Well, that was ... something. For much of Sunday’s game, it looked like the Ravens were going to fall to 2-3 at the hands of the Steelers. Instead, they managed to squeeze out a much-needed victory in overtime. It’s hard to be encouraged by what we saw on both sides of the football, however, as the team’s play left much to be desired.
Still, a win is a win, no matter how it comes about. Takeaways are in order.
1) Shoutout to Justin Tucker and Marlon Humphrey
There’s been very few constants on the Ravens’ roster this season but after what transpired against Pittsburgh, let’s take moment to appreciate the greatness of Justin Tucker and Marlon Humphrey.
Humphrey, who held Odell Beckham Jr. to a career-low two catches for 20 yards in Week 4, got off to a rough start against Pittsburgh by missing a tackle on JuJu Smith-Schuster’s touchdown reception. He made up for it the end, however. After a three-and-out by Baltimore’s offense to begin overtime, Humphrey punched the ball out of Smith-Schuster’s arms and then sprinted to retrieve the fumble, which somehow didn’t go out of bounds. It gave way to Tucker to nail another game-winning field goal from 46 yards out.
Tucker had already made field goals from 26, 27, and 48 yards earlier in the game, the latter of which tied the game up at 23-23 with 0:48 seconds remaining. Tucker is the most accurate kicker in NFL history and we often forget how fortunate the Ravens are to have him on the roster. Same goes for Humphrey, who quite literally saved the game in Week 5.
2) Questionable officiating looms large
Blaming poor officiating for a loss is more often than not a sour excuse. While there’s plenty of factors that can be attributed to Sunday’s end result in Pittsburgh, it’s hard not to notice the number of one-sided calls and non-calls from the referees in Heinz Field. The Ravens ultimately won the game in overtime, but not before questionable decisions by the officials derailed them throughout the contest.
On Baltimore’s fourth drive of the game, Lamar Jackson’s pass to Mark Andrews was intercepted after being popped up in the air. However, Andrews was clearly held by his defender and was unable to make a play on the ball because of it. On Pittsburgh’s final drive of the half, Michael Pierce was flagged for roughing the passer despite making barely any contact with the face mask of Mason Rudolph.
In the third quarter, Jackson’s deep pass attempt to Nick Boyle was picked off by Devin Bush. The nose of the football cleary hit the ground on Bush’s way down and allowed him to gain control, but the referees upheld the interception call. Then, following a phantom pass interference call on Brandon Carr, John Harbaugh challenged the ruling of James Washington’s 13-yard reception. Washington caught the ball but it was poked out of bounds short after by Maurice Canady. Despite what looked like a clear incompletion, the officials upheld the ruling of a fumble, which allowed Pittsburgh to retain possession and score.
Questionable calls or non-calls happen all the time and occur on both sides. However, there’s no denying there were several that went against the Ravens this week and they certainly played a role in the final outcome.
3) The Ravens need Marquise Brown on the field
Baltimore fans everywhere held their breath in the second quarter when WR Marquise Brown limped his way to the medical tent, and eventually the locker room. Fortunately, “Hollywood” returned to the game later, but the difference in the offense’s success with and without him was evident. With Brown on the field in the first half, the Ravens scored two touchdowns and a field goal on their first three drives. Brown himself scored on an athletic jump-ball reception in the redzone.
The following three drives without Brown? 10 total plays, -2 yards, three sacks, and two interceptions. Not exactly good. Can this putrid series to end the first half be chalked up entirely to Brown’s injury? No, but there’s no denying the offense is far less dangerous if he’s not out there. While Miles Boykin and Willie Snead IV have had their moments this season, the latter of which had his best game of the season against Pittsburgh, Brown has been the only wideout acting as a consistent focal point on offense. Hopefully he remains healthy going forward, because it’s clear the Ravens need him.
4) Turnovers beginning to pop up with more frequency
Prior to last week’s tilt against the Browns, the Ravens were the only team in the league who had yet to turn the ball over on offense. That changed after Mark Ingram’s back-breaking fumble in the third quarter of Week 4. He had the ball high and tight and it was poked out by the helmet of a defender, so it’s hard to fault him too much. Against the Steelers, the turnovers tripled and played a significant role in the final score.
Two of Jackson’s three interceptions may not have been his fault, but the one pick he threw to Mike Hilton was probably his worst pass of the season. Jackson was trying to hit Seth Roberts on the sideline and didn’t see a lurking Hilton, who jumped the route. Both this interception and the one prior occured on the Ravens side of the field. They’re fortunate the defense held Pittsburgh to two field goals, but six points were nearly the difference-maker.
5) Oh deep ball, where art thou?
The once-promising ariel attack we saw in the first two weeks of the season has gradually fizzled out against the Chiefs, Browns, and Steelers. Jackson and Brown have been unable to connect on deep throws when attempted and even more concerning is the fact that there’s been little effort in the play-calling to open up the field. Despite playing against exploitable secondaries, almost everything the Ravens have done offensively has been between the sidelines and over the middle of the field recently.
They’ve become a bit too predictable and defenders are jumping on underneath and intermediate routes with ease. Other than “Hollywood”, the only other receiver on the roster who possesses true deep-ball ability is rookie Miles Boykin, but he’s been inconsistent. Something needs to give and hopefully Greg Roman figures it out sooner rather than later.