The Ravens entered Week 18 hanging onto slim playoff hopes. They ultimately needed help from a few different teams in order to sneak in, but their chances were contingent upon handling their own business and beating the Steelers at home.
Unfortunately, they again came out on the wrong end of a close finish. Baltimore had plenty of chances to capitalize on some momentum in the second half but could not execute in key moments. Costly mistakes and an inability to finish caught up with them late, as Chris Boswell’s game-winning field goal late in overtime handed the Ravens a 16-13 defeat.
With it, the 2021 season is now officially over for the Ravens. It ends with them losing six straight games to finish 8-9 and last place in the AFC North.
Let’s unpack some takeaways from another crushing defeat for the final time this season.
A fitting conclusion . . .
Prior to this game, the Ravens had four of their previous five defeats (in a row) by two points or less. In all of these matchups, they put themselves in a position to win late but ultimately could not finish when they needed to.
So, how would the regular season finale pan out? No different, of course.
This was an ugly offensive game for both teams but the Ravens held a 10-6 advantage for most of the second half. They were never able to build upon it and give themselves breathing room before the Steelers crawled their way right back into a 13-13 tie.
The Ravens had 38 seconds to put the game to bed at the end of regulation but couldn’t move the ball more than 12 yards before punting. They were afforded first possession in overtime but again could not capitalize and put points on the board.
The final half hour or so of this game felt eerily similar to many other games this season, and in that sense it was almost like we should have known what was coming in the end. Their season began with a loss in overtime and ends in the same fashion.
Tyler Huntley is a fine backup, but that’s it
Tyler Huntley has had some nice moments in relief of Lamar Jackson during the second half of the season. Today, though, was far from his best showing and had he not made even a couple of the mistakes that he did, the outcome of the game might have been different.
On the Ravens’ opening drive, Huntley fell on top of a loose ball after Bradley Bozeman made an errant snap. Instead of taking the sack, he tried to take off but before he couldn’t even get fully up. T.J. Watt knocked the ball loose and the Steelers recovered his fumble.
Had Bozeman not botched the snap this doesn’t happen, but Huntley’s poor ball security led a Steelers field goal. Just minutes later, he overthrew an open receiver in Mark Andrews on a deep pass attempt and the ball was intercepted. He threw another interception later in the second half that was even worse given the current situation.
He had some nice moments including a couple of scrambles for chunk yardage, but the turnovers and errant throws throughout the afternoon really hurt the Ravens’ chances.
Red zone woes compound
After mustering just a field goal in the first half, the Ravens’ offense had gone six straight quarters without a touchdown dating back to last week’s loss against the Rams. Latavius Murray’s 46-yard score on the opening second half drive changed this, but Baltimore’s red zone struggles ultimately did them in for a second straight game.
On the final drive of the first half, the Ravens were gifted good field position. It took just 34 yards for them to move into the red zone. Faced with a 1st-&-Goal, the next five plays saw Huntley take two sacks (one was negated by a defensive penalty) and throw two incompletions. The only positive play the Ravens had was a one-yard catch by Devonta Freeman.
Huntley did deliver a strike to Marquise Brown, who was open, but the pass sailed through his hands for what would have been a touchdown. They had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Justin Tucker instead, which tied the game at 3-3.
Their second and only other red zone trip of the game came at the end of the third quarter, where they drove 63 yards in just over four minutes. Leading 10-6 at this point, the Ravens could have given themselves a nice cushion to begin the fourth quarter. Instead, Huntley forced a pass to a tightly-covered Mark Andrews that was intercepted in the end zone.
Rashod Bateman appeared to be wide open on an out-breaking route that would have resulted in a touchdown had Huntley thrown the ball his way. Instead, he made an extremely poor and costly decision.
The Ravens needed all the points they could get in this game and they squandered some key opportunities to do so, which has been a recurring theme over the last stretch of games.
Nail in the coffin
After receiving the ball first in overtime, the Ravens were only able to drive 23 yards in seven plays, promptly punting the ball away. It felt inevitable that the Steelers would drive down the field and score on the ensuing possession.
And so Pittsburgh did, manufacturing a 15-play, 65-yard possession that set up Boswell’s 35-yard field goal for the win. The Ravens’ defense was in good position to flip the field back in their favor multiple times but could not get off the field.
Baltimore forced the Steelers into third-and-long situations on back-to-back sequences and then a 4th-&-8. On all three plays, Ben Roethlisberger completed passes of 10+ yards, including the 14-yard back-breaker to Ray-Ray McCloud on fourth down.
With Tavon Young and Chris Westry on the sideline, the Ravens were down to just two healthy cornerbacks and moved Brandon Stephens outside. Tyus Bowser was also absent after leaving earlier in the game with a knee injury, and both Justin Houston and Jaylon Ferguson exited on the drive.
Even having been spread incredibly thin on the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens still put themselves in favorable positions to make a stop but just could not come through.