The Ravens entered with a chance to dominate the division. Instead, they let it slip through their hands, much like the football did for their pass catchers. Rather than being up 4-1, they find themselves tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers at 3-2, and now they head to London and play the Tennessee Titans.
There were a few players who did well today. Kevon Seymour scooped up the forced fumble on the punt return forced by Jeremiah Moon. Defensive lineman Justin Madubuike and Michael Pierce looked like they were disruptive, and Brent Urban notched a sack. So too did Arthur Maulet, who played a helluva game today. They all deserve to be mentioned, but I’m sure after a game like this, they don’t feel like winners.
Let’s get to the ugly stuff.
QB Lamar Jackson — The two interceptions at the end of the game were ugly. The pass to Odell Beckham Jr. was egregious. The strip sack is what it is, honestly. But I have Jackson on this list because he lost not from his performance, but his pass catchers. This game would’ve been put away had any of his pass-catchers hauled in a ball. Both Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman dropped touchdown balls. Zay Flowers dropped two passes and lost track on a third one and fell down. Nelson Agholor dropped a would-be touchdown on a deep shot. Jackson had this game won. Instead, he’s looked as a fourth quarter failure because he’s pressing so hard to get his guys the football.
Coaching — For the second time, this team hasn’t overcome early struggles. Just as they did against the Indianapolis Colts, they marched downfield and scored. They started to put the hurt on their opponents. Then, an ugly fumble by a running back stalls them and they fail to ever their mess together. After scoring their ninth consecutive touchdown, their next two red zone opportunities were a field goal and interception, not counting the turnover on downs to end the second half because it occurred at the 23-yard line.
More Coaching — The Ravens receivers weren’t clicking. The passing attack had struggled to step up. So, when the Ravens got the ball after a forced fumble on the Steelers’ punt return and inside the red zone, I expected them to hammer the ball into the end zone. Instead, Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken called a fade route to Beckham, 5-foot-11, who was hobbled and not 100-percent, against rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr., 6-foot-2, and known for physical, pressing defense. Felt like a situation you ride Gus Edwards not only for the first down call, but for the next two downs, too. Or, sweeping it out into space to burn around the edge with Flowers or Duvernay or keep it with Jackson who had gashed the past two weeks for four rushing touchdowns.
Punt Protection/Coverage (excluding Jordan Stout) — Punting performances? All but perfect. But then there’s the blocked punt and the ensuing coverage on the safety kickoff that saw Stout have to make a tackle at the 45-yard line. There are real issues with this special teams unit this season and it’s costing them football games. It’s gone from mild concern to points being scored directly due to their errors. A team with Head Coach John Harbaugh at the forefront not performing among the top 10 teams, or even the top half? I’m curious if there’s consideration for change. Not at midseason, no, but this is startling.
Pass Catchers — Six drops? Seven? Everybody seems to have a different number on this but regardless, it was inexcusable. Credit tight end Mark Andrews for taking accountability when I asked him about them.
“We have too good of players-too great of players, myself included. That stuff can’t be contagious,” Andrews said. “One happens, move on and get to the next play. We need to be better. Obviously, Lamar’s putting the ball right where it needs to be. We need to be there for him and make plays. We do that we win this game.”
RB Justice Hill — Set a new career best in single-season touchdowns with three and only in Week 5. But that is long gone as he’ll be remembered instead in this game for a fumble that seemed to knock the team off the rails, just as Kenyan Drake’s fumble against the Colts led to such a collapse two weeks prior.
Ball Security — Holding onto the football is going to be the Ravens’ fatal flaw at this point. Consistently, they’re losing the football and it’s a death-knell.
CB Marlon Humphrey — Last season, wide receiver George Pickens seemed to have Humphrey’s number. At least at Acrisure stadium when Pickens’ three catches went for 41-, 25- and 11-yards, respectively. For most of the game, Pickens was struggling against Humphrey. Then, it all came crumbling when Pickens beat him one-on-one for the 41-yard touchdown. Humphrey talked about the play after the game.
“You kind of get beat sometimes when you blitz the house,” Humphrey said. “Obviously, you don’t want to be on the end of a game winner. It happens sometimes at the corner position.”