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Ravens News 1/4: Small Ball and more

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Los Angeles Rams v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Week 17 observations: The Ravens’ big-play problem, long playoff odds and the mistakes that added up - Jeff Zrebiec

Patrick Queen’s improvement through the course of the season has been well documented, but the second-year inside linebacker did not have a good game Sunday. Queen was on the field for 43 snaps and he finished with only one tackle. Queen struggled in coverage and looked really bad on one play trying to corral Sony Michel in space after a reception.

Other than the Smith miss on Kupp and the Queen whiff on Michel, the Ravens tackled reasonably well. Young made a nice open-field tackle on Beckham to hold him to a small gain in the first quarter. Safety Brandon Stephens did well to hold Higbee to a modest gain in the third quarter. Safety Tony Jefferson also made a nice tackle to deny the Rams of a two-point conversion in the fourth.

Watching injured Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters work the sideline Sunday was at times more entertaining than the game. Peters was engaged throughout, working the referees, trash talking some Rams and above all, coaching up members of the Ravens defense. Peters, who obviously knows the Rams well from his time there, was constantly yelling out stuff to the Ravens defense all the way up until the ball was snapped. There were a couple of times when the referee even had to nudge Peters back to the sideline. It was a reminder of the kind of swagger and leadership, never mind just the playmaking ability, that the Ravens have missed with Peters sidelined.

Snap Counts: Jimmy Smith Had a Chance to Play Hero vs. Rams - Ryan Mink

Veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith had a chance to play hero. Smith, 33, has made it clear that this could be his final season, but he wanted to help the Ravens get into the playoffs any way he could. He got his opportunity Sunday, making his first start of the season and playing all 58 defensive snaps. On the shelf for much of the year, Smith never came off the field against the Rams. Smith made a huge play late in the game, making a 4-yard tackle for loss that forced a fourth-and-5 on the Rams’ final offensive drive. The Rams converted, however, on a tight completion to Odell Beckham Jr. with Tavon Young draped all over him, spoiling Smith’s swan song.

Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser played every defensive snap for the first time in his career. The Ravens were short-handed without rookie Odafe Oweh and Pernell McPhee inactive. Bowser delivered with a crucial sack and forced fumble.

Rookie wide receiver Tylan Wallace out-snapped veteran Sammy Watkins, 20-14. Neither saw a target from Tyler Huntley.

Defensive Notes Week 17 Rams @ Ravens 2021 - Ken McKusick

LOSING CLOSE

The Ravens tied the NFL record with a 6th game decided by 2 or fewer point in the same season. The previous teams to do so were:

1970 Chargers (1-2-3 in such games)

1989 Packers (5-1)

2001 Jets (4-2)

1997 Ravens (2-3-1)

The Ravens are now 2-4 in such games in 2021.

LACK OF POINTS OFF TAKEAWAYS

There was mention on the broadcast that the Ravens had not scored points off a takeaway since week 2. That is incorrect, but the lack of turnovers since that game vs the Chiefs has been alarming. Prior to Clark’s pick-6, the Ravens had only 10 turnovers in the previous 14 games.

Ravens are stuck with a passing game that’s coming up short - Mike Preston

The Ravens and offensive coordinator Greg Roman are stuck.

No team wants to rely on a short passing game, but that’s the Ravens right now. They’d prefer to be able to mix and match, combining their powerful running game with a versatile passing attack, but they can’t. Some of it is by design and some of it is because they are ill-equipped.

When you play small ball, there is virtually no room for error. A team like the Ravens can’t afford a penalty at a crucial moment because their chances of gaining a first down on third-and-long are almost as slim as their playoff chances. It’s understandable why Roman might be so guarded.

The Ravens’ offensive line has trouble pass blocking, so it’s not as if they can use a lot of passing plays that require the quarterback to drop back 5 to 7 yards. They gave up five sacks Sunday and have allowed 54 for the season, which is one of the main reasons Jackson is walking around with a limp. To counter the pass rush, Huntley has to throw quickly, take a sack or take off running.

Huntley Shows Potential But Ravens Offense Runs Through Jackson - Todd Karpovich

Huntley completed 20-of-32 passes for 197 yards and an interception while adding 54 rushing yards on 6 carries in a 20-19 loss to the Rames. It marks his fourth-consecutive game with at least 150 passing yards and 40 rushing yards, which is the NFL’s longest active streak.

Huntley also became one of four quarterbacks in NFL history, joining Robert Griffin III, Jalen Hurts and Jackson, to reach those marks in each of his first three NFL starts.

Those are solid accolades but Huntley still has some maturing to do as a quarterback.

He was 4 for 14 on third downs and 0 for 2 in the red zone against the Rams. The Ravens had a chance to close out the game with a touchdown in the fourth quarter but Huntley was flagged for a costly delay of game penalty and they had to settle for a field goal.

The Ravens also didn’t score an offensive touchdown for the first time in three years.