Baltimore ends 2021 wondering what might have been had the injury bug not ravaged its roster. The Ravens have had to overcome incredibly significant hurdles to even put themselves in the position they were in Sunday, turning to a group of castoff running backs all season and a backup quarterback down the stretch, with both needed to try to secure their ninth win of the season. Baltimore did enough to take a lead and hang onto it for most of regulation, but those absences proved to be too much in the most important moments, with Tyler Huntley throwing an interception in the end zone (his second of two) and Marquise Brown dropping what would have been a key touchdown. The most significant difference in performance due to injury came on the defensive side of the ball, as Baltimore lacked the teeth necessary to prevent a plodding Steelers offense from doing just enough to maintain possession, get into field goal range and drill the game-winning kick in overtime. Ravens fans will spend the offseason wondering how the 2021 season could have turned out if they hadn’t suffered so many losses on both sides of the ball, and especially on defense, as Sunday proved.
Latavius Murray broke off a huge touchdown run and finished with 150 yards on just 16 carries. He forced seven missed tackles and gained 125 yards after contact.
Chris Board pressured the quarterback three times and allowed just one first down in pass coverage. Patrick Queen was the most targeted linebacker, as he saw three targets in his coverage and allowed three catches for 22 yards and two first downs.
These guys were stellar up front, particularly defensive end Calais Campbell. He was strong against the run and in pursuit, finishing with six tackles, including one for a loss. Nose tackle Brandon Williams (six tackles) was also strong against the run and the Steelers couldn’t move him in the middle of the field. Pittsburgh had only 79 rushing yards on 30 carries, and a lot of those yards came on end-arounds by receiver Chase Claypool. Both Campbell and Williams have played well in recent weeks in what could be their final seasons in Baltimore. Grade: B+
Physically and mentally, the Ravens were ready for this game. There would be some serious problems if they weren’t. Offensively, it’s hard to understand why it took coordinator Greg Roman so long to run the ball. That interception on the pass to Andrews in the end zone early in the fourth quarter was a big mistake. Defensively, the game plan was sound, and for the most part the Ravens controlled the Steelers’ offense. But in the end, they couldn’t make a play and the Steelers weren’t going to be denied. That’s not coaching, but the result of missing a game-changing player like cornerback Marcus Peters or Marlon Humphrey, even though Humphrey had struggled this season before being injured. Grade: C-
Ravens React to Emotional End of Season - Clifton Brown
“As respectfully as I can say as possible, just watch how we bounce back,” Clark said. “That’s all I have to say.”
“They stuck together,” Harbaugh said. “No one ever pointed a finger. Everybody competed the best they could.”
Twelve of the Ravens’ 17 games were decided on the final play or in the final minute, and the Ravens lost five of their last six games by a total of eight points.
“We fell short in numerous games here down the stretch in the sense that we just couldn’t find a play,” Harbaugh said. “We couldn’t find a play that we needed. We couldn’t find a way to put them in position to make the play that would make the difference in the game, and that’s what I feel worse about as a coach. Any one of these games we could’ve found something to find a way to win the game. We would have liked to have done that, but we didn’t come up with that. That’s my biggest disappointment.”
Baltimore Ravens (8-9, T-4th AFC North)
Biggest offseason question: When will the Ravens sign Jackson to an extension? It’s never been a question of if Baltimore will sign the quarterback to a long-term deal. Both sides have publicly said they want to get a deal done. It’s a matter of when and for how much. The Ravens don’t have to sign Jackson to an extension now because he can play under his fifth-year option in 2022, when his salary leaps from $1.771 million to $23.016 million. But Baltimore also has to weigh whether waiting could upset Jackson and tarnish a strong relationship (see Dak Prescott). Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, wrapped up the worst season of his four-year career. He was sidelined by an injury for the first time. And, with a depleted supporting cast around him, he threw an uncharacteristic number of interceptions, getting picked off 13 times in 12 games. There is no doubt that Jackson is the future of this franchise. The question is whether the Ravens sign Jackson to a new deal this offseason or next.