NFL Week 16 takeaways: What we learned, big questions for every game and future team outlooks - Jamison Hensley
What to know: The battle for first place in the AFC North wasn’t a fair fight. Even the overachieving Ravens couldn’t overcome these steep odds. Baltimore was forced to start its No. 3 quarterback (35-year-old journeyman Josh Johnson who was signed 11 days ago) and suit up 11 practice squad players because of a growing COVID-19/reserve list. The short-handed defense couldn’t make a stop, allowing points on its first eight series for the first time in franchise history. Last season, the Ravens held the Bengals to a total of two field goals in two meetings. On Sunday, the Ravens allowed 40 points to the Bengals for the second time this year, which is no surprise. The Ravens were without their top five cornerbacks, a starting safety, a top pass-rusher and two starting defensive linemen. What had been a surprise was Baltimore winning eight games this season despite having seven starters on injured reserve. But, right now, the Ravens are officially running on fumes.
Do the Ravens still have a shot at the postseason? It’s certainly not looking good. Baltimore realistically has no shot at winning the AFC North after leading the division for most of the season. The Ravens fell one game back of the Bengals with two games remaining, and they have lost the head-to-head tiebreaker after getting swept by Cincinnati for the first time since 2015. Baltimore is going to need help to secure a wild-card berth and reach the postseason for a fourth straight year. The Ravens’ chances of making the playoffs have dwindled to 32%, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.
We may have fallen below the point of critical mass for Baltimore. First off, we have to credit the Ravens for their fight, even when the odds are stacked significantly against them. Baltimore battled to make it a 10-point game inside two minutes in the first half, but just didn’t have the personnel to keep up with the Bengals. The Ravens’ secondary is nothing more than a sieve at this point, and losing Anthony Averett to injury only worsened the situation for Baltimore. Burrow had no problem with picking on Daryl Worley in the second half, and the Ravens just didn’t have an answer, giving up first downs even in third-and-long situations. With all of the injuries and COVID-19 issues, the Ravens are just a shorthanded squad fighting above its weight class. The latest losses — in personnel and record — might be the ones that finally break them.
Next Gen stat of the game: Joe Burrow racked up 314 passing yards targeting receivers aligned wide, the most by any quarterback in a game since the 2018 season.
This was a decent outing considering the last-minute changes on offense. Despite not getting much production out of their running game, the Ravens moved the ball successfully and gave Johnson reasonable time to throw. Right guard Kevin Zeitler had an outstanding game against his old teammates and the Ravens got a good effort from right tackle Patrick Mekari despite him missing the past couple of games with a hand injury. Considering that the Ravens were behind the entire game, the pass protection was much better than expected until late. Grade: C+
Johnson did a nice job spreading the ball around to seven receivers. Of course, tight end Mark Andrews was the standout with eight catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. It’s amazing that opposing teams are trying to cover him with linebackers, even in passing situations. James Proche II had seven catches for 76 yards and came up with some nice grabs on third down. He was tough to tackle after the catch. Rookie Rashod Bateman started the game off strong but disappeared in the second half. The Ravens stayed with a short passing game and that was to be expected with Johnson having limited time to work with this group. Grade: B-
NFL Week 16 Game Recap: Cincinnati Bengals 41, Baltimore Ravens 21 - Jacob Rosenfarb
Baltimore’s defensive line impressed against the pass, totaling 22 unit-wide pressures and two sacks. Edge rusher Odafe Oweh paced the group with eight pressures, leading all pass-rushers with two quarterback hits. The group was pedestrian against the run, as Cincinnati rushers averaged 1.4 yards before contact.
Patrick Queen’s nine tackles were second-most among Ravens defenders, as the second-year pro finished with an average depth of tackle of 3.0 yards. He captained a Baltimore linebackers group that held up fine in coverage, allowing 64 yards on five unit-wide receptions.
Baltimore’s injury-ravaged secondary was no match for Cincinnati’s high-powered aerial attack, as the unit was torched for a total of 444 yards and four touchdowns. Cornerback Kevon Seymour drew a team-high eight targets, conceding first downs on each of his seven allowed receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Five Thoughts on Blowout Loss in Cincinnati - John Eisenberg
I don’t think it matters in the least that the Bengals kept throwing when they had a late lead. Not one Baltimore player said he cared. This is pro football. Burrow knelt at the end rather than try to score again and he probably could have. Can we move on? … Nice to see Johnson spread the ball around with seven completions to James Proche II, five to Marquise Brown, four to Bateman and one to Tylan Wallace. Proche now has 16 catches for the season and looks like a guy who could find a larger role … Of the Ravens’ many emergency call-ups, few had a better day than defensive lineman Isaiah Mack, who registered one sack and had another overturned by a penalty. Tony Jefferson II also made himself known with a team-high five solo tackles … The Ravens are now 1-4 in against teams in the AFC North, which is no way to win the division. The Bengals, meanwhile, have swept the Ravens and Steelers.