LONDON — There’s not a lot separating the Ravens from a perfect start — a dropped pass here, a missed call there, another dropped pass over there. But now, with just one bad afternoon in England, they could return home next week with a perfectly mediocre 3-3 record.
“We should be 5-0, I believe,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said Wednesday, recalling the thrust of a 45-minute meeting the team and coach John Harbaugh held in the wake of Sunday’s mistake-filled loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. “We just have to put up the points on the board, protect the ball. That was one of the main things [Harbaugh] was saying to us. ... Our defense, they’re doing a great job, so we need to help them out, if anything.”
Sunday would be a good day to start. The Tennessee Titans (2-3) are one of the least intimidating opponents on a schedule that looks tougher by the week. According to FTN, the Ravens’ remaining slate is the second toughest in the NFL, behind only the Cincinnati Bengals’.
As the Ravens’ week in London winds down, here’s what to watch in their Week 6 matchup against Tennessee.
1. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. opened his Ravens career with five catches, 66 yards and two pass interference penalties drawn over his first six quarters. But a promising start has quickly turned into a frustrating stretch.
After hurting his ankle in Week 2, Beckham missed the Ravens’ next two games before returning Sunday in Pittsburgh. In 37 offensive snaps, he had two catches on four targets for just 13 yards. One of those incompletions came on an end-zone fade late in the fourth quarter from Jackson, whose errant lob was picked off. Beckham also missed time in the game while tending to a minor injury.
“It’s been tough,” Beckham said Thursday. “I’ve worked my ass off for a long time, since that Super Bowl [after the 2021 season]. Just to have a small, small setback, which you never saw coming, it’s just unfortunate. Now, just kind of getting readjusted, and it’s behind you now, but maybe sitting there in hindsight, thinking, ‘Could’ve waited one more week to just get your feet back underneath you.’ It’s a blessing to be able to be out on the field, but it never feels good when you’re not at your very, very best.”
Beckham’s downturn comes at a narratively rich point in the Ravens’ season. When the team was mired in contract negotiations with Jackson last offseason, the quarterback said he asked team officials whether they could acquire Beckham, then a free agent, and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, whose future on the Arizona Cardinals was then very much in doubt.
The Ravens ultimately got Beckham, signing the 30-year-old to a one-year, $15 million contract in April. A month later, the Cardinals released Hopkins, who would go on to sign a two-year, $26 million deal with the Titans.
A month into the season, Hopkins has been the more reliable receiver. Despite playing in a limited Tennessee offense, he has 26 catches for 356 yards, which would lead the Ravens. Beckham, meanwhile, has seven catches for 79 yards.
“I feel like I had all these great, positive talks, and then when something hits, it’s hard to stay along those lines,” Beckham said. “You can get bumped off course, and now you just have to get back on track. It’s a long season.”
2. If the Ravens’ losses to the Indianapolis Colts and the Steelers didn’t make it clear, their offense has a fourth-quarter problem.
Over the first three quarters of games this season, the team ranks third in offensive success rate (49%), according to TruMedia, which measures down-to-down efficiency. Only the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers have been better.
In the fourth quarter and overtime, however, the Ravens rank dead last. Their 26.2% late-game success rate is barely more than half their success rate over a game’s opening 45 minutes. (The Dolphins and 49ers have fallen off in the fourth quarter and overtime, too, but only to 12th and 10th, respectively.)
After the third quarter, the Ravens are averaging 3.6 yards per play, 1.1 points per drive and a sack every seven drop-backs, a staggeringly high proportion. They also have a three-and-out rate of 57.9%, more than double their early-game rate (22.5%).
“It’s a fine line between good and great, and breaking bad,” Harbaugh said Wednesday. “That’s the difference in terms of any kind of competition. The idea is, we’re a good football team. We’re capable of being great. Let’s go to work and do the things we need to do, every little detail, to take that next step and become a great football team.”
3. According to Pro Football Focus, Titans star Derrick Henry is still one of the NFL’s best running backs. Among qualifying players at the position, he ranks in the top 15 in rushing grade, receiving grade and pass-blocking grade. Overall, he’s PFF’s No. 5 player at the position.
Henry doesn’t have much to show for those high marks, though. The three-time Pro Bowl selection is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, which would be a career low. Also on pace for career lows: his expected points added per rush (minus-0.16), his rushing success rate (30.2%) and his number of rush attempts per broken tackle (21.5).
Henry’s struggles are owed, in part, to Tennessee’s much-maligned front. While Henry is averaging his lowest yards after contact per rush since his rookie year, he’s also being contacted earlier than ever before. According to PFF, the Titans’ offensive line ranks No. 28 in the NFL.
Ravens inside linebacker Roquan Smith on Thursday called Tennessee a “physical team” with “some pieces over there.” But he said the Ravens’ top priority would be stopping the Titans’ rushing attack, because it’s “what they definitely lean on all game long.”
4. The Ravens couldn’t stop Pittsburgh’s fearsome edge rusher duo, and T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith made them pay Sunday. Now the Ravens’ attention must turn inward — toward All-Pro defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons.
The 2019 first-round pick has come a long way since his rookie year, when he played just 28 defensive snaps but had a fumble recovery in the Titans’ stunning playoff upset of the top-seeded Ravens. In 2021 and 2022, he combined for 16 sacks and 30 quarterback hits. This year, he has 2.5 sacks and five hits.
Simmons missed practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday with a shoulder injury, but he told local reporters he expects to play in London. His battles against the Ravens’ guards could loom large. Last year, Ben Powers and Kevin Zeitler were one of the NFL’s stoutest pass-blocking duos. But John Simpson has been up and down over his first five starts at left guard, and Zeitler has uncharacteristically struggled. According to PFF, he’s allowed two sacks and 11 pressures this season, after allowing two and 16, respectively, all last year.
Center Tyler Linderbaum’s improvements in pass protection have helped compensate for some of the drop-off elsewhere, but Tennessee will be no easy out. The Titans can bring the heat without needing a lot of help; they rank 14th in pressure rate despite ranking just 24th in blitz rate, according to TruMedia.
5. The Ravens are finally getting healthy. Outside linebacker Odafe Oweh was the only player on their 53-man roster to miss practice Thursday, and safety Geno Stone was the only limited participant.
Now all the team has to do is emerge from Tottenham Hotspur Stadium unscathed. After Buffalo’s 25-20 loss Sunday to the Jacksonville Jaguars, an unnamed Bills player complained to a Buffalo News reporter: “We came all the way over to London to play on [bleeping] cement?”
Smith said Thursday that he’d rather play on grass than turf. So did Beckham, who pointed to the number of “major injuries” that have occurred on artificial playing surfaces.
“I just feel like, if we’re talking about the safety of players, grass would be a better surface area for them,” he said. “But again, like I said, life throws you curveballs. You just have to adjust, and turf is what we’re playing on this week. It is what it is. It’s not really up to us, but I think there’s a solution. Whatever it is, I hope that one day they figure that out.”