Late for Work 9/30: 'Back Off on the Doom and Gloom for the Ravens'

093020-LFW
QB Lamar Jackson

Fox Sports Radio Host: 'Back Off on the Doom and Gloom for the Ravens'

When a team suffers a convincing loss under the bright lights of "Monday Night Football" in the most anticipated game of the season as the Ravens did to the Kansas City Chiefs, hot takes and overreactions are bound to follow.

After the Ravens lost in the regular season for the first time since Sept. 29, 2019, ending their regular season winning streak at 14 games, some pundits and fans are suddenly dismissing Baltimore as a legitimate championship contender.

Even Fox Sports Radio's Colin Cowherd, who predicted the Ravens to go 16-0 before the start of the season, is now convinced the result would be the same as Monday night if Baltimore were to face the defending Super Bowl champions four months from now in the playoffs.

"If these two teams play again, and I think Baltimore could end up in the AFC Championship, but if across the field is Patrick Mahomes, I can't unsee what I saw [Monday] night," Cowherd said.

Bleacher Report's Gary Davenport shared Cowherd's opinion.

"One game is hardly cause for panic," Davenport wrote. "But seeing the Ravens get outclassed on both sides of the ball has to be a big concern for John Harbaugh. Mahomes and the Chiefs have now eluded Jackson three times, and given how this game went, it's hard to imagine a fourth meeting in the playoffs going much differently."

The Chiefs are the better team right now, or at least the better team Monday night. With the 34-20 win, Kansas City has beaten the Ravens three years in a row, and by a wider margin each time. But a lot can happen between now and the end of season.

Cowherd compared the Ravens-Chiefs situation to that of the Packers-49ers last season, when San Francisco soundly defeated Green Bay in the regular season and again in the NFC Championship Game.

On the other hand, let's not forget what happened with the Ravens and Denver Broncos in 2012. In Week 15, the Broncos stormed into M&T Bank Stadium in Week 15 and routed the Ravens, 34-17, in a game that wasn't as close as the final score would suggest (sound familiar?).

When the teams met again four weeks later, the Ravens knocked off the top-seeded Broncos in Denver and went on to win the Super Bowl.

Moreover, did the Ravens team that handled the Browns on the road, 31-15, in Week 16 last year even remotely resemble the squad that was trampled by Cleveland at home, 40-25, in Week 4?

Fox Sports Radio's Jason Smith said anyone writing off the Ravens needs to pump the brakes.

"I don't see why suddenly the sky is falling for the Ravens," Smith said. "Do the Ravens have issues? Sure, but every team in the NFL has issues. … There are 30 teams in the NFL, maybe not 31 because of the Chiefs, who will say [to the Ravens], I will trade your problems for mine. … The Ravens are fine.

"What they have built the last couple years with Lamar Jackson taking over as quarterback till now is still pretty bleepin' good, and anybody else would change problems with you. So let's just back off the whole doom and gloom for the Ravens right now."

Smith acknowledged that the Ravens still have to prove they can beat the Chiefs, but it's not an insurmountable task if they were to meet again in January.

"So now what you need to do is, 'How do you out-scheme?' Because the way the Chiefs came into [Monday] night, they found a way to out-scheme on the road. Let's do it."

Ravens Not a Top*-*5 Team, According to CBS Sports' Power Rankings

Not surprisingly, the Ravens tumbled in the power rankings this week and the Chiefs are a unanimous No. 1 in the six publications we looked at.

In the three outlets that had the Ravens at No. 1 last week, NFL.com dropped them to No. 3, and Bleacher Report and USA Today placed them at No. 4. Sports Illustrated dropped them from No. 3 to No. 4. Baltimore remained at No. 2 in ESPN's rankings.

Meanwhile, CBS Sports believes the Ravens are no longer a top-five team, as it knocked them down three spots to No. 6, behind the Chiefs, Packers, Steelers, Bills and Seahawks.

"If they are to get to the Super Bowl, they have to throw it better," CBS Sports Pete Prisco wrote. "Lamar Jackson wasn't good against the Chiefs."

Table inside Article
Source Ranking Last Week’s Ranking Comments
ESPN No. 2 No. 2 N/A
NFL.com No. 3 No. 1 "A humbling loss for the Ravens, who were ambushed by Patrick Mahomes and saw their own MVP, Lamar Jackson, struggle on a huge prime-time stage.”
Bleacher Report No. 4 No. 1 "One game is hardly cause for panic. But seeing the Ravens get outclassed on both sides of the ball has to be a big concern for John Harbaugh."
USA Today No. 4 No. 1 “Questions about QB Lamar Jackson's ability to win – and even remain competitive in – marquee matchups will only further abound after Kansas City unceremoniously ended Baltimore's 14-game regular-season winning streak.”
Sports Illustrated No. 4 No. 3 “While they did close a 27-10 halftime deficit to one score, missed opportunities from both QB Lamar Jackson and his offensive teammates prevented them from closing the gap – on the scoreboard, and with the defending champs."
CBS No. 6 No. 3 “If they are to get to the Super Bowl, they have to throw it better. Lamar Jackson wasn't good against the Chiefs.”

Should Ravens Have Stuck With Run Game Against Chiefs?

There's always second-guessing after a loss, and the narrative coming out of Monday night's setback is that the Ravens shouldn't have gone away from what they do best — running the football.

"What do you do when you've averaged 10 yards-per-carry on the first drive of the game? If you're the Baltimore Ravens, you completely abandon the run because your opponent scored a touchdown," Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens wrote. "It's exactly what happened in Week 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer noted the Ravens throwing three straight passes at the end of their opening drive after moving easily to the Chiefs' 15-yard line on six runs and one pass. Jackson threw incompletions and second-and-3 and third-and-3 from the 8-yard line, and the Ravens settled for a field goal.

"Then the Ravens started to try something new," Shaffer wrote. "On their second drive, a first-down run was nullified by a questionable penalty. Facing first-and-20, the Ravens called three straight passes and ended up losing 4 yards. On their third drive, after wide receiver Devin Duvernay's kickoff return for a touchdown, it was more of the same: three straight passes, 4 yards gained, another punt.

"Over the Ravens' next three possessions, their last of the half, they ran the ball as much as they passed it only once, and they didn't score a single offensive touchdown. The Ravens entered halftime averaging 7.9 yards per carry and 2.3 yards per pass attempt — but they'd run it just nine times."

In breaking down film of the game, NFL Network's Brian Baldinger concluded that there were opportunities for the Ravens to stay with the run game, especially in the first half before they fell so far behind.

"Within the framework of that game, stay with your identity. Stay with that second-down run," Baldinger said. "I know if I'm .. an offensive lineman for the Ravens, all I want to hear on second-and-6, second-and-3, [is] let's just keep leaning on these guys. Because that's when the big runs happen for the Ravens, is in the second half and in the fourth quarter after they've just been beating on teams and bludgeoning them like they did in the first two games of the season."

Has Ravens' Pass Rush Gotten Worse?

The Ravens invested heavily in their defensive front this offseason, but the pass rush hasn't been noticeably better.

On Monday, the Ravens blitzed on 47 percent of their defensive plays against the Chiefs, according to Pro Football Focus, but had just four quarterback hits and didn't record a sack. Baltimore is tied for 17th in the league in sacks with six, led by Tyus Bowser, who has two.

"By almost every metric available, after Monday night's no-sack no-show, the Ravens' pass rush is worse than it was last year," Shaffer wrote.

Shaffer cited the following:

  • Their raw sack percentage has fallen from 6.4% to 4.9%.
  • According to Football Outsiders, their adjusted sack rate, which accounts for down, distance and opponent, is No. 23 (5.2%). Last year, they finished No. 14 (7.7%).
  • According to Pro Football Focus, they don't have an edge rusher or interior defender rated above a 65.6 in pass rushing. (Outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, who's played sparingly so far, grades out the highest.). Under the PFF ratings scale, grades between 60 and 69 are considered backup-level.

However, there is cause for optimism, according to Shaffer.

"The Ravens are still above average at defeating pass protections," Shaffer wrote. "After ranking No. 14 last season in ESPN's pass-rush win rate — the rate at which a team's pass rusher is able to beat his block within 2.5 seconds — the Ravens are No. 13, with only a 1% drop-off in success. It just hasn't translated to sustained production yet."

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