Welcome to the Monday Hangover, a weekly column where Jake is here to answer any lingering questions you may have about the Ravens (or the rest of the league) coming out of the weekend, and take a quick look around the division/league. Enjoy, and power through your Monday with some light Ravens reading, and leave a comment with your thoughts down below!
So, that sucked. The Ravens went into their Week 3 matchup at Kansas City looking to make a statement against an elite team in the AFC, and in short, failed to do so. There’s more to it than that though, and there’s plenty to take away from this game which should give pause to people already giving up on the season.
Since I doubt many of you are looking to dwell too much on this one, I’ll get right into it and keep things short and sweet:
What the heck was the deal with Harbaugh’s decision-making?
Yeah, it was definitely too much. But think about it - a lot of teams go into Arrowhead and lose by playing too conservatively, including a certain 2018 team that did so by playing it safe on a certain 4th & 9 play that ... we don’t talk about around here.
I know a lot you guys were probably left scratching your heads on this one, and as far as the play-calling and execution portion of things, I was as well. But as I said on Twitter (@PodcastBeatdown), I’d rather Harbs walk out of a game being criticized for being too aggressive than the other way around.
I wouldn’t have pushed the pedal as much as he did, and would’ve ideally had better play calls ready for those situations, but from a philosophical standpoint, I like the overall idea. Ultimately, I expect they’ll learn from this and pick their spots more carefully while also still remaining aggressive and ready to go for it when necessary.
Can we blame the officiating in this one at all?
In short, no. There were some pretty suspect calls, but it ultimately looks to balance out considering some of the bad decisions by Harbaugh and the luck that Lamar had on a few of his throw-it-up-and-pray plays.
The fact of the matter is that bad officiating is just a part of the game now in the NFL. With the way that the rulebook has been altered, over litigation and legalese are going to hurt your team at one point or another pretty much every week.
It’s up to the great teams to overcome it, and the Ravens weren’t able to do so today. They’ll certainly learn from it, and the coaching staff will get a better idea of how the PI challenges work as well. For now, try to take some solace in the fact that Baltimore was able to keep it close in spite of some tough calls.
Is it time to start worrying about this defense?
Yes and no. The communication busts didn’t go anywhere after last week, and they seem a step slow on certain plays as well.
It looks like they won’t be quite as elite as they were last year, but in their defense there are some positives as well. They’ve shown an ability to get a big stop when it’s needed (save for the end of the game, but they were pretty worn down at that point), and players such as Matt Judon and Brandon Carr have really stepped up when needed.
Ultimately, they were playing the best offense in the league, and were going to show some chinks in the armor no matter what happened today. Jimmy Smith’s return may help a secondary that looks lost at times, so we’ll have to see what his status over the next few weeks.
On that same token, are you at all worried about Lamar?
No. He had a rough first half, and looked a little rattled in what his first true test of the 2019 season, but there were encouraging things to take from this game - especially in the comeback effort.
While he had his struggles throwing the ball at times, he showed that both facets of his game are equally effective and reliable when he needs them to be. His scrambling ability kept the Ravens offense going in the 2nd, and while he got a bit lucky on his two “prayer” tosses, they also show an innate playmaking ability that only he and a few others possess (the same was true of his touchdown run to draw it within one score).
Skeptics will say that he was again exposed a-la the playoff loss to the Chargers, but if anything, I’m somewhat encourage walking away from this game. On a pretty mediocre to bad day for Lamar (especially as a passer), Baltimore’s offense put up 28 points and nearly rallied all the way back after facing a double digit deficit against a Super Bowl contender; put that in your pipe and smoke it, haters.
How do we feel after the first loss of the season?
Well, it’s a loss so this one hurts, but the Ravens are exactly where I was expecting them to be through three weeks. A blowout win over Miami, a workmanlike victory versus the Cardinals, and a close loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead follows the script I was imagining pretty much to a T.
Cleaning up the coverage busts on defense will be crucial, as will better offensive game-planning early on, but ultimately I’m not at all panicked about this team, especially after they rallied back and made things respectable against one of the best teams the league has to offer.
Bring on Cleveland and division play next week - the season is truly about to begin.
AFC North whiparound:
- The Steelers went into San Francisco and put up a really competitive game, but still managed to lose. You never want to count a franchise like this out, but this may spell the end for their AFC North hopes and make their season more about hoping to see something from Mason Rudolph than anything else.
- Cincinnati went into Buffalo, and while competitive, they again lost to drop to 0-3. I wasn’t expecting much from them this season, and so far they’ve proved me right.
- The Browns dropped one at home to the Rams to fall to 1-2 and now face a critical matchup against the Ravens in Baltimore in week 4 - a win by the Ravens would be huge for the divisional outlook moving forward.