Five things we learned from Ravens 21-0 win over Titans

NASHVILLE — The Baltimore Ravens advanced to 4-2 with a 21-0 shutout over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, who fell to 3-3. For the Ravens, this ended a three-game road trip with the team going 2-1 over that span.

The three-game road trip was filled with ups and downs, but it ended on a high note with Sunday’s win over Tennessee. Here are five things we learned about the Ravens in their first shutout of the 2018 season.


1. Holy crap, pass rush!

Ever since the Ravens’ defense tallied six sacks against the Buffalo Bills in the opening game of the season, the pass rush failed to put opposing quarterbacks on the ground more than five times in a game.

Sunday against Tennessee, that trend changed. The Ravens’ pass rush exploded on the Titans, finishing with a franchise-high 11 sacks and absolutely terrorizing Marcus Mariota. Speaking of Mariota, he finished the game being sacked more times than his completion total showed, which was 10 passes.

Za’Darius Smith led the pass rushers with three sacks. Patrick Onwuasor followed with two. Matthew Judon, Terrell Suggs, Tony Jefferson, Kenny Young, Anthony Levine Sr., and Chris Wormley all found their way into the Tennessee backfield on Sunday with one sack each. The 11-sack total the Titans allowed in this game was more than the total amount of sacks they had let up all season (9).

Mariota finished the game with 117 passing yards. He didn’t stand a chance, as his offense went 1-for-10 on third down with the running back tandem of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis combining for 30 yards on 12 carries.

With former defensive coordinator Dean Pees on the opposite end of the sideline, the Ravens’ defense wanted to send a clear message. Even though several players expressed their respect for Pees this past week, they wanted to stick it to their old play-caller. Not only did the defense’s performance on Sunday prove that they live on without Pees, it showed that the defense could be better than they ever were with him leading the way.


2. Michael Crabtree puts Cleveland nightmare behind him

Against the Browns last week, Michael Crabtree hauled in just six of 12 targets with multiple drops, including a potential touchdown grab in the fourth quarter that could have won the game for the Ravens. Crabtree has run into some issues with drops in his career, but he’s consistently bounced back from his struggles. That pattern continued against Tennessee, where Crabtree rebounded by leading the Ravens with 93 yards on six receptions, including a four-yard touchdown catch. It marked Crabtree’s first touchdown reception since the season opener against Buffalo.

Willie Snead caught seven passes for 60 yards, but the next leading receiver, John Brown, only caught two. Crabtree signed a three-year contract with the Ravens coveting him as a red-zone threat. The Ravens certainly expected more than two touchdowns through the first six games for Crabtree, but the Ravens will go forward and hope that Crabtree’s bounce-back today carries over in the next three games before the bye.


3. Ravens balance out offense, make honest effort to run the football

In the Ravens’ two losses this season, the ratio of run and pass plays has scewed much more towards the pass. In Marty Morthinweg’s sixth game called this season, he ran 35 run plays and 38 pass plays. The end result was Joe Flacco completing 27 passes for 238 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, with the run game compiling 123 yards on the ground.

On 19 carries, Alex Collins could only rack up 54 yards for an average of 2.8 yards-per-carry. Although many of his runs went short, he did break free for a 13-yard touchdown run in the first half.

After Collins, Gus Edwards carried the ball 10 times for 42 yards in his regular season debut. Lamar Jackson‘s lone rush attempt, a 22-yarder, awarded the Ravens a first down midway through the third quarter. Buck Allen caught three passes for 18 yards, but only received one carry which went one yard.

The results of the run game aren’t anything sexy and are aided by Jackson’s 22-yard run, but the encouraging sign was how many holes opened up for the running backs as opposed to the first five weeks. With Allen proving to be an asset in the passing game, Edwards will continue to split the load with Collins for the lion’s share of carries. Considering Edwards led the team with 174 rushing yards (53 carries) in the preseason, he’s a name to keep an eye on going forward.


4. Second-half defensive dominance continues

The Ravens may have compiled 11 sacks on Mariota on Sunday, but don’t forget that they again did not allow a second-half touchdown. Baltimore’s defense has not allowed an opposing offense to reach the end zone in the second half yet this season. The unit continues to put up incredible numbers, and it’s becoming fun to watch, not just in the game, but on social media too. Check out this Tweet from Barstool Banks with another interesting tidbit surrounding the 2018 Ravens defense.

The outstanding defensive performances are helping out the Ravens’ offense too. Two weeks ago against Pittsburgh, the Ravens got by on four Justin Tucker field goals because the defense shut out Ben Roethlisberger in the second half. Then this week, the only score the Ravens needed in the second half was a two-yard run by Collins midway through the third quarter. It’s no secret that Flacco performs better when his defense backs him up, and the defense has certainly held up their end of the bargain through the first six games.


5. Alex Lewis injury could present offensive line shuffling

A scary moment occurred in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win when left guard Alex Lewis went down with a neck injury. Lewis remained on the ground for several minutes before a cart was brought onto the field, where Lewis was placed on a stretcher and taken away from Nissan Stadium in an ambulance.

According to the Ravens, upon arriving at the hospital Lewis regained movement in all of his extremities and was even cleared to fly back with the Ravens on the team plane Sunday night. Lewis underwent a CT scan, and head coach John Harbaugh said that the team will release details on Lewis’ injury once they get the scan results back.

Unfortunately, Lewis’ issues with injuries continue and he’s likely to miss some time while healing this neck injury. Who knows, it could even be season-ending. The good news is that the Ravens have some depth along the offensive line.

After Lewis came out of the game, rookie center Bradley Bozeman filled in at left guard while James Hurst remained at right tackle. This seems puzzling, given that the Ravens have rookie tackle Orlando Brown Jr. waiting in the wings to make his regular season debut, but it’s worth noting that Hurst has not practiced much at left guard this season after starting all 16 games last year at left guard. If Lewis is out for a long period of time, the Ravens could absolutely move Hurst back to left guard and have Brown slide in at right tackle. Given the nature of a sudden injury, it’s understandable as to why the coaches kept Hurst at right tackle for the remainder of the game.


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Five thoughts from Ravens frustrating 12-9 loss in Cleveland

After picking up their biggest win of the season this past Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Baltimore Ravens played their ugliest game of the season in Cleveland and lost to the Browns for the first time since 2015.

A lot if crazy and questionable stuff happened leading up the Browns’ 12-9 win, but here are my five key takeaways.

1. Worst game of the year for Ravens offense

There was nothing good about the offense’s performance on Sunday and it all starts with Joe Flacco. The veteran quarterback threw the ball 56 times and failed to reach the 300-yard threshold. Throw in an ugly interception and it was easily the worst game of the year for Flacco. I don’t care if the interception was tipped by a defender. The ball should have never been thrown in the first place since Flacco’s intended target was double covered.

While Flacco did not have his best game, the blame is not entirely on him. The rest of the offense was just as unreliable, resulting in an ugly afternoon all around. Michael Crabtree led the team in receptions and receiving yards but those are deceptive stats considering he also dropped three catchable passes, including the potential game-winner late in the fourth quarter.

I also have to regretfully call out the run game. Alex Collins excited us early on by picking up 42 yards on his first six carries but he quickly became less involved in the game. Even when he did see action Collins was not very productive, picking up just 17 yards on his final six carries. To make things worse, Buck Allen was not on his game either. Allen finished the game with 34 yards and had a crucial fumble that stifled the Ravens first drive of the second half.

2. Third down efficiency one of many issues for offense

Coming into Sunday’s game the Ravens offense had done a good job of converting in third down situations with a 46% success rate (29/63) on the season. That changed pretty quickly this week when the Ravens went 0-for-6 on third down in the first half. Baltimore would end up finishing the game 4-for-16 on third down.

3. Pass rush gets more involved

The Ravens defense found a lot of success last week against Pittsburgh despite only picking up one sack in garbage time. This week Baltimore made their life a little easier by bringing Baker Mayfield down five times. The return of the pass rush helped force the Browns rookie quarterback into some long yardage situations.

In some instances coach Martindale drew up some more creative blitz packages to get his defense rolling. Eric Weddle’s first quarter sack stands out as a good example of this. The veteran safety was able to hide behind a pair of edge rushers at the line and get to Mayfield untouched for the easy blind side sack.

4. Ravens avoid a few injury scares

After getting some key players back from injury this week the Ravens were looking stronger than ever. However, throughout the course of Sunday’s game there were some plays that made you hold your breath. Both Tavon Young and Mark Andrews had to exit the game for concussion protocol but neither one was permanently sidelined.

Young was shaken up after diving for an incredible interception in the first quarter. The third-year cornerback was quickly tackled by a pair of Browns players but was hit in the head in the process. Getting Young back was a huge relief for the defense since the Ravens only had four cornerbacks activated for the game.

5. Same old Ravens

There is no other way for me to sum this game up. The offense was given an insane amount of opportunities throughout the game, especially in the fourth quarter and overtime, but failed to get into the end zone just once. Between the Ravens defense picking up six stops in the last two quarters and the Browns shooting themselves in the foot with ten penalties, there is just no excuse for the Ravens offense.

At the end of the day this was the same old Ravens that Weddle has been joking about in his recent post game press conferences. I give the team all the credit in the world for making the necessary adjustments against Denver and Pittsburgh but they disappointed this week. Nothing screams same old Ravens more than playing down to your competition a week after a big win.

Image credit: John Kuntz / Cleveland.com

Podcast Episode 19: Goodbye to Buck, Dan + AJ and hello to the for-real Ravens?

Welcome to episode 19 of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell, editor Nolan McGraw, and author Ian Schultz.

This week, we open up the show by welcoming our guests Jon Coe and Chris Melvin of Seven Sports Bar & Grille (4:36). Both Coe and Melvin are Baltimore sports fans. This segment was recorded later in the week than the rest of the show, making Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette’s departures from the Orioles the focal points. You’ll also hear some takes on this week’s MLB Wild Card games, impressions of the Ravens through their first quarter of the season, and some NFL contender/pretender debate.

The Charm City Bird Watch Podcast is brought to you by Seven Sports Bar & Grille. Now, you can get 10% off any entree when you mention the promo code ‘Charm City‘ to your server at Seven!

After the segment with Melvin & Coe, we welcome in Nolan and Ian to break down the Ravens’ 26-14 win over the Steelers (37:31). We chatted about the Jimmy Smith-less secondary stepping up, Alex Collins‘ fumbling problems, and as always we went over Who’s Trending in either a good or bad way (56:00) following the big win on Sunday Night Football.

In the second part of our Ravens segment, we went over some things to watch for this week as the Ravens head to Cleveland to take on the Browns in what’s the second game of a three-week road stretch for Baltimore (1:06:50).

Up next, we shifted gears to baseball (1:16:58). This part of the show was recorded on Tuesday before the Showalter and Duquette news broke, so a big chunk of this week’s Orioles talk focused on Adam Jones. We also reminisced on the Orioles’ worst season in franchise history and briefly looked ahead to the offseason.

To wrap up the show, we dive into our weekly numbers segment, taking a look at the best Baltimore sports athletes to wear the number 19 (1:27:43).

You can find the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on SoundCloudiTunes, and Google Play. Please leave us a review on iTunes, we love to hear your feedback and may read it on a future episode. Thank you for listening!