 total yards on 19 touches, including a rushing score midway through the second quarter," PFF's Jacob Rosenfarb wrote. "Freeman's three forced missed tackles led all Baltimore ball-carriers, as the eight-year pro impressed as both a runner and receiver."

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