The Baltimore Ravens returned home to Charm City to host the Green Bay Packers, went toe-to-toe with arguably the best team in the league and nearly pulled off the upset. In a game where the home team was without their star player in Lamar Jackson and heavy underdogs but stull almost came out on top, there was some good, some bad, and some ugly.
Tyler Huntley: In just his second career start, the 2020 undrafted free agent helped the injury, and COVID-ravaged Ravens go blow for blow with reigning league MVP, Aaron Rodgers. He actually outproduced him from a total yardage and touchdown standpoint. Huntley’s combined passing and rushing yardage total was 288 compared to Rodgers’ 279 and he was responsible for throwing or running in all four of his team’s touchdowns whereas Rodgers threw for three and handed off the other.
Two-point conversion decision: For the third straight week, a Ravens game came down to an unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt, and just like the past two games, it was the right decision. Last week they went for two earlier and were playing for the game-winning field goal at the end of the game. The week before was much similar to this week when they scored what would’ve been the game-tying touchdown had they just kicked the extra point attempt.
However, just like the situation late against the Steelers, the Ravens, and Head Coach John Harbaugh were more confident in their chances to win the game in regulation rather than risk facing a hot quarterback with a short-handed secondary that became even more depleted as the game went on. Two weeks ago they had lost Marlon Humphrey to a pectoral injury and against the Packers they lost Tavon Young to a concussion.
Mark Andrews: Not to be outdone by the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce, the soon-to-be two-time Pro Bowler had a 100-plus yard receiving and two touchdown performance of his own. He entered the game just 74 yards shy of becoming the first Ravens pass catcher to reach 1,000 yards receiving since Mike Wallace in 2016 and by halftime he accomplished that feat. Andrews was a menace for the Packers’ defense all game long. He had his second-best receiving outage of the season by leading the team with 136 yards and tying for the lead in receptions by hauling in 10 of his 13 targets.
Latavius Murray: The veteran running back had his most productive game since Week 4 and most efficient game as a ball carrier of the entire season. He finished second on the team in rushing with 48 yards, led his position group in total touches with eight, and averaged a season-high 6.9 yards per carry. Murray showed a good burst into the second level of the defense and broke tackles on several of his carries.
Run defense: The Ravens’ top-ranked run defense didn’t allow over 100 yards rushing for the sixth straight game. They held the Packers to a combined 96 yards on the ground and their dynamic running back duo to just 80 yards between them for an average of four yards per carry. Second-year inside linebacker Patrick Queen led the charge and was flying around from sideline to sideline as he recorded a team, season, and career-high 13 total tackles. According to Pro Football Focus, his average depth of tackle was 3.6 yards which suggest that Green Bay’s ball carriers weren’t getting very far when Queen was involved.
Justin Houston and Tyus Bowser: The Ravens’ pass rush didn’t have a strong showing but made some timely plays when they needed to near the end of each half. With the Packers already at midfield and threatening to encroach into field goal range just before halftime, the two veterans outside linebackers combined to takedown Rodgers for a sack. The nine-yard loss on clutch play stalled the drive and forced a punt two plays later. According to PFF, Bowser recorded a full sack and one pressure on 30 pass-rushing snaps and Houston logged a sack and two pressures on 23 pass-rushing snaps.
JUSTIN HOUSTON ➕ TYUS BOWSER= SACKpic.twitter.com/TFJ5oq69zN— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) December 19, 2021
Justin Madubuike: With veteran defensive end Calais Campbell out due to injury, the second-year pro stepped up and played very well. In addition to assisting in stout run defense, he came up clutch with the crucial sack late in the second half. With the Ravens trailing by just seven points after cutting the Packers lead in half, the defense needed to come up with a stop to give them the ball back one more time. Madubuike answered the call and delivered with another nine-yard takedown of Rodgers to force a punt.
Two-point conversion playcall/execution: While the decision to go for two was again, the right one considering the circumstances and flow of the game, the play that was dialed up and its execution again wasn’t. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman didn’t dial up a bad play but by running a sprint option to the right designed to get Andrews the ball, he eliminated half the field for a dual-threat quarterback.
Packers safety and Maryland alumnus Darnell Savage made a great break on the ball and Harbaugh gave him his well-deserved kudos at the podium postgame. Perhaps a play out of shotgun where Huntley had more options to throw to and more space to run it in, as he did on both of his touchdown scrambles, would have been effective.
However, had Huntley not been fixated on Andrews for the entire duration of the play, he might have seen the other options he could’ve taken that were wide open and ripe for the taking. While the Packers defense was keying in on the pass catcher that had torched them all game long, wide receiver Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown gained plenty of separation in the back of the end zone.
Maybe not wide open. But open. pic.twitter.com/di42dXwUdP— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) December 20, 2021
Another avenue that Huntley could’ve taken was a rushing lane that opened up as he was sprinting to the right. He probably wouldn’t have even needed to pump fake before taking off given his ability to stop on a dime, make cuts and accelerate upfield with urgency similar to Jackson.
There was a perfect crease to run it in— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) December 20, 2021
Savage buzzed under and tipped the ball.
More injuries: The Ravens were already the most banged-up team in the league heading into this game, especially in the secondary. As if it wasn’t already going to be a daunting task to try to limit Rodgers with their depleted defensive backfield, it became an even taller order when starting slot corner Tavon Young left the game in the first half with the concussion. They also lost tackle/guard Tyre Phillips to a knee injury in the first half and he didn’t return either. While veteran practice squad call-up David Sharpe performed well in place of Phillips, Young’s replacement didn’t fare nearly as well, quite the opposite in fact.
Bypassing an early field goal: The Ravens were able to pin the Packers back deep on their first drive of the game and still went on to score first with a beautiful touchdown drive on their ensuing possession after turning the ball over on downs deep in Packers’ territory. However, to march 75 yards in 16 plays and eat up nearly seven and a half minutes off the clock, coming away with no points on their opening drive was disappointing, especially considering they have the best kicker in the game in Justin Tucker.
Robert Jackson: When Young went down, the Ravens were forced to turn to the third-year pro who saw his first defensive snaps of the season against one of the elite passing attacks and quarterback-wide receiver duos in the league. Unfortunately, he was targeted in some key situations including in the red zone near the goal line, and gave up a pair of touchdowns.
On the first one to Adams, he had safety help from Geno Stone to take away the slant but he failed to play with outside leverage and couldn’t recover in enough time to prevent the score on third-and-goal. He had tighter coverage on the second touchdown to Marquez Valdez-Scantling but was beat to the inside by the receiver and an accurate throw from Rodgers. According to PFF, he allowed three of the four targets that came his way to be completed for 21 yards and an opposing passer rating of 126.0 in 24 pass coverage snaps.
And here is DaVante Adams getting wide open against practice squad player Robert Jackson.pic.twitter.com/1MEQC5E9nR— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 19, 2021
Marquez Valdes-Scantling beats Robert Jackson for the TD pic.twitter.com/iajpY6rzLf— packers clips (@packers_clips) December 19, 2021
Officiating: The Ravens were fighting three battles on Sunday and while they were holding their own against the Packers and overcoming their injuries as they continued to mount, the horrendous officiating made their uphill climb even steeper. As bad as the roughing the passer penalty that was called on rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh and the false start penalty rookie guard Ben Cleveland received on a crucial fourth down in the second half, neither was as egregious or influential as the one cornerback Kevon Seymour wrongfully drew.
It seemed that the Ravens had managed to stall the Packers’ opening drive of the second half in the red zone and were on the verge of forcing them to attempt a short 36-yard field goal attempt. However, Seymour, who was in tight coverage of Allen Lazard on the play and made minimal contact, was flagged for defensive pass interference on third-and-10 which gave Green Bay a fresh set of downs and advanced the ball from the Ravens 21-yard line to their nine.
This prime example of over officiating led to a nine-yard touchdown from Rodgers to running back Aaron Jones on the very next play. The four-point swing had massive implications on the script for the rest of the game and effectively helped the Packers gain a further edge.