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Ravens News 12/7: Decisiveness and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Winners and Losers of NFL Week 13 - Rodger Sherman

Loser: John Harbaugh’s Smart Gambles

The first unusual choice went unnoticed by announcers. With Baltimore defending a second-and-2 on their own 13-yard line while trying to hold a one-point lead with 1:59 left, safety Chuck Clark went offsides, which is pretty unusual—Clark usually wouldn’t have much opportunity to jump across the line of scrimmage. The Steelers accepted the penalty and got a first down. But in retrospect, it’s almost certain that Clark had gone offsides intentionally. Clark has gone offsides or committed a neutral-zone infraction three times in his career, all of them seemingly intentional.

I love both of the choices Harbaugh made Sunday. But there’s a flip side to both of them. It’s possible that the Ravens could’ve kept the Steelers from picking up a first down, held them to a field goal, and won on a field goal of their own by the best kicker of all time, Justin Tucker. Instead, their offsides gave up a first down, which made it much easier for Pittsburgh to score a TD. And Next Gen Stats’ win probability model said the smart call was to play for OT instead of going for two. The Ravens are better than the Steelers, and have a better kicker than the Steelers. That makes them more likely to win a game in overtime. But nothing is guaranteed in football. The Ravens had faced this scenario only once in Harbaugh’s tenure, back in 2018. Harbaugh let Tucker kick—and miraculously, he missed.

Defensive Notes Week 13 Ravens @ Steelers - Ken McKusick

Justin Madubike (24 snaps) assisted on 2 tackles that were defensive wins. He blew up 2 other plays with penetration or by holding the point of attack (Q1, 7:32; Q2, 7:46). He generated pressure by bull rush (Q4, 7:28).

Geno Stone again looked good in 11 snaps. He had coverage of WR Dionte Johnson (Q2, 0:43) when Roethlisberger threw the ball away by the left sideline. On the next play he rushed unblocked off the OLS for a pressure as for QH as Roethlisberger’s pass was tipped by Oweh to end the drive.

Brandon [Williams] set his career high with 11 tackles, blasting his previous high of 8 (accomplished 3 times in 2015-16), including 5 defensive wins. He was stout at the point of attack demonstrated awareness when baited into the backfield as a pass rusher. While he did not register a pass rush event, this was easily his best game of the season.

Baltimore Ravens lose star CB Marlon Humphrey for rest of season because of torn pectoral muscle - Jamison Hensley

Humphrey, 25, became the seventh starter (and third in the secondary) to get sidelined for the season for the Ravens (8-4), who cling to first place in the AFC North by one game. He was injured in Sunday’s 20-19 loss in Pittsburgh to the Steelers when he tried to tackle Diontae Johnson before the wide receiver scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Injuries have depleted a Baltimore team that has reached the playoffs the past three seasons. After Humphrey is placed on injured reserve, the Ravens will have $44.3 million of their salary cap on IR — which accounts for 25% of their cap.

Three of Baltimore’s players with the five biggest cap hits — offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley ($10.042 million), cornerback Marcus Peters ($9.968 million) and Humphrey ($8.44 million) — have suffered season-ending injuries. Overall, the Ravens have lost 11 players who will make more than $800,000 this season.

Baltimore is allowing 272.4 yards passing (second-worst in the NFL). The Ravens finish the season against three top-10 rated quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Joe Burrow.

Projecting AFC playoff seeds - Mike Sando

Baltimore Ravens: Nothing is coming easy for the Ravens over the past month. The Dolphins’ defense overran them. Baltimore barely edged Chicago in the game Lamar Jackson missed. The Ravens survived Cleveland despite four Jackson interceptions and lost by a point at Pittsburgh when their two-point conversion try failed.

Not much about this season feels sustainable for a deep playoff push, especially with Baltimore facing the second-toughest remaining schedule after Cleveland by opponent record. My projection might be generous: win at Cleveland, lose at home to Green Bay, win at Cincinnati to split the series, lose at home to the Rams, get the split with Pittsburgh by edging the Steelers in what could be Ben Roethlisberger’s final game.

To restore Ravens’ edge, Lamar Jackson must again prove himself capable of evolving - Mike Jones

The Steelers often gave Jackson Cover 2 looks, but those safeties then would shift into man coverage. Because the safeties played deep, there were indeed passing windows Jackson could have taken advantage of had he pulled the trigger quickly. But whether confused by the alignments or distracted by the oncoming rush, Jackson often held the ball, double-clutched or tried in vain to elude defenders and took avoidable sacks. (Jackson probably shouldn’t have been sacked more than three times Sunday.)

Rushing to beat the blitz also meant Jackson frequently operated with poor fundamentals, which hindered his accuracy.

The lack of an effective downfield passing attack caused the Ravens to squander a healthy yardage and time-of-possession advantage. Despite Baltimore playing keep-away from the Steelers, the offense settling for field goals meant Pittsburgh remained within reach all game when the Steelers really should have been trailing by double digits.

The Steelers followed the blueprint that is becoming popular with Baltimore opponents. And as the Ravens continue to struggle to counter these tactics, the remaining foes on their schedule likely will use similar strategies to contain one of the most dangerous players in the league.

So, Jackson once again will have to assume the leading role in protecting himself and better igniting the offense. He must execute with greater decisiveness and accuracy. He has displayed an ability to do this in spurts, but consistency is the key, as he knows.