If they hadn’t already been missing them by the beginning, they were by games end as both the Baltimore Ravens (7-3) and Chicago Bears (3-7) lost their starting quarterback, top receiver, and several other starters on both sides of the ball. This left the Ravens destined for some good, some bad, and a lot of ugly. However, despite the low-scoring affair, there was actually more good than bad and ugly, even though the examples of the latter were truly horrendous and looked like they were going to cost them dearly before they ultimately prevailed over the Bears in a 16-13 contest.
The Wolf Pack: Special teams played a huge factor in this game for the Ravens because they not only accounted for 10 of their total points, but they were instrumental in the field position battle. All-Pro kicker Justin Tucker finished as the team’s leading scorer after he converted all three of his field-goal attempts as well as his lone extra-point attempt. Punter Sam Koch pinned Chicago inside their own 20-yard line twice and had a long of 57. All kicking and punting attempts began with perfect snaps from long snapper Nick Moore who is also both active and aggressive in punt coverage.
Tyler Huntley: Considering the circumstances and tremendous amount of duress he was under from start to finish, the 2020 undrafted free agent performed well in his first career start. He showed excellent poise and channeled his inner Lamar Jackson on the game-winning drive as he went 3-of-4 for 56 yards before handing the ball off for the go-ahead score.
The Bears blitzed Tyler Huntley on 64% of his dropbacks Sunday, the highest rate any team has blitzed in a game this season.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) November 22, 2021
Devonta Freeman: The veteran running back got the lion’s share of snaps and touches at his position and made the most of them. He led the team in carries (16) and rushing yards (49), and added another 31 yards to his scrimmage total by hauling in all six of his targets out of the backfield. In addition to scoring the game-winning touchdown, Freeman forced a team-high three missed tackles and picked up five total first downs, according to PFF.
Pass Rush: Led by fifth-year edge defender Tyus Bowser who had his best game getting after the quarterback of his career to date, the Ravens generated relentless pressure from start until literally the last play of the game. Bowser tied for the team lead in pressures with three, led the team in sacks with two, and sealed the win his second quarterback takedown.
TYUS FTW!!!— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 21, 2021
Back in action 11/28 at 8:20 p.m. on NBC pic.twitter.com/QO3mu8ygkq
Inside Linebackers: What was once a glaring weakness on their defense early in the season, the Ravens continued to get great play from the position group in this game. Second-year pro Patrick Queen was dominant against the run especially, was just as stout in coverage, and finished with a team-leading 7 total tackles.
Pass catchers: No Hollywood? No problem. With leading receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown out with a thigh injury, the Ravens’ other pass catchers stepped up. Led by tight end Mark Andrews who posted team-highs in yards (73), receptions (8), and targets (10), the group that is much maligned in the media consistently came up with one clutch catch after another. On the game-winning drive, rookie Rashod Bateman drew a 21-yard defensive pass interference penalty, second-year pro Devin Duvernay picked up another 21 yards on the next play, and veteran Sammy Watkins set up the go-ahead score with a 29-yard gain on catch deep down the right sideline.
SAMMY WATKINS— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 21, 2021
tune in on cbs! pic.twitter.com/WUWjXe2CTq
All out blitz on fourth-and-11 late: The only reason that Ravens Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s worst play call of the season didn’t land in the ugly is that Huntley and the offense bailed him out. After being undone by the Cover 0 blitz on offense against the Dolphins last week, they were nearly defeated by it again, but this time it was their defense that sent the house with the game on the line and got burned. On a critical fourth-and-11 with the game on the line, he decided to send the house on and leave an inexperienced corner making his first career start on an island on a play that resulted in a 49-yard touchdown for the Bears to give them the lead with under two minutes left in the game.
Last game against a sub .500 opponent: As exciting as this victory was for the Ravens, the celebration will be short-lived as they are set to embark on what was viewed as the toughest part of their schedule when it came out. As expected, the remaining teams on their slate are all playoff contenders and none of them have a losing record with the worst being the 6-5 Cleveland Browns who they will faceoff with at home in primetime next week on Sunday Night Football.
Pass protection: Even with the return of starting stop gap right tackle Patrick Mekari from injury, the Ravens offensive line struggled mightily to keep Huntley upright and consistently provide him with clean pockets to throw from. While the unit paved the way for 123 net yards on the ground, they surrendered six sacks to a Bears defense that was without their two best pass rushers in defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and linebacker Khalil Mack. According to PFF and anyone with two eyes, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva performed the most poorly of the bunch. He allowed four pressures and a sack in pass protection as he struggled to keep Robert Quinn at bay all game long.
Chris Westry: He was the aforementioned inexperienced cornerback that nearly cost the Ravens the game on the second back-breaking big play that the defense gave up on the day. Westry bit on a double move from veteran speed receiver Marquise Goodwin on fourth down and got torched for the long score. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only time the second-year pro who was filling in for Anthony Averett got beat on in this game. According to PFF, he was targeted 11 times on 36 coverage snaps and gave up 6 catches for a staggering 193 receiving yards with an opposing passer rating of 139.2, all of which were the highest on the team and in the game.
Big plays persist on defense: It seems like no matter who is in the lineup at times from week to week, the Ravens are good for allowing at least one if not two or more long plays for touchdowns. They had avoided yielding any in the first half against the Bears but after the rookie quarterback, Justin Fields, exited the game early in the third quarter and familiar veteran Andy Dalton enter the game, the seemingly inevitable happened.
After building up a quick 6 point lead on a pair of Tucker’s field goals just before halftime, the Ravens quickly found themselves trailing by a point after Dalton led the Bengals on a quick scoring drive that covered 83 yards in just two plays and was capped off by a 60-yard touchdown. Second receiver Darnell Mooney caught a quick screen, slipped through a few tackles, and took it the distance in almost an instant.
I suppose one minor silver lining to derive from this week’s big plays that were allowed is that neither came as a result of miscommunication or a blown coverage in the secondary. However, bad coverage from depth players and poor tackling is still disheartening and something you never want to see from a team with championship aspirations.