Welcome to Ravens Reality Check, where we take the Monday morning hot takes about the Ravens and leave them on the windowsill to gently cool. Here’s a look at what’s being said about Ravens-Colts, and our attempt to decode the spin:
The Ravens offense is definitely kicking itself this morning, but not because it’s the same as last year. The results might feel frustratingly similar to last year, but the offense is, indeed, very, very different.
The Ravens are spreading more and are using more sets with more receivers. They’re screening more, and finding more quick outlets. The quarterback runs are, and should be, just as much a part of the offense as they were before, but Lamar Jackson, especially against the Colts, took advantage of space. On his second touchdown, he audibled for Gus Edwards to line up out wide, then made a read to run into the open field and score.
If not for the fumbles, Jackson’s game would look better to the eye. Aside from a few drives, he’s been pretty accurate on his throws: His completion rate is up to 77.3% this season. The Ravens are a middle-of-the-pack team with eight passing plays of 20 yards or more, but it would put them on pace (45) to well exceed last year’s total (33). Last week when the Ravens had 237 passing yards and Jackson outdueled Joe Burrow; did that just not happen?
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some concerns. For one thing, the Ravens are down a ton of guys, finishing Sunday without their top three running backs, two of their wideouts and two starting linemen. The pass protection, which looked iffy against Houston and against the Colts, hasn’t afforded Jackson a ton of time, and perhaps that’s why his intended air yards (6.9) is one of the lowest figures in the league. There’s a dink-and-dunk feel to the passing offense lately, which is not what the Ravens want.
Everyone knew going into the season it would likely take some time for Jackson and others in the system to get comfortable with Todd Monken’s offense. That’s still happening. You can quibble with the results the offense has gotten, and acknowledge they should have found a way to get in field goal position in overtime, but it’s just not accurate to say the offense looks the same as the last few years.
It seems a pretty obvious noncall that Zay Flowers is being tackled here by E.J. Speed, on a play that, if caught, could have been a first down, and if at least flagged, definitely would have been a first down. On the broadcast, it’s particularly heart-rending that the red field-goal range line was a few measly yards away. Everyone on the Ravens sideline was pretty upset, including John Harbaugh. Flowers left the locker room quickly Sunday.
So yeah, it looks like a bad call. It’s a different question, however, to ask if the game should have come down to that one play. Overtime was a debacle for the offense, which twice got great field goal position but never got a first down. Jonas Shaffer gave a great blow-by-blow of how the offense unwound despite the Ravens having great odds to win. The last play definitely strikes as a blow, but missed calls happen in the NFL — it’s damning that the Ravens were in such dire need of a flag in the first place.
John Harbaugh did explain the most glaring issue from yesterday’s game: when Zay Flowers, not the team’s typical returner, fair-caught the safety punt with 2:02 to go. The fair catch essentially gave the Colts, who had one timeout, a freebie timeout with the two-minute warning, and the Ravens only burned off 22 seconds as a result. Harbaugh said the clock was reset when the special teams were already on the field, and the sideline couldn’t communicate to Flowers to return the punt.
How Harbaugh should have handled that is up for some debate. Should he have burned a timeout to make sure his special teams unit was on the same page? It might have been worth it. The Ravens still had all three timeouts, and wound up using one of them on the possession, after the Colts used their final timeout.
The bigger issue on that drive might have been the play-calling that led to the short possession. The Ravens still had a three-point lead, and went with two runs by Melvin Gordon III, then a short pass to Flowers well short of the first-down marker (a penalty was called on the play). It felt plenty conservative, especially when the Colts had been totally overwhelmed by Jackson’s runs: The most explosive plays the Ravens had in the fourth quarter (aside from Nelson Agholor’s catch for 18 yards to set up the missed FG) were Jackson scrambles. Both of his touchdowns came on designed runs.
If you need a first down, Jackson is probably the best rushing option. His fumbles might have made the Ravens a little less confident late, but it was odd how they turned away from the offensive weapon that defined the game: His touchdown was the last designed run the Ravens ran on the day.