NFL Week 15 takeaways: Lessons, big questions for every game - Jamison Hensley
What to know: The Ravens’ offense is in shambles. Saturday marked the first time Baltimore was held to three or fewer points in a regular-season game since 2008. It’s been a tough stretch for the Ravens, who have been held to 16 or fewer points in three consecutive games — the team’s worst such rut since 2000. Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley couldn’t push the ball downfield (138 yards passing), but Baltimore’s problems won’t be totally solved even if Jackson (knee) returns for the next game. Over his past nine outings, Jackson has thrown seven touchdown passes and five interceptions.
Can the Ravens still win the AFC North? This loss put a dent in Baltimore’s hopes to capture the division and opened the door for the Bengals to take control. Baltimore’s chances to win the AFC North dropped to 52% with the loss, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. The Ravens showed no signs of panic after the deflating defeat in Cleveland, though, and they know they can take the division if they win out. Baltimore’s final three games are home against the Falcons and Steelers before finishing the regular season at the Bengals.
NFL Week 15 Saturday grades - Jeff Kerr
The Ravens did nothing well other than run the ball and they repeatedly shot themselves in the foot. I can’t in good conscience give them an ‘F’ for a game they played without their starting quarterback, but it was bad.
Five Thoughts on Ravens’ Loss in Cleveland - Ryan Mink
The Ravens ran the ball well again, but not much else.
The Ravens’ formula for offensive success in Cleveland seemed straight forward. Baltimore has the No. 2-ranked rushing attack in the league, as J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and the offensive line were rolling.
Conversely, the Browns have struggled to stop the run, and they lost one of their starting inside linebackers this week. It was a major mismatch in the Ravens’ favor. Baltimore won that matchup handily, piling up 198 rushing yards. And yet the Ravens scored just three points.
“We did the things we do well well once again. Classic Ravens football,” guard Kevin Zeitler said. “But some of the things that have been biting us came back to bite us once again.”
Dobbins ran for 125 yards and averaged 9.6 yards per carry. Edwards rumbled for 55 yards and 7.9 yards per carry. But the two combined for just 20 carries. Tyler Huntley threw 30 times, doing so for just 138 yards in a quick-release attack. The Ravens can’t run it every single play, but it felt like a gift to the defense every time they dropped back to pass in this game.
The Ravens’ passing attack was not good enough and it hasn’t been good enough for some time. And their problems in the red zone are an issue they haven’t been able to put more than a short-term Band-Aid over. This time, it got worse as they not only didn’t score touchdowns, but also turned the ball over.
Lamar Jackson being sidelined for a second-straight week by a knee injury is absolutely a contributing factor in the passing struggles, but it’s not the only factor. It’s understood that the Ravens’ ground attack is their bread and butter, but Baltimore’s passing attack has to be better than this.
The Ravens have scored just two touchdowns in their past three games. That isn’t going to cut it. This defense is good, but not that good.
The passing game is so anemic that they have no margin for error.
Coach John Harbaugh cut right to the chase in his postgame news conference: “It’s not a good enough passing game right now.”
Do the Ravens have the coaching minds and pass-catching talent to make quick fixes? It’s hard to say yes given the trajectory of their air attack over the second half of the season. We can pick on Huntley for his limits as a downfield passer, but these troubles began when Jackson was still at the helm. We’ve all had this statistic crammed down our throats, but it really is incredible that the Ravens have not completed a touchdown pass to a wide receiver since Week 3. Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews hasn’t caught one since Week 6, also the last time he posted a 100-yard game. They’ve thrown for 232 yards total over the last two games and have scored two touchdowns over their last three.
Remember, this was a high-powered offense over the first three weeks of the season!
The Ravens’ most productive wide receiver, Demarcus Robinson, would be a No. 3 or No. 4 on the league’s better passing teams. The same could be said for Devin Duvernay. DeSean Jackson is 36 years old.
We can debate the lack of spacing in Roman’s route designs or general manager Eric DeCosta’s roster-building priorities, but an autopsy is only so useful at this juncture. The Ravens have a championship-caliber defense and running game. Neither will be enough if their passing game remains a dead limb for the rest of the season.
Will Jackson revive it when he returns? That’s the next big question facing this team. We know he’s a more dynamic runner and thrower than Huntley. Stagnant as the Ravens were at times, they scored at least 20 points in nine of the 11 games their franchise quarterback started and finished. Twenty points felt like a distant fantasy Saturday.
Harbaugh refused to blame Huntley or speak of Jackson as a potential savior. “This guy knows what he’s doing,” he said, nodding to his backup quarterback. “He plays with his heart. He’s very much capable of doing all the things that we need to do in the passing game. It’s not that; it’s everything else.”
I’d give Ravens GM Eric DeCosta a solid B, and it would be even higher if not for the curious approach at wide receiver, where Baltimore didn’t really replace the traded Marquise Brown and left themselves vulnerable to an injury. Sure enough, No. 1 receiver Rashod Bateman went down with a season-ending foot injury.
Otherwise, DeCosta has done a nice job building a deep roster that has withstood numerous injuries to key performers. You can fixate on the Ravens’ shortcomings or talk about how unimpressive they’ve looked at times this season if you want. But they are 9-4, and they’ve won six of their last seven games despite being without quarterback Lamar Jackson for two games and counting, top running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards for nearly two-thirds of the season, Bateman since October and left tackle Ronnie Stanley for more than half the season.
Defensively, outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and Justin Houston, nose tackle Michael Pierce, cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Marcus Williams were all out for prolonged stretches, and Pierce and Fuller remain sidelined. DeCosta made a host of late offseason or in-season additions, including Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul, Demarcus Robinson, DeSean Jackson and Kenyan Drake, who have helped the team stay afloat. And the team’s draft class, led by Kyle Hamilton, Tyler Linderbaum and Isaiah Likely, has mostly delivered. DeCosta deserves solid marks.