Skip to main content
Presented by

Mailbag: Are the Ravens Better Equipped to Mount a Comeback?

TE Isaiah Likely
TE Isaiah Likely

Mink: Yes, the Ravens are better equipped to play from behind or make a comeback this year, mostly because of the advancements of Lamar Jackson and Baltimore's passing game. The Ravens lead the league in rushing, but there's no doubt that they're more consistent in the drop-back passing game, with a far better collection of receiving weapons than in years past.

Probably the best example of that this season was against the Los Angeles Rams, when the Ravens trailed by five points with 4:41 left in the game. Jackson went 7-of-10 on the ensuring drive, including Jackson's 21-yard touchdown strike to Zay Flowers on third-and-17. Baltimore won in overtime on Tylan Wallace's punt return touchdown.

You're right that the Ravens haven't trailed much this year. A big difference between this season and 2019, however, is the level of competition Baltimore faced down the stretch. That year, the Ravens played a pretty soft schedule down the stretch (final three games against the Jets, Browns, and Steelers). It had been a while since they were in a playoff-like atmosphere. That's different this year, as the Ravens' final stretch against the 49ers and Dolphins sharpened this team at the right time. Both games were close early on before the Ravens pulled away and made them landslides. Psychologically, I think this team is more hardened.

Downing: This team is vastly different than that group in 2019, both from a personality and scheme standpoint. Let's start with the personality piece. This year's group is a more mature team overall. Team leaders such as Jackson, Roquan Smith, Odell Beckham Jr., Patrick Queen, Mark Andrews and Kevin Zeitler all have playoff experience. Some of them, like Jackson, are still driven by the disappointment of the 2019 playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans and they are focused on avoiding a similar fate. The 2019 team was incredibly exciting and dominant throughout the regular season, but it was a young team that didn't have a great sense of just how special that season was. Being young and naïve can be a great, and I do think that helped the 2019 team at times, but that group was caught off-guard in certain ways with that divisional-round matchup. Both teams have clear visions of winning a Super Bowl, but Jackson has set the tone all season that the Ravens can't look ahead in any way. They need to take the cliché one-day-at-a-time mindset, and they are better because of that. 

From a scheme standpoint, there are massive differences. The offense is much more complete than the 2019 group, and the Ravens are equipped to win in a variety of fashions. The 2019 team was a dominant running group whose recipe was to open up big leads and then control the clock as they continued to pile up points. That blueprint worked to near perfection in the regular season, but fell apart in the playoffs when the Raven fell behind early. This year's offense has more ways to win, even if they find themselves in an early hole. Jackson is a more polished passer, the receiving weapons are better and the scheme is more pass-heavy. The Ravens can beat teams through the air or on the ground, and that will help them in the playoffs. Defensively, it's also a much better group overall. The Ravens finished the season ranked as the NFL's top team in points allowed, sacks and turnovers. This defense is simply better than the 2019 unit. It will be much to open up a big lead against this defense.

The personality and scheme of this team is more mature, complex and complete than what the Ravens had in 2019, and now we'll see what kind of different that makes Saturday against Houston.

Mink: With C.J. Stroud playing in his first career NFL game, Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald and the Ravens blitzed at a higher rate (28.8%) than the season average (22%). That's not a drastic difference, but it did help produce five sacks. The Ravens had the most success using a Cover-3 defense, which allowed them to take away Stroud's deep shots. Stroud was 3-of-9 for just 18 yards when facing those looks. His 5.5 yards per attempt in Week 1 was the second-lowest mark he posted all year, as Stroud completed just one pass (26 yards) of 20 or more yards.

The Ravens will probably use a similar strategy this time around. I don't think they're going they're going to stray too much from what they've done well all year long. They'll keep a lid on big plays and use their inside linebackers and safety Kyle Hamilton to mask their underneath coverage between blitzing and dropping. Stroud has done an excellent job of protecting the football (just five interceptions). I think Baltimore isn't going to take a lot of risks to try to get picks, but rather will try to make the rookie hold the ball longer and get pressure, or take quick checkdowns where Baltimore can rally and tackle.

Downing: Yes, there are anti-tampering rules in the NFL, but coaches are allowed to interview during this time of the year. Assistant coaches who are still in the playoffs are allowed to conduct virtual interviews during wild-card week, and any in-person interviews need to wait until after the divisional round, unless the team currently employing the coach grants permission for an in-person interview. The Ravens coaching staff has understandably drawn interviews around the league, as Mike Macdonald, Todd Monken and Anthony Weaver have all interviewed for head coaching opportunities. Head Coach John Harbaugh spoke about the process last week and explained that any coaching interviews had to be done on the coaches' own time, outside of their required duties for the Ravens. I understand the confusion and frustration regarding the coach hiring process and how it seems like it could be a distraction, but this is just part of the routine in the NFL. Most of the teams left in the playoffs have coaches on their staffs interviewing as well; it's not just the Ravens. I'm not worried about the potential distraction it could cause of the Ravens assistant coaches. I believe they understand that the best way to move up the ranks and ultimately get a head coaching job is to keep winning, and that will be the focus of everyone on this team.

Related Content