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Ravens News 12/21: Temperature Rising and more

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NFL: Green Bay Packers at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens’ Week 15 observations: A QB decision, but not a controversy by any means; coaching decisions and more - Jeff Zrebiec

Cleveland, by the way, seemed to hold up very well in his first career start. I don’t know how long left guard Ben Powers will be out. He was in a walking boot on the sideline. However, the Ravens know by now what they have in Powers. They need to find out what they have in Cleveland, the rookie third-round pick, and Sunday provided positive information.

While we’re at it, David Sharpe certainly presented himself well after entering at right tackle in place of an injured Tyre Phillips. I imagine we’ll see more of Sharpe going forward, but it’s fair to question why we haven’t seen more of him sooner, given the Ravens’ struggles at tackle.

Maybe it’s a function of just finally being healthy after dealing with a high ankle sprain earlier in the year, but Latavius Murray ran with more juice Sunday than we’ve seen since he joined the Ravens. He gained 48 yards on seven carries and really seemed to be pushing the pile and finishing runs.

Rodgers saying that he saw some stuff in terms of pre-snap alignment and how the Ravens covered Adams that he had never seen in his career is a real credit to Martindale and his staff’s creativity and resourcefulness. There were times that the Ravens had a defensive back lining up directly across from Adams and then had another defensive back stacked a few yards behind. It certainly was an interesting way to present a double team.

FMIA Week 15: Omicron Forces NFL To Change Course As Playoffs Near - Peter King

Offensive Players of the Week

Tyler Huntley, quarterback, Baltimore. This is not just a good, young backup quarterback we’re watching. This 2020 undrafted QB from Utah has proven that if he takes care of the ball, he’s a good candidate to be a starter at some point in his life. On Sunday, Huntley went head-to-head with the great Aaron Rodgers, put up 30 points, came back from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to nearly win this game, losing only on a failed two-point play in the final minute. For the day, the 23-year-old Huntley produced four touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over. He threw two first-half touchdowns, then ran for another two in the final minutes of a frenetic comeback. Huntley completed 70 percent of his passes in a game the Ravens really needed. Final stat line: 28 of 40 for 215 yards, and 13 carries for 73 yards. Not bad at all.

Huntley’s showing against Green Bay turns up heat on Jackson when he returns for Ravens - Luke Jones

“He’s a special player. I think everybody who was on that field feels a connection with him,” said tight end Mark Andrews, who caught both of Huntley’s touchdown passes in the first half. “He puts the ball where it needs to be. His eyes are great. I think that obviously being behind a guy like Lamar, you learn a ton, and he’s been able to absorb all these different things. I think he’s going to be a superstar in this league for a long, long time.”

Again, there’s no quarterback controversy — seriously, people, we’re talking about Lamar Jackson here — but he has to be feeling some heat internally watching his understudy lead Baltimore to its best offensive performance in six weeks with the same set of challenging variables we’ve acknowledged all season.

Whenever Jackson returns, the Ravens need their biggest star to start playing like one again. Otherwise, the season will promptly end and the temperature of that scrutiny will only rise this winter.

The Winners and Losers of NFL Week 15 - Rodger Sherman

Loser: John Harbaugh’s 2-Point Conversions

By the end of Sunday’s game, six of their seven top corners from the start of the season were gone, as were both of the team’s Week 1 starting safeties. Would you send your fourth- and fifth-string cornerbacks out for another 10 minutes against Aaron Rodgers? What if I told you your own MVP quarterback was injured, and you were starting an undrafted rookie at QB? Would you want to extend the game, or reduce it to a single play?

But we can’t let Harbaugh off the hook here. These plays lost these games. Two weeks ago, the Ravens lost because their best play, the play to win the game, left Watt unblocked, and he wreaked havoc. Sunday, they lost because their best play, the play to win the game, left Huntley with only half the field to work with and forced him to make a play he couldn’t. Even if his decisions were right, Harbaugh’s team lost two winnable games.

This Ravens team has gone through hell and responded with week after week of gutty performances, and it has resulted in three straight losses. The standings do not care that the losses have been close, or that the opponents have been tough—they are simply losses. This team deserves pity, but this game will not give it to them.

NFL playoff picture 2021: Week 15 standings, bracket, clinching scenarios and postseason outlook - Kevin Seifert

In the AFC hunt

Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

The Ravens are so decimated by injuries and COVID-19 losses that coach John Harbaugh has felt compelled to go for a game-winning 2-point play twice in the past three weeks rather than take his chances in overtime. They have lost both games and are now on a playoff-crushing three-game losing streak. The Ravens will have a chance to turn it around in Week 16 at the Bengals, but ESPN’s FPI is giving them only a 54% chance to make the playoffs, and their division title odds fell to 31% this week.