The Ravens ended their season much like they had played it all year long, with a loss. Even though they played well in the first half and kept the Bengals under wraps for the most part, dumb plays and penalties allowed Cincinnati to get the upper hand and control the second half. While the game ends in a loss and the season ends at 5-11, there were some studs as well as duds this week.
Kamar Aiken - WR
Aiken found 5 more receptions to give him the franchise record of consecutive regular season games with at least 5 receptions. It pushed him over Derrick Mason who had 8 total games. He finished the game with 5 receptions for 76 yards and helped bail out the offense on more than a few occasions. With the season being a dud on it's own, Aiken truly is a bright spot that came on in the second half of the 2015-2016 season and showed that Baltimore might have something interesting heading into next year.
Maxx Williams - TE
While Williams caught 6 passes for 53 yards, it was more impressive the types of passes that Maxx was catching. A few were behind him, putting him in a bad position to do anything with them. Yet, he contorted his body to ensure that he was the only one who could catch it and kept drives alive by doing so. One of the most impressive catches of the day was one that he didn't catch. Quarterback Ryan Mallett threw the pass too far in front of Williams, causing him to have to dive for the ball. Maxx got his hands around it but was sadly not able to bring it down to the ground, but it was an impressive display of effort and concentration on the rookie tight end's part. While he is still very young, he showed some glimpses of what he might become soon.
Jeremy Butler - WR
It might seem like an offensive explosion today, mostly because the Ravens threw the ball 56 times, giving the wide receivers more than enough chances to make big plays. Butler, much like Aiken and Williams did so with his time, catching 6 passes for 57 yards. Butler displayed quickness and good route running to get open in zone coverage and then make things happen after he had the ball in his hands. Like Williams, his best play ended up being called back because of a bad pass thrown by Ryan Mallett, but Butler would go to the ground for the ball, get up and wind his way through defenders and blockers to the endzone. A slightly better pass gives the Ravens an extra 7 points early on and could have dramatically changed the outcome. It's the effort shown and the consistency here that makes Jeremy Butler a stud on Sunday.
Sam Koch - P
I feel weird putting a punter into a MVP list, but Sam Koch did so well that the announcers actually called it "luck" at one point. His first punt could have been better, but it rolled it's way down the sideline to stick Cincinnati within their own 20. Koch would boot a few more that had his patented bounce back and put the Bengals within their own 5-yard line.
In Sam Koch, the Ravens had the field position battle won against the Bengals and could have pulled out a victory because of it. If that doesn't deserve a stud award to go right next to his Pro Bowl trophy, I'm not sure what does.
Pass Rush - DEF
The Bengals only threw 27 times and the Ravens would put Cincinnati's quarterback A.J. McCarron into the dirt 3 times. And it's not like those were the only few times that the pass rush found it's way home. McCarron was harassed all game long, being forced to run out of the pocket and at one point, staying on the turf in a little pain. Going against a solid offensive line, the Ravens got penetration from the defensive line and outside linebackers that resulted in hurrying the Bengals quarterback more than I'm sure he wanted. It didn't result in an interception or a fumble, but consistent pressure on the quarterback is the first step in that equation, something the Ravens were unable to do for a majority of the year.
Front-Seven - DEF
I have to take something away from the Ravens defense even though they beat up the quarterback well on Sunday. They did something well, but then allowed the Bengals to run all over them, extending drives and picking up chunks of yards at a time. While the defense didn't allow a 100-yard rusher, it did allow one to go for 96 yards and the other to go for 36. Total all, they gave up 145 yards on 27 attempts for close to 5.5 yards per carry. If you look at just the running backs, they gave up 6 yards per carry! The ability to run the ball effectively allowed the Bengals to keep McCarron off his back and switch things up on the Ravens defense.
Will Hill - S
Another week and another ridiculous penalty by someone in the secondary that all but gives the offense a touchdown. In this case, it was safety Will Hill, who came in seconds before the ball came down to just plow over the intended receiver. There was no attempt to go for the ball or even to push the receiver out of bounds, just a player not paying any attention and giving the opponent a first down and great field position. What makes it worse was that the ball was floated in the air and could have easily been intercepted had Hill been paying enough attention and thinking straight. That turnover would have been massive, or even just letting the pass fall incomplete would have been good too and absolutely would have taken 7 points off the board.
Ryan Mallett - QB
A tale of two halves here as Mallett looked crisp in the first half, even if some of his passes were a little off target. His super sonic passes threaded the needle on a few occasions and got to a receiver and kept drives going. Yet, not getting into the endzone was the start of the issues.
In the second half, Mallett repeatedly threw the ball into the ground, keeping big potential completions and even a touchdown off the boards. The only interception that really mattered (the second was in the final seconds) was a terrible one that had a linebacker jump the route because he was staring down his target. On the day, I counted at least 3 more that should have been intercepted if the Bengals defensive backs and linebackers could catch a cold. It was the polar opposite to the Pittsburgh Steelers game the week before and one that still showed promise, but was ultimately the reason for defeat.