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Late for Work 1/2: 'Time's Running Out' for Ravens to Right Struggles

QB Tyler Huntley
QB Tyler Huntley

Ravens Offense Has Little Time to Right Flaws; Will Lamar Jackson's Return Be Enough?

In an all-too-familiar scene in a storied rivalry, the Pittsburgh Steelers marched down late in the fourth quarter and scored a dagger of a touchdown with under a minute left to play.

The Ravens offense had a chance to respond, but their struggles came to a head once more and the 16-13 loss was sealed as Steelers defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted Tyler Huntley five plays into the comeback attempt. Baltimore's two previous fourth-quarter drives were both three-and-outs.

This marked the fifth game the Ravens have scored 20 or fewer points, with Huntley getting the start in four of them. Right now, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec doesn't see this offense competing against any of the top teams in the playoffs.

"The Ravens have to know that the way they've played recently will be nowhere near good enough to beat the Bengals on the road in Week 18 or really anybody once the playoffs start. This is not a team that's gathering momentum or peaking at the right time," Zrebiec wrote. "Over the last month-plus, they've survived far more than they've flourished. They can't possibly think they're going to be able to win a matchup against the likes of the Bills, Chiefs or Bengals. They're going to need to score points, and right now, their offense is a mess."

According to The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer, "time's running out" on the Ravens to solve their offensive issues.

"Tyler Huntley said he was trying to make a play on the Steelers' game-sealing interception, which might as well be the theme of this late-season Ravens offense: Just trying to make a play," Shaffer wrote. "The defense was strong enough to get a win. The special teams play was strong enough to get a win. But this offense? Not with Lamar Jackson sidelined. Not with the state of the Ravens' wide receivers. Not with a ground game that needed to be great but was merely good."

Press Box’s Bo Smolka questions if he Jackson's return will be enough.

"To be sure, there's no guarantee that the Ravens will suddenly find themselves offensively even if Lamar Jackson returns to lead them next week at Cincinnati or in the playoffs. It's fair to wonder how effective Jackson can be coming off a sprained knee, given how reliant he is on his legs to be effective," Smolka wrote. "But Jackson's absence for the past month has shown how important he is to this team's postseason hopes. It's still unclear whether Jackson will take the field next week, or even in the playoffs. But any chance to make any noise in the postseason depends on it."

Pundits: Defense Has "No Margin for Error"

For the fifth straight game, the Ravens defense battled valiantly and held the opposition under 20 points. But surrendering a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, the first time they've done so at home in four games, was a backbreaker.

Even after the late-game touchdown, pundits are giving credit to a defense that is being asked to play with little room for error, according to CBS Sports John Breech.

"The Ravens defense did a solid job of slowing down the Steelers for the better part of three quarters, but the unit wilted in the fourth quarter, surrendering two separate scoring drives that went for at least 80 yards," Breech wrote. "The Ravens defense has been playing well, but with the offense struggling, there's just been no margin for error."

Baltimore Beatdown’s Spencer Schultz shares the same opinion as Breech about the defense's task.

"The Ravens offense gives their defense no room for error without Lamar Jackson and they couldn't play a perfect game to grind out a win," Schultz wrote. "A frustrating loss, but with a limited backup quarterback the Ravens have treaded water for a month."

Special Teams Has a Bounce Back Affair

After a couple lackluster weeks by their high standards, the Ravens special teams unit was back to firing on all cylinders, starting with Justin Tucker. He knocked through a 51-yard field goal that gave a sigh of relief after he's had a field goal from 50-plus yards blocked in each of the past two games.

Also getting into the mix was running back Justice Hill, who broke free for a 56-yard kick return.

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