Pain. That is all.
1) Deja vu . . .
This game felt eerie similar to the Ravens loss against the Steelers in Week 8. In both games, they outplayed their opponent for first three-and-a-half quarters and led by double digits in the second half. And in both games, they failed to close the deal and wound up losing.
The Ravens were well-positioned to win this contest. The Titans were fortunate to get a field goal before halftime, thanks to a miraculous fake punt conversion and a roughing the passer penalty that gifted them 15 yards, and only be trailing by four points at intermission.
Baltimore forced a quick three-and-out to begin the second half and responded with a 7-play, 74-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 31-yard reception from Mark Andrews. This put the Ravens up 21-10 and after holding Tennessee to a field goal on the next possession, it felt like the Ravens were primed to capitalize on the momentum.
However, after converting a first down and threatening to cross midfield on the next drive, a costly interception from Lamar Jackson swung the pendulum of this game.
Tennessee put together back-to-back drives of 10 and 12 plays, respectively, that netted them a field goal and touchdown. Sandwiched in-between these possessions was another frustrating, unsuccessful drive on the part of the Ravens that spiraled downward. John Harbaugh’s challenge of the spot of the football on a 3rd-&-1 lost Baltimore a timeout and on the corresponding play, Mark Andrew was flagged for a false start, pushing the Ravens back five yards. Jackson’s pass attempt for Andrews on 3rd-&-6 was slightly overthrown.
The Ravens did manage to force overtime thanks to a 65-yard drive at the end of the game that put Justin Tucker in field goal range, but it wound up being only a moral victory.
2) One weak link breaks the chain
It goes without saying that football is a team sport. In order to win, a complete effort is needed from all three phases, that being offense, defense, and special teams. This is a universal concept.
There will continue to be much deliberation as to who deserves blame and criticism for the Ravens’ recent struggles. Is it Greg Roman’s play-calling? Has Lamar Jackson been figured out? Can the defense not hold onto leads?
These are difficult questions to answer, and frankly there might not be one simple solution.
However, the fact of the matter is that the Ravens are simply not playing a full 60 minutes worth of winning football at the moment. Moments where the offense and defense are clicking at the same time have been far and few in recent weeks, which isn’t surprising given these two go hand and hand.
Against the Titans, an undermanned Ravens defense played about as well as you could ask for the better part of the first half and into the third quarter. After ceding a touchdown drive on Tennessee’s opening possession, the next two times Baltimore’s defense took the field saw Tyus Bowser corral an interception and a forced three-and-out. During this stretch, the Ravens offense scored 11 unanswered points.
Jackson’s interception in the third quarter marked the turning point in which both the offense and defense began to falter. Derrick Henry gradually started to churn out chunks of yardage after being contained in the first half, and the Ravens had no answers for the Titans quick play-action passing game.
After punting the ball back to Tennessee, with only a five-point lead and momentum no longer on their side, it felt inevitable that the Titans would score. And that’s what they did, putting together a 90-yard touchdown drive in 10 plays and 5:25.
Blame the coaching staff, blame the offense, blame the defense, or chalk it up to injuries; realistically these struggles can be attributed to a little of everything.
3) “All that for a drop of blood”
The Ravens and Titans have a bit of a storied non-divisional rivalry. This was only exacerbated following the Titans victory over Baltimore in the playoffs last year, and it was clear even before kickoff that there was still some bad blood between these two squads.
Prior to the start of the game, a reported squirmish at midfield saw Titans CB Malcom Butler and John Harbaugh get into a verbal dispute. Then, Harbaugh and Mike Vrabel had words for each other, too. It’s unclear exactly what, if anything in particular, sparked this but evidently the Ravens did not take kindly to it.
Following Jackson’s 31-yard connection with Andrews for a touchdown in the third quarter, Jackson appeared to purposefully bump into the shoulder of Butler in the end zone. Just one play later, DeShon Elliott laid a big hit on Derrick Henry and proceeded to stand over him after the play.
This type of stuff, along with trash talk, happens all of the time and is part of the game. However, it’s viewed with a larger microscope in a matchup of this magnitude, given the stakes at hand, and when considering the dislike between these two teams.
If you’re going to talk the talk, it’s a good idea to back it up on the scoreboard. At the time of the aforementioned events, the Ravens were leading 21-10 — but the Titans wound up getting the last laugh.
A.J. Brown bullying his way through four defenders for a late touchdown in the fourth quarter, Ryan Tannehill celebrating a two-point conversion with a “finger roll”, and Henry running untouched into the end zone for a game-winning score in overtime sums this up.
4) Don’t blame injuries
Winning this game without Campbell and Williams was set to be an uphill battle. However, the Ravens run defense was not the reason for this loss. For most of the game, the Ravens did a solid job of containing Henry on the ground. Players like Derek Wolfe, DeShon Elliott and Jaylon Ferguson stepped up and made an impact.
Do the Ravens win if Campbell or Williams play? Maybe, but we’ll never know. Therefore, chalking up this loss to injuries is a cop-out for greater problems at hand. Much like the Ravens, the Titans were also banged up and without starters on both side of the ball.
The Ravens put themselves in a position to win in the second half. They simply failed to executive and made a handful of costly mistakes and self-inflicted wounds. It’s very unlikely Campbell, Williams, Nick Boyle, or anyone else you want to name would have changed that.
5) Mark and Marquise, missing in action
Another week, another pair of ineffective performances from two offensive starters for the Ravens in Marquise Brown and Mark Ingram. Ineffective is putting it kindly in this instance, as both players were complete no-shows against Tennessee.
Ingram saw two consecutive carries in the first quarter, both on 1st-&-10, that went for a total of two yards. He did not see another touch for the remainder of the game, as J.K. Dobbins played a feature role with 15 rushes for 70 yards. This could and should become a trend moving forward.
Ingram hasn’t been nearly as explosive this year as he was in 2019. His efficiency in the box score earlier in the season masked some of this but since returning from injury last week, he has the same number of rushing attempts (7) as rushing yards (7). Dobbins and Edwards have been far more effective and dynamic.
As for Brown, the self-proclaimed “soulja” has not been living up to his nickname nor ability in recent weeks. Brown’s midseason slide continued against the Titans and bottomed out, as he failed to catch any of his three targets. Brown was targeted on a would-be first down early in the first quarter but dropped the pass despite being wide open.
Since catching six passes for 77 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals on October 11, Brown has a total of 10 receptions and 112 yards over the past five games. This simply won’t cut it for a supposed-to-be WR1, let alone any starting receiver.
“Hollywood” has more talent and potential than any other wideout on the roster, but it’s clearly not clicking. Based on how things are trending, a late-season turnaround seems very unlikely.