Lamar Jackson and the Ravens used to make soccer look simple. On Saturday evening, the Ravens made all the things look onerous. Even the manner Baltimore snapped the ball to the quarterback regarded extra like a JV soccer follow than an NFL playoff recreation. It was onerous to watch as Buffalo beat Baltimore 17-3, ending the Ravens’ season in ugly trend for the third consecutive 12 months.
The recreation turned after three performs in fast succession in the third quarter. Jackson almost threw the game-tying landing cross to receiver Marquise Brown in the finish zone. But Bills defensive finish Jerry Hughes pressured Jackson and the throw fell wanting Brown. On the subsequent play, Jackson threw an interception in the finish zone—his first profession decide in the pink zone—and Bills cornerback Taron Johnson returned it for a landing to make the recreation 17-3. Two performs from scrimmage later, Ravens heart Patrick Mekari snapped the ball over Jackson’s head. In the ensuing mad sprint, Jackson hit his head on the turf and was dominated out for the remainder of the recreation with a concussion. Baltimore’s playoff quest was basically ended by these three performs, as was the feeling of inevitability that the Jackson-era Ravens can be an offensive juggernaut.
This was a bizarre recreation. The wind at Bills Stadium was so sturdy that the goalposts had been swaying. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, the most correct kicker in NFL historical past, missed his first two area targets in the first half. To put that in perspective, he’s had two seasons wherein he’s missed fewer than two area targets. A Ravens punt went 23 yards. Mekari had hassle snapping the complete evening. There was a whole lot of bizarre shit. But regardless of Baltimore fighting the most simple facets of the recreation, they almost tied the recreation in the third quarter. There’s an argument towards being too reactionary about Jackson’s efficiency—he completed with 14 completions on 24 passes for 162 yards and the interception, 34 speeding yards on 9 carries, and was sacked thrice.
But nothing about the manner Baltimore’s offense performed on Saturday provides them the advantage of the doubt. The Ravens got here out with what regarded like a dominant opening drive wherein they ran on their first six performs. But the remainder of their first-half drives included Jackson taking an 11-yard sack, which led Baltimore to accept a field-goal try (which Tucker missed); two consecutive three-and-outs; one other missed area purpose by Tucker; and a drive that noticed Jackson take a sack and Baltimore commit three consecutive penalties to set the Ravens up with a second-and-29 at their very own 1-yard line. Somehow they transformed the ensuing third-and-18 into a primary down, however that was the exception that proves the rule. The Ravens are an offense that goes 5 yards ahead and 10 yards returned.
Baltimore is horrible at enjoying from third-and-long. Their drop-back passing recreation feels nonexistent. Aside from when Jackson magically scrambles to convert a third-and-13, third-and-longs for the Ravens’ offense have a hopeless high quality to them—a wierd sensation for a crew led by the reigning MVP.
Jackson wants assist. Brown, a 2019 first-round decide, performed nice over the final two months, however the remainder of Baltimore’s receiving corps is terrible. Dez Bryant performed significant snaps for the Ravens this postseason. The crew’s no. 2 receiver is Willie Snead (!). Tight finish Mark Andrews has turn out to be synonymous with drops. Running returned J.K. Dobbins dropped a key third-down cross on Baltimore’s second drive of the recreation, which was a pattern for the rookie—Dobbins dropped one in each six passes thrown his manner throughout the common season, in accordance to Pro Football Reference. Running returned Gus Edwards has such butterfingers that the Ravens don’t even throw him the soccer.
Baltimore didn’t put money into their pass-catchers this offseason, and the consequence was a crew that would not catch passes. The Ravens had the fewest completions in the NFL this season, at a median of simply 16 per recreation. That’s all properly and good when their operating recreation is dominant, however that wasn’t the case towards the Bills, who offered out to cease the run and didn’t respect Baltimore’s passing recreation. In the first half, the Bills blitzed on almost 60 percent of Baltimore’s snaps. Buffalo was not afraid that the Ravens might harm them via the air—and so they had been proper.
It’s infuriating contemplating Baltimore entered this season speaking about how the deep passing recreation was going to unlock the subsequent degree of Jackson’s ability set. The Ravens knew defenses would regulate to them in 2020, and so they thought-about their deep-passing recreation to be the key counter. Jackson ranked as the no. 1 QB in EPA/Play in the pocket in 2019, regardless of throwing fewer passes to his receivers than another quarterback (simply 104 completions). He did depend on his tight ends at a historic price (concentrating on them with 42 p.c of his passes, highest ever, in accordance to the Football Outsiders 2020 Almanac). However, Baltimore traded second-string tight finish Hayden Hurst to Atlanta for a second-round decide final offseason, after which was in a tricky spot when blocking tight finish Nick Boyle suffered a season-ending leg damage in November, leaving Andrews as the solely tight finish holdover from final season. That lack of depth pressured Baltimore to rely closely on a foul receiving group.
The Ravens want to add a receiver (or two) this offseason. They can begin by taking a look at Allen Robinson, who will likely be a free agent this offseason. Robinson has performed most of his profession catching passes from Blake Bortles and Mitchell Trubisky, so he’d welcome enjoying with a quarterback of Jackson’s caliber. Will Fuller V can even be a free agent, as will Antonio Brown, Marquise Brown’s cousin. Baltimore additionally has loads of choices on this 12 months’s NFL draft, together with Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, Purdue’s Rondale Moore, and USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown, who ought to all be obtainable when the Ravens choose late in the first circular.
Last season, the Bills had been in an analogous place as the Ravens at the moment are. Josh Allen tried to do wayyyy an excessive amount of in a playoff loss towards Houston, confirming Buffalo basic supervisor Brandon Beane’s sense that he wanted to get Allen extra assist. Beane did that by buying and selling a first-round decide to Minnesota for Stefon Diggs. In Allen’s first two seasons, he had zero 300-yard passing video games and completed final in completion share twice. This season he had eight 300-yard passing video games and completed fourth in completion share, together with the largest rise in completion share ever. If Allen can do this, it’s truthful to consider Jackson might enhance as a drop-back passer as soon as he not wants Dez Bryant on the area. Baltimore basic supervisor Eric DeCosta might have watched this recreation and felt like Beane did final 12 months about the want to enhance his crew’s receiver group.
The Ravens additionally want to get wholesome. They misplaced left sort out Ronnie Stanley to a dislocated ankle in November. They additionally by no means actually correctly changed proper guard Marshal Yanda, a future Hall of Famer who retired this offseason. Their absences compromised Baltimore’s capability to dominate the line of scrimmage, which was apparent on Saturday evening. Part of the purpose Mekari saved firing scattershot shotgun snaps might have been that his consideration saved drifting towards the Bills lineman he was making an attempt (and failing) to block. Obviously, a middle snapping the ball over the quarterback’s head will not be a superb factor, and it’s been an issue for Baltimore all season. But if Mekari’s that overwhelmed, it could be indicative of different points on the offensive line.
There is lots to be enthusiastic about with this crew. Jackson is the first quarterback to ever run for 1,000 yards in a number of seasons. Dobbins seems to be like a fantastic runner, and Hollywood Brown confirmed glimpses of lastly being an elite no. 2 receiver. The protection held the Bills’ offense to simply 10 factors after Buffalo averaged greater than 31 factors per recreation in the common season. Tucker may by no means have an evening this unhealthy for the remainder of his profession. Baltimore has the bones of a fantastic crew, and contemplating Jackson turned 24 two weeks in the past and remains to be the youngest quarterback in the AFC North, which incorporates Baker Mayfield and Joe Burrow, this crew’s future remains to be vibrant.
But the Ravens lack a drop-back passing recreation to assist them compete in the current and so they battle to win once they don’t have an early lead. Baltimore hasn’t come shut to beating Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, and simply obtained held to three factors by the Bills. The Ravens don’t actually belong in the high tier of the AFC anymore, and till they add some extra receiving expertise, Baltimore’s chances are high scattered to the wind.