Five key takeaways from Ravens 36-21 loss to Panthers

The Baltimore Ravens looked poised for a big afternoon after taking a 7-0 lead on their first possession of Sunday’s game in Charlotte but things quickly fell apart as Cam Newton led the Panthers to a 36-21 victory. Here are five key things I am focusing on following the Ravens’ fourth loss of the season

1. Running game can’t put together a complete game:

It’s no secret that the Ravens’ rushing attack has been lackluster all season. Alex Collins has failed to build upon his breakout 2017 campaign and the depth behind him is not providing much supplemental help.

Collins’struggles continued on Sunday when he fumbled at the beginning of the second quarter. Panthers defensive tackle Kyle Love exploded through the offensive line with ease and leveled Collins for what appeared to be just a six-yard loss. Things took a quick turn for the worse when Collins juggled the ball after taking the hit and proceeded to cough it up. This marks the third time Collins has fumbled this season.

What’s frustrating is the fact that Collins was off to a solid start with 19 yards and a touchdown in the early goings. Collins ran the ball seven times after the fumble but I wouldn’t say the Ravens abandoned the run game in this one. It’s hard to keep going to a guy like Collins after a fumble but being down by three scores at the half doesn’t help either. Moving forward Buck Allen is going to need to be more involved in the run game. I don’t understand why but he has been called upon to run the ball just four times in the last three weeks.

2. Defense forced into tough situations:

The Ravens’ defense surrendered a season-high 36 points against the Panthers but the odds where not in their favor from start to finish as the Panthers found themselves starting with great field position on numerous drives.

Two Joe Flacco interceptions and the ugly fumble by Collins helped set up three short field scoring possessions for the Panthers. Overall it was a great afternoon for the Carolina offense as their average starting position was their own 37-yard line.

This still does not excuse the defense’s overall performance. Wink Martindale’s crew remained a top statistical defense even after last week’s game against New Orleans but the numbers were even worse in this one. The Ravens gave up a season-high 154 rushing yards and 386 total yards of offense. To give you some perspective, they have only given up more yards against the Browns (416) and that game featured an extra ten minutes of overtime.

3. Extended playing time for Lamar Jackson:

After the Panthers went up 36-14 late in the fourth quarter the Ravens opted to send Lamar Jackson out for the final offensive drive of the game. The rookie saw more playing time in the season opener against Buffalo but this week’s garbage time drive still showed us quite a bit. Jackson completed all four of his passes for 42 yards and capped off the two-minute drive with a touchdown pass to fellow rookie Hayden Hurst.

Prior to the final drive the Ravens were utilizing Jackson in the run game like they have most of this season. Jackson finished the afternoon with 26 rushing yards on three carries. His only mistake came in the first quarter when he failed to connect with a wide open Willie Snead on third and one.

4. Injury scare for Ronnie Stanley:

The Ravens have gotten pretty banged up over the past few weeks, especially on the offensive line. With Alex Lewis and James Hurst already inactive this week, everyone was holding their breath when Ronnie Stanley went down in the second half.

The Ravens’left tackle got rolled up by Flacco as he was in the process of falling to the ground. Flacco threw the ball away in an attempt to avoid the sack but he still came down hard on the back of the lineman’s legs. Stanley appeared to be in a lot of pain immediately following the play and had to be helped off the field.

Jermaine Eluemunor entered the game at left tackle after being called up from the practice squad earlier this week. Fortunately for the Ravens, Stanley was able to walk around the sideline after getting examined on the sideline and later returned to the game.

Right now the injury doesn’t appear to be serious, especially since Stanley returned to the game in garbage time, but the Ravens will need him at 100% moving forward. It goes without saying but the Ravens cannot afford anymore injuries on the offensive line. Their health was their strong suit early on this season but now that they have reached the midway point, it’s starting to get pretty shaky.

5. A look around the AFC North:

Morale was low following the heartbreaking loss to the Saints last week but at least the division standings didn’t change much with the Bengals and Browns both losing. This week there is no consolation for Ravens fans as the Steelers took down the Browns and the Bengals overcame a surprise Fitzmagic appearance for an overtime win.

Baltimore now finds themselves in third place with a record of 4-4. However, November will have a big impact on the way the division shakes out as the Ravens prepare to host both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the next three weeks.

Quick Hits:

Jake McDonnell’s postgame live stream:

Image credit: Mike McCarn / AP

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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

Kenneth Dixon expected to miss several weeks with knee injury

On Sunday the Baltimore Ravens offense dominated in their 47-3 win over the Buffalo Bills. Joe Flacco and company were able to spread the ball around really well and six different players ended up scoring a touchdown. The last one to score was Kenneth Dixon with a two-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

It was a pretty decent afternoon for the Ravens backup running back. Dixon is listed behind Alex Collins and Javorius Allen in the depth chart but led the way in the run game with 44 yards on Sunday after Collins struggled in his start.

Unfortunately for Dixon the outing also led to an injury. It was initially reported that Dixon suffered a knee injury but there were no concrete details. After sitting out Monday and Tuesday’s practices, reports started to surface that the knee injury was serious and Dixon would be missing several weeks.

This is a huge disappointment for Dixon who has missed a lot of time throughout his career due to injuries and suspensions. Since being drafted in 2016 Dixon has only played in 13 games.

Despite Dixon’s unreliability, this is a big hit to the Ravens’ running back core. Collins was pretty much non-existent on Sunday outside of his touchdown run and Allen only had four carries. We know that both of these players will produce more on a weekly basis but the position’s depth has been significantly impacted due to Dixon’s injury.

It will be interesting to see if the Ravens activate a running back from the practice squad. Both De’Lance Turner and Gus Edwards would be viable options to fill the third string spot after getting a lot of reps in the preseason.

Image credit: Stew Milne / USA Today Sports