With the Ravens resting multiple starters and falling 17-10 to Pittsburgh to conclude the 2023 regular season on Saturday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. The brutal conditions on Saturday evening contributed to eight fumbles and reinforced how critical it was for John Harbaugh’s team to lock up the No. 1 seed the previous week. For even the best team in football, harsh weather has the potential to be an equalizer in January.
2. Though many have opined about rust contributing to that 2019 playoff loss, I’ve wondered if that convincing Week 17 win over Pittsburgh — while resting multiple starters — left those Ravens feeling too confident after not losing a game since late September. A late-season reminder that they’re not totally invincible doesn’t hurt.
3. Acknowledging there being a 17th game, Baltimore tied the franchise record set by the 2006 Ravens with 60 sacks and joined that defense as the only ones in team history to have at least three players reach nine sacks. Four players did it in 2006. Remember those summer pass-rush concerns?
4. You had to appreciate Jadeveon Clowney’s dance after he earned a $750,000 incentive by registering a second-quarter sack to give him 9 1/2, tying his career high set with Houston in 2017. I’m not sure there’s been many better value signings in franchise history than Clowney this year.
5. Though John Harbaugh expressed postgame optimism about the injuries sustained in Week 18, Geno Stone (knee) and Odafe Oweh (ankle) exiting wasn’t ideal. Stone allows the Ravens to use Kyle Hamilton at the nickel, and you want to keep Clowney and Kyle Van Noy fresh for the entire playoff run.
6. I feel for Tyler Huntley, who was receiving his first extensive opportunity to play in Todd Monken’s offense. The weather did him no favors in what he likely envisioned being a showcase performance as he’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
7. A meaningful development from an otherwise inconsequential game for the Ravens was the performance of rookie Trenton Simpson, who registered a sack, another tackle for a loss, and five tackles in his first extensive defensive action. With Patrick Queen probably getting a big payday elsewhere, that was an encouraging audition.
8. Speaking of Queen, it wasn’t ideal putting the Pro Bowl linebacker back in the game after the injury to Del’Shawn Phillips, but that was a result of not having Malik Harrison, who could have played 60-plus snaps at multiple linebacker spots if he hadn’t gotten injured the previous week.
9. In the wake of four-time Pro Bowl selection Dalvin Cook signing to the practice squad, Melvin Gordon didn’t do himself any favors by putting the ball on the ground in the second quarter. We’ll see what kind of juice Cook can bring after a forgettable stint with the Jets.
10. I’ll remember very little about Saturday’s game, but Jordan Stout had an impressive game punting the football in brutal conditions. Spending a fourth-round pick on a punter carries high expectations, and the Penn State product has shown much growth in his second season.
11. After appearing in a total of 11 games over the previous three seasons, a 31-year-old Michael Pierce playing a career-high 640 snaps and starting every game is one of the underrated surprises of the season. Even he wasn’t expecting a contract extension after taking a pay cut last March.
12. It took until the final four minutes of Week 18 for the Ravens to trail by more than one score for the first time all season, which is remarkable. They joined the 2010 squad as the only Ravens teams not to suffer a single loss by more than one score.