Through five games, it is quite clear that the Baltimore Ravens do not have the best roster in the NFL. Their pass protection is not elite, their receiving corps is at best young and feisty, at worst inexperienced and lacking depth. They even had to sign Jason Pierre-Paul after the start of the regular season to try and muster a respectable pass rush. And still, they could easily be 5-0 to start this season.
Going into their Sunday Night Football showdown against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens had only trailed for 14 seconds the entire season, but still had a 2-2 record. They lost against the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills on late scores after giving up big leads. Also, the Ravens had lost their previous five home games.
The Ravens never even built a large lead in Week 5. They went up 10-0, and the score was knotted at 10 by the end of the first half. If not for the golden toe of Justin Tucker booting home three field goals, the Ravens would be under .500 in a strong AFC. As big as this win was, one of the Ravens’ biggest problems was magnified — closing out games.
Last week, the Ravens held the ball for nearly 19 more minutes than the Bills, and turned the ball over the same number of times — two. However, they committed some costly penalties — five more penalties than the Bills, and it cost them 39 yards.
Their first drive out of halftime began with a false start. They were up 10 points and a touchdown could’ve put the game away early. Yes, that roughing the passer on the Bills’ final drive was a tough call against the Ravens. However, on the previous drive that ended in an interception, they gained ground twice off of Bills penalties and then put themselves back in a down-and-distance hole by getting flagged shortly after.
On offense, the Ravens are built to run the ball. They have the most dangerous threat with the ball in his hands in the NFL in Lamar Jackson, and their top running back — J.K. Dobbins — is in the lineup after missing all of last season, and two games of this one, due to injury. This past offseason the Ravens added offensive linemen and RB Kenyan Drake, and were supposed to have the best rushing attack in the NFL.
An attack like that should not be struggling in the red zone. Even though Dobbins just had his first strong game of 2022 in Week 5, going into last night’s game, the Ravens were eighth in the NFL in yards per game, and third in yards per attempt. They can control the ball, but then they can’t punch it in the end zone to finish drives.
They have not scored a second-half touchdown in two consecutive weeks, and in losses to the Bills and Dolphins, a failed fourth-and-short resulted in a touchdown for the opposition, and questions about John Harbaugh’s game management. If they are going to make OC Greg Roman’s run-first attack work it needs to be successful in the most crucial moments. When it’s time to hit the opposition with the finishing move, they had better be able to do it out of the backfield.
As long as Jackson is under center, the Ravens offense will be one of the NFL’s top units. Going into Week 5 they were No. 1 in DVOA. But all of those stats will be for naught if in a divisional playoff game this elite rushing offense blows a late 4th and 1, or gets called for a holding penalty on a drive that was on a steady march toward the end zone.
The defense is going to give up some points, especially against teams with offensive lines better than the Bengals’. A deep playoff run will require this rushing attack to not only rack up yards and points early, but stay on the field, and end in touchdowns in the second half.