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The Breakdown: Eisenberg's Five Thoughts on Loss to Packers

Baltimore Ravens QB Tyler Huntley (2) looks to throw against the Green Bay Packers at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, December 19, 2021.

Five thoughts on the Ravens' 31-30 loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:

Depleted? I'll give you depleted. The Ravens had 17 players on injured reserve and five on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Their starting quarterback and two players likely headed to the Pro Bowl were inactive. They used a right tackle and an outside cornerback straight from the practice squad when more starters were injured during the game. "Not many teams have been through what this team has," tight end Mark Andrews said. But the Ravens rose to the occasion with one of their finest performances of 2021. Taking on the top seed in the NFC, with a quarterback headed to the Hall of Fame, they competed with urgency from the beginning, kept the score close, rallied after they fell behind and had a chance to win at the end, only to see a decisive two-point conversion attempt go awry. It was such an uplifting, tremendous effort that the players and coaches didn't even seem that gutted by the loss. But it hurts. They've now lost three straight games by a combined four points to fall out of first place in a divisional race they once commanded. Those narrow losses are exacting a toll.

Here we go again. For the second time in three weeks, the Ravens pulled to within one point on a touchdown in the final minute, and for the second time in three weeks, Head Coach John Harbaugh elected to go for two and try to win the game instead of kicking an extra point and likely going to overtime. It didn't work out two weeks ago and didn't work out again Sunday when quarterback Tyler Huntley's pass for Andrews fell incomplete. I'm sure there'll be another rip-snorting debate about whether it was the right move and the right call and what the percentages were, but honestly, I'm growing weary of all that deep diving. It's clear Harbaugh has decided that playing a certain way, i.e., very aggressively, fits this team's nature and skill set. And it really fits in a year when the Ravens are so banged up that they're basically just trying to steal wins. If you didn't notice, Harbaugh was aggressive throughout this game, not just at the end, going for it four times on fourth down. Rather than being conventional and conservative, he's going for broke to try to give his depleted team a chance to take advantage when opportunities do arise.

Although the headline-making subtraction from the Ravens' lineup was quarterback Lamar Jackson, out with a sprained ankle, it was the defense that was truly ravaged by injuries and illness. One play said it all. Needing a red-zone stop in the second quarter, the Ravens asked cornerback Robert Jackson, a practice-squad elevation, to cover Davante Adams, arguably the NFL's top receiver. No surprise, Adams caught a touchdown pass. Equally no surprise, the Packers' Aaron Rodgers picked apart Baltimore's beleaguered secondary, completing 23 of 31 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. (He surprisingly missed open receivers on what could have been two more touchdown passes.) But what WAS a surprise was the resolve the outmanned defense exhibited with the game on the line late. It held the Packers to a field goal to keep the game within reach, then forced a three-and-out to give Huntley a chance to complete a comeback. Bottom line, Rodgers did what was expected, but the Ravens' defense ran around, made Rodgers earn everything and had some big moments. Patrick Queen, with 11 solo tackles, was magnificent. The defense gets a share of the credit for the Ravens having a chance to win at the end.

Let's just shoot straight here: Huntley didn't look like he should be anyone's backup. Replacing Jackson, he gave Green Bay's defense fits with both his arm and his legs, rushing for 73 yards on 13 carries and passing for 215 yards on 28 completions, two of which went for touchdowns. Jackson is one of the NFL's top playmakers, but in this game, there was no falloff in the performance level at his position even though he was sidelined. Huntley rallied the Ravens from a double-digit deficit for the second straight week and didn't commit a turnover, indicating he had learned from his mistakes of a week earlier. Harbaugh said he took "another step" forward in his development "in terms of handling himself, throwing the ball on time, in rhythm, taking off running at the right times, making accurate throws." Given how badly the offense was stalled before Jackson's injury last week, Huntley has been, yes, nothing short of a savior for the Ravens on that side of the ball, playing so well that the length of Jackson's absence isn't really a burning issue.

Short takes: Yes, that was a terrible pass interference call on Kevon Seymour early in the third quarter, and yes, it probably cost the Ravens four points, as Green Bay was about to settle for a field goal but instead scored a touchdown on the next play. Bad calls are just part of the game and all you can do is hope a big one doesn't bring you down. That one hurt … Despite being as banged-up as it has been all season, the Ravens' offensive line had a solid game. Pressure on the quarterback wasn't a major issue. Huntley had time to throw (his quick delivery helps) and backs Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman combined for 70 rushing yards on 13 carries … The Packers didn't really have an answer for Andrews, who caught 10 passes for 136 yards and was especially effective early… It didn't take long for the players and coaches to start talking about next Sunday's game against the Bengals. With a win, the Ravens can regain no worse than a share of first place in the AFC North.

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