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Ravens News 1/16: Valiant Effort and more

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AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Ravens have only themselves to blame as their season ends in Cincinnati - Jeff Zrebiec

It was certainly easy to play the “what if?” game. What if the Ravens did have Jackson, who missed his sixth consecutive game to end the season with the sports world’s most speculated-on knee injury? Even without him, the Ravens outgained the Bengals 364-234, rushed for 155 yards and possessed the ball for nearly five more minutes than Cincinnati.

“I’m proud of these guys. We played a great football game,” Harbaugh said. “We had a couple plays that we should have executed better, I guess. Obviously, turnovers, in the end, is the thing that gets you, but it’s hard to play a perfect game in this type of environment. Obviously, the biggest play is the quarterback sneak; that’s the play that turns the game. That’s a 10 — at least — point swing, maybe a 14-point swing if we go for it and get it. At least a seven-point swing. So, it is what it is.”

And Baltimore’s season is over as a result. The Ravens were so close to advancing to a matchup next weekend against the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs. Instead, they are now forced to embrace the offseason and have only themselves to blame.

The Breakdown: Five Thoughts After Playoff Loss to Bengals - Ryan Mink

The red-zone offense was the problem that never got fixed.

It seems rather appropriate that the Ravens lost the game because of their shortcomings in the red zone. That was, in large part, what held them back all season.

Baltimore scored a touchdown on its first trip to the red zone, capping a 17-play drive with a 2-yard pass to J.K. Dobbins in which he showed his heart to fight through a tackle and stretch to get the ball over the goal line.

But the following three drives into the red zone ended with a 22-yard field goal, the fumble returned for a touchdown, and a turnover on downs to end the game. The Ravens entered the game ranked 30th in the league in red zone efficiency, scoring a touchdown 46% of the time. They were below that mark on this night, and it ultimately proved to be their demise.

After scoring his touchdown, Dobbins didn’t get another touch inside the 5-yard line and he made his displeasure known after the game. The Ravens tried all kinds of things in the red zone, but simply turning around and handing it to Dobbins may have been the best option.

“He (Huntley) should’ve never been in that situation,” Dobbins said. “I don’t get a single carry. I believe I would’ve put it in the end zone.”

Bengals defeat Ravens, advance to AFC Divisional Round to face Bills - Nick Shook

Tyler Huntley’s valiant effort falls short. Still nursing a bad knee, Lamar Jackson stayed home for this one, leaving the responsibility in the hands of Huntley to try to push the Ravens to the Divisional Round. After an opening drive interception, Huntley settled in, leading scoring drives of nine and 17 plays to send the Ravens to the break with a 10-9 lead. He did enough to give Baltimore a chance to win, especially after he connected with Demarcus Robinson for a 41-yard touchdown. But ultimately, the absence of Jackson was painfully evident, none more so than when Baltimore called a designed run for Huntley, who had two blockers out in front but was tripped up from behind. Jackson’s rare game-breaking ability wasn’t at Baltimore’s disposal, and try as he did, Huntley just wasn’t good enough to get the Ravens over the hump. It will be an interesting couple of months in Baltimore regarding the club’s future under center.

Next Gen stat of the game: Cincinnati gained 41.8 percentage points in win probability on Sam Hubbard’s fumble-return touchdown, flipping its likelihood of victory from 45.8% to 87.6%.

NFL Research: Sam Hubbard’s 98-yard fumble return was the longest go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter in NFL postseason history. It’s also the longest fumble return for a touchdown in NFL postseason history.

Position-by-position grades for Ravens’ 24-17 playoff loss to Bengals - Mike Preston

Defensive line

This group struggled in the first quarter because the Ravens were on the field too long, but the Bengals averaged 2.1 yards per carry and finished with only 51 rushing yards. Calais Campbell, Broderick Washington and Justin Madubuike could have provided more pressure, but Washington finished with three tackles while Campbell and Madubuike each had two. Grade: B+


The Ravens were not dominant but this group held its own against one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. The Bengals had only 234 yards of total offense as the Ravens, especially inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen, flew all over the field. Smith had eight tackles and Queen had six. The Ravens got decent pressure on quarterback Joe Burrow from outside linebackers Odafe Oweh, Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Houston as the Ravens finished with four sacks. Grade: A-


For the third time this year, the Ravens didn’t give up any big plays to the Bengals wide receivers. They stayed with their bend-but-don’t-break approach, which kept them in the game, but they needed to be more aggressive and have cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters press the Bengals at the line of scrimmage. Peters needed to calm down. The Ravens like his effort and intensity, but the lack of discipline causes problems. Rookie safety Kyle Hamilton had a team-high nine tackles and adapted well throughout the season to playing in the slot. Grade: A-

One offensive free agent each NFL team should pursue in the 2023 offseason - Brad Spielberger


What other answer could there be?! Baltimore is clearly not seeing perfectly eye to eye with their quarterback who played in 2022 on the fifth-year option and now will be franchise-tagged this offseason before what’s looking like a continued contract negotiation with no immediate end in sight.

Over the past two seasons in 24 games with Jackson under center, the Ravens’ offense ranks 11th in EPA per play (.004). In 10 games without Jackson, that drops to 19th in EPA per play (-0.101). Baltimore’s passing attack averages over a full yard more per attempt with Jackson at the helm.

The Ravens need to commit to Jackson and get him some help at wide receiver, which should help them once again contend in the AFC with a defense full of good young players.