There’s not much to say about that loss other than that it was excruciating to watch. The sheer number of brutally-wasted opportunities made for one of the most frustrating games that I can recall watching (maybe even up there with the slow-pitch softball games the Orioles play). While I had a bad feeling about the game going in, I had no idea that the team would play quite that poorly, and my optimism from the week before was very quickly tossed out the window. Once again, this team is starting to look like a .500 squad, and for Ravens fans, that’s unacceptable.
Because I don’t want to dwell much on the game, I will hit a few points that I feel are worth discussing and that I think we should keep an eye on moving forward. First, and most obviously, Michael Crabtree’s drops are a big concern. He killed two drives in the first quarter and when he could have made up for it by catching the would-be game-winner, he failed. Richard Sherman called him a choker a few years back, and while it’s probably rash to jump to that conclusion after last week, he sure looked the part in Cleveland. The Ravens brought him in to be the reliable chain-mover; he needs to step up and be that guy now.
Second, I want to give credit to Anthony Levine, who I thought stepped up again and has strung together some strong performances to start the campaign. Before the season I viewed him as a cap-casualty saved by the injury to DeShon Elliott, but now, I’m extremely impressed by the do-it-all player he’s become for this defense. He’s absolutely instrumental to their continued success.
Third, the Ravens need a game-breaking running back in next year’s draft. I love Buck Allen and I’m not an Alex Collins hater, per se, but this position still lacks explosion. Ironically, the passing game is very strong for this team, but they’ve lost their consistency in the rushing attack and even when it was consistent, they didn’t have homerun potential. For the Ravens to take the next step, they need one more playmaker with a John Brown type impact.
Finally, I have to note that this loss was not on the defense. Once again, the Ravens allowed nothing after halftime (and, obviously, they barely allowed anything before it, either), as Wink Martindale’s crew stymied the Mayfield-led Browns all game long. Without any thought of doubt, the inefficiency of the offense and inability to capitalize on tremendous field position was what led to this defeat. Marty Mornhinweg’s game plan was stale, the team failed to make valuable adjustments to the attention Cleveland paid to throws over the top, and the running game was abandoned when it actually was doing alright. Tennessee will be similar competition to what the Browns were, so the Ravens need to switch things up big time.
Looking ahead to Tennessee, this game is looking like a must-win. Yes, it’s away from home, and it’s tough to expect a team to win 2 of 3 on a road trip, but the upcoming schedule – even with 2 at M&T – is scary. Home against the Saints, at Carolina, and home against a rejuvenated Steelers squad will not be easy, and Baltimore could potentially drop all 3. The Ravens have to be 4-2 heading home, so how do they accomplish that?
Well, the defense shouldn’t be an issue, and I genuinely think Baltimore will continue to hold the opposition without a second-half touchdown. If Tennessee scores more than 20 I will be surprised and disappointed. With that in mind, the goal for the Ravens should be to score over 20, something they were unable to do in this matchup last year, when they lost 23-20.
This will be a lot harder than it may sound, as the Titans boast a very strong defense that can get after the quarterback and cover the deep ball. To open that up, it’s paramount for the Ravens to stay true to the run game and, even if they aren’t cracking off 4-yard gains or more, don’t become one-dimensional. If Tennessee has to honor Collins, Allen and DeLance Turner (hot take – he will be the leading rusher), Joe Flacco will have John Brown at the ready.
Other factors will come into play, too, such as 3rd-down efficiency, the use of Lamar Jackson (who I think is due for a big play), and the separation that Hayden Hurst and other tight ends can make on a less cover-happy group of linebackers, but unpredictability will be key for the Ravens this week. As has been the case with this team so far in 2018, I am hopeful that they will make the necessary adjustments. Final Score:
Ravens: 23, Titans: 13