The Ravens played host to the NFC’s No. 1 seed and reigning league MVP this week. Down a number of starters due to injury and COVID-19 protocols, the Packers wound up being a near 10-point favorite in this matchup.
Baltimore more than held their own, though, and erased a two-touchdown deficit late before ultimately coming up short of yet another near-comeback victory. The Ravens fell 31-30 and are now in the midst of a three-game losing streak. All three defeats have come by two points or less.
Let’s unpack another heartbreaker of a game below.
Predictable shortcomings on defense
Without Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and DeShon Elliott, the Ravens’ secondary was already at a serious disadvantage against a high-powered Packers’ offense. Things went from bad to worse in the 48-72 hours prior to kickoff as Chuck Clark, Chris Westry and Jimmy Smith were all scratched after being placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list.
Having any number of these players in the lineup certainly would be ideal against Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and company. Instead, the Ravens’ starting unit in the backend consisted of Anthony Averett, Tavon Young, Kevin Seymour, Brandon Stephens and Geno Stone.
Anthony Levine Sr. and practice squad call-ups Tony Jefferson and Robert Jackson also saw extended playing time. It was an “all hands on deck” affair.
All things considered, this patchwork group performed about as well as anyone could have reasonably expected given the matchup. It didn’t help that Tavon Young exited early with a concussion, the Ravens were going to be up against it either way. Rodgers made some pinpoint throws that would be difficult to defend regardless of personnel.
Green Bay had 20 first downs through the air compared to just four on the ground and their number of completions for 10+ yards was in the double digits.
Need all the points you can get
The Packers entered this game averaging over 37 points per game over the past three weeks. When playing against an offense of this caliber with a quarterback like Rodgers, it’s paramount to score as many touchdowns as possible.
Settling for field goals is a dangerous game to play when the opponent can score points in a hurry, which is exactly what the Packers can do. This is even more true when your defense is as injury-riddled and shorthanded as the Ravens’ was today.
In circumstances like this, going for it on fourth down instead of taking three points via a field goal is more acceptable. The Ravens did this on the first drive of the game but failed to execute. Tyler Huntley was sacked in the red zone and the Ravens turned the ball over on downs after a 14-play drive that lasted over seven minutes.
Then, in a scenario eerie similar to two weeks ago, a late touchdown drive forced the Ravens into a decision: kick an extra point to tie the game at 31-31 or try for a two-point conversion to take a 32-31 lead. They chose the latter but unfortunately it again did not pan out in their favor, as Huntley’s pass attempt to Mark Andrews went incomplete.
This will yet again be a talking point in the wake of this loss. However, if the Ravens took the extra point instead of going for the lead, there was still over 40 seconds on the clock. This is more than enough time for Rodgers to get Green Bay in field goal range and the Ravens defense had already given up five scoring drives up to that point.
The Ravens were playing with house money. They weren’t supposed to be in a winning position late against in this game and were severely undermanned. Instead of questioning the decision, maybe more people should question the play design and execution.
Over the past three games, they’re 0-for-3 on two-point attempts and roughly 2-for-8 on the season as a whole.
Tyler Huntley’s stock continues to rise
In his first career start against the Bears in Week 11, Tyler Huntley showed promise. He did so again last week versus the Browns, where he sparked the Ravens’ offense and nearly led a second-half comeback of more than 21 points. Against the Packers today, his stock reached a new level.
Huntley threw the ball 40 times and completed 28 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns, both to Mark Andrews in the first half. He also rushed for a game-high 73 yards and added two additional scores on the ground. Huntley didn’t make a ton of downfield throws, as evidenced by a yards-per-attempt average of 5.4, but played a mistake-free game and kept the Ravens alive late.
When the Packers took a 31-17 lead at the top half of the fourth quarter, it felt like the Ravens might be ready to roll over against a superior opponent. Instead, again they did not flinch and a large part of that has to do with Huntley.
He quickly led the Ravens on a 12-play touchdown drive where he picked up two first downs on scrambles, and completed an 11-yard pass to Andrews on fourth down. Then, he capped it off with a three-yard rushing touchdown. After the Ravens’ defense forced a three-and-out, Huntley scrambled for an eight-yard score after a seven-play, 49-yard drive.
It’s cliché to say, but the moment never does seem too big for Huntley, which is impressive to say about an undrafted free agent with now only two full starts under his belt. Huntley continues to do a more-than-admirable job filling in for Lamar Jackson.
And for what it’s worth — it’s entirely possible to applaud the former’s play without making it a conversation about the latter.
Mark Andrews is an All-Pro . . . full stop
For the second straight game, Mark Andrews exceeded 10 catches and 100 receiving yards while scoring a touchdown. A lot has been made about Andrews’ play this season but after another performance like this week, not enough can be said about how good he has been.
In the first quarter alone, Andrews reeled in four receptions for almost 80 yards and a touchdown. He added two more receptions on the next drive, both of which converted first downs and the second resulting in a leaping touchdown catch.
His production slowed a bit in the second half but he still wound up finishing with a game-high 136 receiving yards and two scores — his second two-touchdown performance of the season. Of his 10 catches on the day, four resulted in third-down conversions and another kept the chains moving on 4th-&-6.
Whenever the Ravens need a big play or key conversion, there’s a high likelihood the ball is going Andrews’ way whether it’s Huntley or Jackson under center. Opposing defenses know this and yet Andrews continues to find ways to produce at a high clip, a good indicator that he’s taken his game to a new level.
Andrews also crossed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the season in this game, putting him in unique territory in franchise history (which I wrote a bit about earlier this week).
Travis Kelce lit up the Chargers on Thursday night this week and George Kittle continues to rack up numbers game after game. Andrews, though, is having an All-Pro caliber season.