Two problems loom large in Ravens’ 33-27 overtime loss in Las Vegas

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You could point the finger in plenty of directions trying to explain the Ravens’ 33-27 loss to Las Vegas on Monday night.

As good as Lamar Jackson was with his arm and legs at times, the star quarterback lost a pair of fumbles that led to a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter and the losing score in overtime. That can’t happen, especially when playing on the road.

Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey completely lost Raiders receiver Zay Jones for the game-ending 31-yard touchdown and was credited by Pro Football Focus for surrendering seven catches for 91 yards in the second half and overtime.

A week after receiving a lucrative contract extension, tight end Mark Andrews was a non-factor and had a critical drop on the play preceding Jackson’s costly fumble in overtime.

Why did offensive coordinator Greg Roman seem reluctant to run the ball at different points? How does Ty’Son Williams touch the ball just three times in the second half after collecting 87 yards and a touchdown on nine first-half touches?  

Perhaps defensive coordinator Wink Martindale should have stopped blitzing and leaving young defensive backs on an island against Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who threw for a whopping 267 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Two problems stood above the rest in the disappointing loss and could threaten Baltimore’s footing in the AFC without immediate improvement. The Ravens couldn’t protect their quarterback or get to the opposing one. 

Offensive tackles Alejandro Villanueva and Ronnie Stanley were dominated by Raiders defensive ends Maxx Crosby, Yannick Ngakoue, and Carl Nassib. According to PFF, Villanueva surrendered two sacks, six hurries, and 10 pressures in his Ravens debut at right tackle. You figured Stanley would show some rust returning from last year’s season-ending ankle injury, but it was jarring to see him look so slow against Ngakoue and to allow seven hurries and seven pressures of his own.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jackson was pressured on 18 of his 33 dropbacks, an embarrassing ratio not even an all-universe scrambler can be expected to overcome. Making matters worse was the potentially serious knee injury sustained by starting left guard Tyre Phillips, who is also the backup right tackle. You expect Stanley to get better as the season progresses, but there’s no easy fix if the Ravens don’t see immediate improvement from Villanueva, who turns 33 later this month and was guaranteed $8 million to sign in early May.

Where have you gone, Orlando Brown Jr.?

All the discussion about Jackson completing more passes outside the numbers and down the field and the quality of the wide receivers becomes moot if the Ravens don’t protect the pocket better than they did Monday.

After allowing just 10 points through the first three quarters, the Ravens allowed an unseemly 23 points and 278 yards in the final quarter and overtime. The blitz repeatedly failed to get home as Carr picked apart a secondary that clearly missed three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters and veteran defensive back Jimmy Smith, who would have been a helpful option trying to slow Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller.

Rookie Odafe Oweh showed promise with his first career sack and was credited with a team-high five pressures by Next Gen Stats and veteran newcomer Justin Houston deserved the credit for the sack officially collected by Pernell McPhee, but neither the blitz nor a standard four-man rush put nearly enough heat on Carr, who was pressured on just over 20 percent of his dropbacks. While the Raiders consistently pressured Jackson with a four-man rush, the Ravens couldn’t even get home when blitzing eight in Cover 0, which was the call on that final touchdown in overtime.

As head coach John Harbaugh noted in his brief post-game press conference, neither side of the ball could make that critical play to close out a win that would have dramatically changed the temperature of the week. Instead, the Ravens now deal with the fallout of losing a game in which they led by 14 points for just the third time in the Harbaugh era, the other two being in the postseason. 

As disappointing as the loss was, it’s important to remember this was just the first of 17 games, something fellow 2020 playoff teams like Buffalo, Green Bay, and Tennessee were telling themselves on Monday. You’ll find plenty of teams over the years that turned in season-opening clunkers and still went on to have great seasons, but such reassurance is compromised with the Kansas City Chiefs coming to town on a short week. If Carr carved up a punchless pass rush and a secondary missing Peters, you shudder to imagine what Patrick Mahomes might do on Sunday Night Football.

We know how that movie has played out each of the last three years, and the thought of falling to 0-2 before back-to-back road games is an alarming proposition for a team with such high hopes entering 2021. Having been hammered by injuries over these last few weeks, the Ravens can’t give in and let the season get away from them before it even really begins.

But if you can’t protect your quarterback or get to your opponent’s at a higher level, you’re going to have a tough time doing anything memorable.