In the Ravens vs. Chiefs game on Monday night, there were many disappointments — none greater of which came from the lack of production on the offensive side of the ball from Baltimore. Everything was seemingly ten times more difficult for Baltimore than it was for Kansas City, and that much is plenty obvious from watching the game.
Much of it seemed to come from a lack of understanding of one’s own personnel and strengths from the coaching staff. Lamar Jackson seemed to find his passing groove with shorter, dink-and-dunk type throws. Despite this, however, Greg Roman and John Harbaugh had him routinely throwing the ball deeper than even Mahomes. Lamar ended the day with almost three full yards more of average depth of target, the stat that tracks how far the ball is thrown before it lands, or doesn’t land, in the receivers hands.
Today we’re gonna take a deeper look into three specific plays that stood out to me in this game. All of the plays can be found here:
Time Stamps of where to find said plays:
Play 1: 0:41
Play 2: 2:52
Play 3: 14:46
We’ll start on a positive note with something the Ravens do very well — the option. This first play comes with 11:34 left in the first quarter, on Baltimore's first drive of the game. At this point, they’re sitting at the Kansas City 26 yard line in a pistol formation. Patrick Ricard sits to Jackson’s left, Nick Boyle on the right, and Mark Ingram behind. The Chiefs are set up with six bodies at the line of scrimmage, two backing them up, and then two more behind them.
The play is an option and once it starts, Frank Clark decides to cover Lamar and pulls further to the outside, Lamar makes the correct play and hands it off to Ingram. The blocking is chaotic, but very well executed as Boyle takes on two defenders at one point. By the time one defender gets around Boyle, Ingram is already past him, successfully running through the entire Chiefs frontline before being taken down by both Kansas City safeties for an 11-yard gain.
The reason this play sticks out to me is because it shows what Baltimore is good at, and the fact that Kansas City is one of the worst rushing defenses in the league. The entire first drive, Baltimore is beating Kansas City by smacking them in the mouth over and over again, and it consistently resulted in positive yards. The Ravens have shown that they are more than capable of running the ball. After all, they were only the greatest rushing team in NFL history last season, no big deal.
Our second play comes with 4:55 left in the first quarter, Baltimore’s second drive of the game, on their own 29 yard line. The score is 6-3 in Kansas City’s favor and it’s 3rd-&-15.
Jackson is lined up in the shotgun all by himself with five receivers spread wide. The Chiefs are only rushing four guys and as the play begins, Mark Andrews gets open short, but Jackson is looking deeper as they need more yards for the first down. Nothing is there for him, but he needs to quickly move as Frank Clark beats Bradley Bozeman and gets to Jackson. As he senses the pressure, Jackson quickly moves backward, unfortunately colliding Orlando Brown Jr. and falling over for a moment. Once he gets up he rolls to his left to try and find an open man downfield, but before he can get the ball out he gets stripped by Chris Jones and the ball rolls out of bounds.
Passing here was the right call. Third-and-long is not the situation to run, however the failing here lies in it’s execution. Somebody surely could’ve gotten open if they had a little bit of time, but there was none. Jackson only had a little more than two seconds to throw before Clark got there and more time is needed if you’re going to throw deep. Jackson is jittery in the pocket, this we know, but it’s plays like this that inform that jitteriness. He can’t fully trust in his offensive line if he can’t even buy three seconds of time on a crucial third down.
The final play comes with 6:20 left in the fourth quarter, Baltimore is down 34-20, at the Kansas City 13 yard line and it’s 2nd-&-6. Once again, Jackson is lined up in the shotgun with five receivers spread. Kansas City rushes five guys this time, and Taco Charlton immediately gets around Orlando Brown Jr. on the edge. Jackson sees this and panics, stops looking for open receivers and instead focuses on escaping the pocket. Because of this he collides with Ronnie Stanley, whose covering Frank Clark, and stops long enough for Charlton to get to him. Jackson breaks free of this but walks face first into Ben Niemann, who takes him down.
Jackson was unnecessarily panicky in the pocket here but after being pressured as often as he had in this game, it’s not a surprise. Jackson has less than two seconds to throw before he senses Charlton breathing down his neck and with such little time, it’s no wonder he doesn’t feel safe enough to try and make a play within the pocket. The execution of these passes are not what they need to be if you’re only gonna run it 21 times in a game when you’re supposed to be the team keeping it on the ground. I understand the desire to want to move quickly, but a designed run, a play action, or an option play would’ve probably worked much better here than taking a sack for an eight yard loss.
Understanding your own game plan and sticking to it even when you’re down in the scoreboard is fundamental to playing good football, and Baltimore showed they weren’t properly prepared to face someone whose going to try and take them out of it. Jackson here was an allegory for the entire Ravens team in this game; panicky, jittery, and frightened by the Big Bad Wolf known as Kansas City.