Mink: Last week's loss to the Browns stung, as did the previous two Ravens losses after they had leads in the fourth quarter. But let's also not forget that the Ravens protected fourth quarter leads in all seven of their wins.
For example, in Week 2 against the Bengals, the Ravens had a three-point lead with 3:28 remaining and ran the clock out to win. The fact of the matter is they've had the lead in the fourth quarter a lot (a good thing!) and you're not going to finish them all with wins. That's just how the NFL works.
The Ravens made what you would typically define as a "clutch" game-winning play when Odafe Oweh turned the corner and got a sack/strip on Deshaun Watson with about three minutes left. It just so happened that the ball bounced right to a Browns offensive lineman when Justin Madubuike was right there ready to scoop it up. Just bad luck.
With all that said, while losing close games in the fourth quarter happens to every team, the Ravens have lost too many big leads late, even dating back beyond this season. To be honest, I don't have a broad-stroke explanation for it. "Finishing" is something that has been heavily preached, but it's also a situation where players can't press too much to make that game-winning play because that's when mistakes happen. Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens don't have time to look at the psychology of the issue and I think that's the right approach. You don't want players in their own heads about it. It's about identifying the football mistakes, correcting them, and moving on.
Downing: I think the balance of the Ravens offense has been a strength of the unit this year. Yes, the Ravens came into this season focused on taking the passing game to another level and they've done that. They averaged 188.4 passing yards per game last year, which ranked No. 30 in the NFL. That's improved to 207.8 passing yards per game this season, which is No. 20 in the league. The strides in the passing game are significant.
However, the Ravens still have a potent rushing attack and don't want to forget about the ground game. Baltimore leads the NFL in rushing offense at 154.9 yards per game, and Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken believes that controlling the ground game opens additional opportunities for the passing attack. If the Ravens can control games by picking up yards on the ground, they're going to do that, even with all the new weapons in the passing game. Lamar Jackson believes in that approach as well. Jackson has spoken to the importance of balance and leaning on the running backs when necessary. This offense is at its best when the run and pass game complement each other, and that will be the focus for the Ravens for the rest of the season.
Mink: The Bengals ranked No. 10 in the league in the among of man coverage they use (33.9% of the time). In Week 2, the Bengals played man coverage 30% against the Ravens. So it's not a crazy amount, but Jackson and the Ravens receivers will get their shots.
This is playing with fire against Zay Flowers, who ranks No. 1 in the league in separation (3.0 yards) against man coverage this year (minimum of 20 targets). Flowers burned the Bengals with a 52-yard catch in Week 2 and had another deep shot that Jackson overthrew. That has happened too often lately, so it will be interesting to see if the Bengals dare Jackson to hit that throw and if the Ravens can make them pay.
To your second question, if Marlon Humphrey can't play Thursday night I would imagine that means Rock Ya-Sin would step into action. It could be some sort of timeshare between him and Ronald Darby. The Ravens will probably continue to use Kyle Hamilton in the slot a fair amount in three safety looks, while also rolling in Arthur Maulet some. Cincinnati still has Ja'Marr Chase and veteran Tyler Boyd, but it looks like Tee Higgins (hamstring) is unlikely to play. So each side may be without one of their top perimeter players.
Downing: I'll be honest, I've never totally checked out all the different player mouthguard colors. But now that we're on the topic, I'm pretty sure that the Ravens could get some all-black mouthguards to have available for the players. This may not be the top priority for the equipment staff, but I'm sure players can find some black mouthguards if they want them. However, some players, such as Lamar, wear the white mouthguard that hangs from their helmet, so I'm going to guess he just sticks with his normal setup like he's done in other games with the all-black jerseys.
But this is a good time to remind fans coming to the game to wear their black attire and to get to your seats by 7:45 p.m. to be in place for introductions and the pre-game lights show. And if you want to find a black mouthguard to really get into the gameday mode, go for it!