Thursday, February 25, 2021

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following playoff defeat at Buffalo

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Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Ravens and Orioles beat reporter for WNST BaltimorePositive.com and is a PFWA member. His mind is consumed with useless sports knowledge, pro wrestler promos, and movie quotes, but he struggles to remember where he put his phone. Luke's favorite sports memories include being one of the thousands of kids who waited to get Cal Ripken's autograph after Orioles games in the summer of 1995, attending the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade with his father in the pouring rain, and watching the Terps advance to the Final Four at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @BaltimoreLuke or email him at Luke@wnst.net.

With the Ravens falling 17-3 to Buffalo in the divisional round to conclude their 2020 season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Bills had scored 26 or more points in nine straight games and at least 30 in six of those before Baltimore switched up its blitz-heavy approach to allow only 10 points against Josh Allen and that explosive offense. The 2-on-3 goal-line miscue aside, Wink Martindale’s defense deserved much better.

2. The 101-yard interception return for a touchdown was the backbreaking play, but neither Tyre Phillips nor J.K. Dobbins getting a piece of Buffalo’s Jerry Hughes on the previous snap cost Lamar Jackson an easy touchdown pass to Marquise Brown that would have tied the game. What an extraordinary two-play swing.

3. The Ravens ran for 42 yards on their first six carries before burning a timeout less than four minutes into the game, killing early momentum in addition to costing them at the end of the first half. They gained 66 yards on their next 20 rushes through the third quarter.

4. First down was an even bigger problem after picking up 38 yards on their first four first-down plays. Baltimore’s next 18 first-down snaps would go for a total of 32 yards — with three fumbles. The Ravens were even worse on first down in last January’s playoff loss to Tennessee. Brutal.

5. The wind wreaked havoc on both teams as Justin Tucker missed two field goals in a game for the first time since Dec. 22, 2018. The four-time Pro Bowl kicker surprisingly missed a field goal or extra point in five of the last seven games. No, I wouldn’t worry.

6. I still don’t know what to say about Patrick Mekari getting the yips only weeks after replacing Matt Skura because of his own difficulties snapping. The Ravens need to take a hard look at the center position. Or at least bring in Chuck Knoblauch as a consultant.

Courtesy of NFL/NBC Sports

7. With the defensive line and secondary fully healthy for the first time in weeks, the Ravens defense showed its dominant ceiling these last two weeks. However, the top five outside linebackers and Derek Wolfe are all free agents while Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell aren’t getting any younger. Tough decisions.   

8. Dobbins is a big reason to remain excited for the future, but we should probably pump the brakes on the Ray Rice comparisons after his two ugly drops. I was surprised he didn’t make more of an impact as a receiver this season after watching him in training camp.

9. Like Pernell McPhee the previous week, L.J. Fort made the most of his opportunities tying for the team lead with five tackles and registering a quarterback hit in just 25 defensive snaps. He didn’t get much attention, but he was Baltimore’s best and most consistent inside linebacker this season.

10. The Ravens have scored at least 20 points in 36 of Jackson’s 37 career regular-season starts, but they’ve now registered their season low in points in each of the last two playoff defeats. Could there be a more frustrating factoid for a team that’s won 26 games in two years?

11. Tyler Huntley will probably be thinking about that missed opportunity for a long touchdown pass to Brown all offseason, but the undrafted rookie showed impressive poise in what was a nearly impossible situation. He should have every opportunity to earn the primary backup job for 2021.

12. As if the noise made by a crowd of just 6,772 weren’t impressive enough, Buffalo fans making donations to the Blessings in a Backpack organization in Jackson’s honor is a bigger win than the Bills advancing to the AFC Championship for the first time in 27 years. That’s just outstanding.

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