Welcome to Ravens Reality Check, where we put the national hot takes about the Ravens down in the cellar to cool — even if they don’t age well.
Hope you have had sufficient time to unclench your jaw and relax your shoulders from that thrilling overtime finish Sunday afternoon that saw the Ravens improve to 10-3. Here’s what people are saying about Baltimore in its nail-biter.
1. Wasn’t that a block in the back?
Media row at M&T Bank Stadium is situated directly next to the room where visiting coaches survey the field, and the Rams’ group was especially loud Sunday. On the final play of the game as Tylan Wallace was returning a punt 76 yards for a touchdown, they screamed in protest, calling for a flag with utter futility.
They weren’t alone. Yahoo’s Charles Robinson pointed out a slo-mo replay that appeared to show Ravens tight end Charlie Kolar behind Rams linebacker Jacob Hummel on a springing block. Robinson argued it was a block in the back.
The Ravens have argued the block was legal. Kolar, who was college roommates with Hummel at Iowa State, didn’t seem to know for sure, because he was diving to stop Hummel: “All those ones like that, when you’re trying to run, are close. You’re trying to get the front shoulder. I must have gotten it.”
On Monday, John Harbaugh was a little more fiery: ”For it to be a block in the back, you actually have to block a guy in the back.”
Looking at the play from several angles, Kolar is clearly positioned behind Hummel, but it’s where his hands are that matters most. In my own review, I couldn’t say if Kolar pushed Hummel’s back or merely his shoulder, which would be perfectly legal. If it were even reviewable (it isn’t), there’s probably no definitive evidence that Kolar blocked Hummel in his back. So we might as well put that to bed.
2. The secondary is in trouble!
After the Ravens definitively shut down Justin Herbert and the Chargers, one of the most impressive statistics was how few net yards per attempt (4.3) the Ravens were allowing to that point, and how just about every defense in the last 25 years to hold opponents to that mark went to the Super Bowl.
It was hard to watch Matthew Stafford (294 yards) dice up the Ravens defense Sunday and still assume Baltimore has one of the best secondaries in decades. There were blown coverages, soft zones that allowed the Rams to make plays in the middle of the field, and the team’s stalwart corner, Marlon Humphrey, was picked on in his return from a hamstring injury, especially on the overtime-forcing drive. The Rams averaged 7.1 yards per passing attempt.
It was alarming, sure, but it’s just one rough game for a unit that has been solid most of the season. The weeks to come — when the Ravens face Trevor Lawrence, Brock Purdy and Tua Tagovailoa — will indicate if there is a huge issue, especially against Kyle Shanahan-style offenses (Rams coach Sean McVay and Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel worked under the 49ers coach).
Humphrey was rusty, which Harbaugh acknowledged, but he was rusty against the Steelers when he came back from a foot injury earlier this year. He got better as the season progressed before his more recent injury. ”Marlon Humphrey is the least of my concerns,” Harbaugh said.
On the other hand, the bigger concern might be Kyle Hamilton’s availability. The Ravens got good news Monday when they reportedly learned he had sprained his MCL and could be available as soon as Jacksonville. The trick will be — can Hamilton be as fast and versatile as the Ravens need him to be?
Analyst Mike Golic Jr. said on Glenn Clark’s radio show that Hamilton was a “jack-of-all-trades” and that he “allows them to be the best version of themselves because of how much he can do for you on any given snap.” I happen to agree.
3. Joe Flacco is (still) elite!
Just in case you need to check the calendar, yes, this is a take from 2023. Flacco, 38, is still slinging it, though it’s weird to see him in a Browns uniform after all this time.
He had 311 yards and three touchdown passes in a 31-27 win over Jacksonville, finally giving Cleveland some stability at quarterback after a season of injury-related upheaval. He’ll start for them the rest of the season.
There’s no real evaluation of a take here. It’s honestly just a feel-good moment, aside from the fact that Flacco, who played 11 seasons and won a Super Bowl in Baltimore, is doing this for one of the franchise’s biggest rivals. Personally I’ve always been a sap for watching older guys play beyond all reasonable expectations (see: James, LeBron) and clearly Flacco’s having some fun back in the saddle.
Hopefully his comeback doesn’t test Ravens fans with a playoff matchup against “January Joe” and the Browns.