Alright yesterday sucked. No two ways about it. For a good 10 minutes there, it felt like the win was in the bag and we had really proven something to the league that the Ravens mean business in 2018. Had a great team on the ropes and all we had to do was finish the task. Obviously that’s not how it went.
Having said that, we came into the day knowing that a win would be a tall task… but also with the assumption that the Steelers would win in Oakland. That didn’t happen either. So while we may have given up a tad bit of ground in the wild card race, we actually gained ground in the division race in the sense that we came into Sunday a half game behind Pittsburgh with each team having 2 tough and 2 easy opponents left on their schedules. With the Steelers squandering one of their easy ones and the Pats and Saints lurking for them the next two weeks, the tables have tilted in our favor as it relates to the remaining schedule. It’s certainly plausible that the Ravens win the division at 9-7 over an 8-7-1 Steelers team now.
But anyways. There’s plenty to talk about from yesterday. My 3 main thoughts about the game:
1. Lamar Jackson’s performance was a mixed bag again. He did all the things we knew he was capable of, namely gashing defenses with run/pass options and creating plays with his feet. And he continued to be shaky as it pertains to being a pocket passer and protecting the football. He made a few more good throws than we’ve seen in his first 3 starts, which goes to show that he’s progressing a bit. But there are still some headscratching throws. This missed throw to Ty Montgomery in the flat was especially awful
The strip sack was obviously a crippling play as well. Romo and Nantz were calling that a rookie mistake, but I’m not so sure that that’s not a play where most NFL QB’s get stripped as well. A more experienced QB may sense that pressure and keep the football in tight, but I mostly think it was just a helluva play by Justin Houston. Gotta give credit where it’s due.
Regardless, I’m not sure if the QB situation is as cut and dry the rest of the season as most people think. There were definitely some situations where Joe Flacco would’ve been better suited under center than Lamar. His situational experience is invaluable for a team that has the league’s best defense. We may be in a spot where protecting the football and making wise decisions is more important than lighting up the scoreboard. Or at least in certain situations. I go back and forth on who it should be, so I just think it should be whoever’s the hot hand (and healthy). That hand still being Lamar for the time being.
2. The refereeing yesterday was just so so bad. I try to be rational and say that the good calls and bad calls even out, but it was really tough to see it that way yesterday. The OPI that was called on Crabtree was so ridiculously soft, and it completely halted what should have been a scoring drive in a tie game in the 4th quarter.
What’s worse is that Kendall Fuller was mildly physical with our receivers on at least 3 plays that would have made a huge impact on the game, including the game-deciding 4th and 22. Now to be honest, I’m not sure that any of the 3 were all that egregious, but Fuller had his arm wrapped around the back-side of the receiver on each in a way that usually leads to a PI flag. I’m all for letting the guys play and giving defenses back a little bit of leeway in what’s become an offense-focused league, but you have to call those PI’s if you’re throwing one on Crabtree.
Matt Judon really got a raw deal too. Numerous times he got mauled as he was approaching Mahomes and I don’t think the Chiefs got called for a single holding flag. Yes there’s holding on every play in the NFL, but the referees made sure to throw their hankies for holding twice on the Ravens’ overtime drive once they were knocking on the door of field goal range. Judon also got called for a head-scratching personal foul for what looked like some pretty ordinary post-whistle pusing and shoving. It was nothing I’d ever seen a flag thrown for before.
Lastly, I’m not sure how the play below doesn’t even get a look in the booth.
I’m not at all saying it was a fumble. I’m just saying it definitely warranted a look. It’s very possible Humphrey jarred it loose before he hits the ground, and then came up with what was a loose ball. Just in general, when a defensive player gets up with the football, a ref’s ears should perk up that something may be worth looking at. Would’ve been a massive turnover before half on what ended up being a FG drive for KC.
Alright, that’s all the bitching I’ve got on this. It just really felt like we had to beat more than the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday.
3. Why can’t this team seem to ever finish a job? It felt like they had gotten over that whole Tyler Boyd thing early in the year when they hadn’t allowed a 2nd half TD until week 7. But of course, 4th and 9 with the Chiefs on the ropes and Mahomes makes a fuck of a throw to Tyreek Hill. I just don’t know why CJ Mosley is the guy trying to chase him down there. It defies logic as to why a linebacker would be chasing down literally the fastest man to ever play football on a key play.
But regardless, it just doesn’t feel like we ever win a game that we shouldn’t. We never steal games. All of our wins are wins we rightly earn, and then we continually end up on the wrong side of all the games that come down to a single play or two. Even when we catch a break like Butker missing that field goal or Mahomes fumbling in the red zone in overtime, we don’t end up reaping the benefit. If Crabtree can just catch a pass in Cleveland, or Tucker can just make an extra point against New Orleans, or the defense just stops a 4th and 9 yesterday, this season is so completely different. It never feels like we’re on the right side of those types of plays, and it’s exhausting. We could be so close to being 10-3 and competing for a playoff bye. But we shit down our leg far too often.
I don’t know what that says about the Ravens. Maybe we’re due for a lot of good breaks. Maybe we’re still paying off our debts for Rahim Moore. Maybe it’s a coaching issue, or one of those mental hurdles that becomes self-fulfilling. All I know is that I’m really sick of it. We’re a +80 point differential football team that’s only a game over .500. Should be so much better.
Alright, yesterday was frustrating but it’s in the past. There’s a very strong chance we see those guys again, and I think we at least proved to ourselves what we’re capable of. There’s still a ton of work to be done, and this is starting to feel like 2017 all over again. Hopefully they use last year as a lesson learned and take care of business the rest of the way, because it feels like they’re starting to peak at the right time again. This has all the makings of a classic Ravens team that nobody will want to face in the cold weather of January. I’m still optimistic that this can be a great season. So let’s go beat Tampa next week and take control of the damn division.