Ravens Must Do More to Change "Same Old" Narrative
The Ravens completed a tough three-game road stretch on Sunday and came away with two hard-earned victories, including Sunday's 24-16 win over the Tennessee Titans. But the win on Sunday showed the Ravens have work to do to buck the narrative of burying their opponents and not faltering.
"This should have been a blowout if not for the Ravens' inability to finish drives in the red zone (1-for-6). The Ravens can't seem to put teams away; since the start of last season, they're tied with the Las Vegas Raiders for the most blown double-digit leads with five," The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon wrote. "They won this one, but it sure wasn't impressive."
NFL.com’s Grant Gordon felt similarly.
"Chalk this one up in the a-win-is-a-win category," Gordon wrote. "The Ravens ran roughshod through the first half, but came away with a 15-point lead that could have and should have been far larger. After the Titans scored 10 straight to start the second half, the Ravens were staring at disaster, with a visibly frustrated Lamar Jackson pounding his fist on the turf more than once. Thanks in large part to a Geno Stone interception that curtailed Tennessee's snowball effect, the Ravens hung on."
But for all the critiques, the Ravens won on Sunday. They delivered through adversity and Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones recognized it as such.
"Though not emphatic, the Ravens did finish, something they couldn't say in two of the previous three weeks against Pittsburgh and Indianapolis," Jones wrote. "Enduring such a third-quarter storm was a step in the right direction after a poor track record in that department recently."
Pundits: Repairing the Red Zone Offense Must Be Priority
Not long ago, the Ravens were celebrating a double-digit red zone touchdown scoring streak that put them atop the NFL. But over the past two weeks, the red zone scoring has unraveled, and it overshadowed the Ravens' win.
ESPN’s*Jamison Hensley:*"Baltimore has scored only one touchdown in its past seven quarters and went a frustrating 1-for-6 in the red zone. The Ravens entered this game as the third-most efficient red zone offense and would have put the game away earlier if they had punched the ball into the end zone. The biggest issue is the ineffectiveness of the running game and not allowing quarterback Lamar Jackson to throw more inside the 20-yard line. The Ravens didn't score a touchdown on 13 runs in the red zone, but Jackson was 2-for-3, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Zay Flowers."
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "Over the past two weeks, the Ravens have gone just 2-for-9 in scoring touchdowns inside their opponents' 20. And to think before this stretch, the Ravens were leading the NFL in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns at an 80 percent clip. On their first 14 red zone trips this season, the Ravens came away with 12 touchdowns and two field goals. The success has dried up."
The Baltimore Sun’s*Brian Wacker:*"Six times the Ravens reached the red zone. Only once did they come away with a touchdown, and that failure to cross the goal line nearly cost them. Fortunately, kicker Justin Tucker went a perfect 6-for-6 on field goal attempts, and the defense made plays when it needed to bail the Ravens out in a 24-16 win over Tennessee."
Pressbox’s*Bo Smolka:*"Just three weeks ago, the Ravens went 4-for-4 in the red zone in Cleveland against the league's top-rated defense in a 28-3 win. Todd Monken's offense appeared to be as efficient as the Ravens 2019 team that finished 14-2. Where did that go?"
Baltimore Beatdown’s*Dustin Cox:* "The Ravens escaped London with a victory over the Titans after looking like they would cruise to the finish line early in the game. It was another promising but frustrating showing from the offense as they had to settle for field goals on all but one of their red zone trips. The signs of a great offense are there but little things must be cleaned up before they can truly explode and realize their potential. Lamar Jackson had another efficient day throwing the ball and continues to put the offense on his back as a runner in crucial situations."
Special Teams Bounces Back
In close games, the Ravens have often relied on the third faucet of the game, special teams, to break the tie and give them the advantage. But through the beginning of the season, they've "uncharacteristically struggled," according to Gordon. Fortunately, they solved something on Sunday.
"Tucker matched a career-high with six field goals and two were the byproduct of big special teams plays," Gordon wrote. "Devin Duvernay's 70-yard punt return led to a 23-yard Tucker gimme and a 9-3 lead. Then, just before the half, Baltimore recovered a Tennessee muffed punt that led to another Tucker three-pointer and an 18-3 advantage at the half. After the Titans got back into the game, it was two more Tucker field goals that salted the game away."
Duvernay was named a special teams player of the week by NBC Sports’ Peter King.
"The NFL's first-team all-pro punt-returner in 2021 broke the longest one of his career —a 70-yard weaving, sprinting gem of a return, from his 13-yard line to the Titans' 17-yard line—to set up a Justin Tucker field goal when the Ravens were having trouble finishing drives in the first half," King wrote. "When you play the Titans, you figure it's going to be a ground conflict, and the special-teams yardage becomes vital. In the Ravens' uneven 24-16 win in London, Duvernay had 132 return yards, crucial to the Baltimore cause."
A reason for such recognition of errors or lapses, according to Smolka, is the history of the Ravens and special teams, and the head coach.
"Ravens head coach John Harbaugh cut his teeth as a special teams coach, and his teams have consistently been among the best in the league in these areas. That makes the lapses of the past few weeks so glaring," Smolka wrote. "Granted, there was still a hiccup this week, as the Titans blocked an extra-point attempt. But in all special-teams phases, this looked more like the unit that's been a league standard-bearer in Harbaugh's tenure."