Three takeaways from Ravens 20-12 win over Tampa Bay

The weather was ugly and so was the first half but Sunday ended well for the Ravens as they picked up a much needed win at home over the Buccaneers. The bounce back victory keeps the Ravens in line for a playoff spot as they move to 8-6 on the year. Here are three thoughts from the 20-12 win.

1 – Mighty Marlon & the Ravens defense

The Ravens defense turned in another great performance on Sunday by holding the top passing offense to just 156 yards through the air. Tampa Bay came out with a surprisingly balanced offensive attack but was quickly turned one dimensional as the Ravens defensive line tightened up and stopped allowing chunk yardage on the ground.

If the Buccaneers were going to win, they would have to do it through the air. At times that looked like it might happen, particularly when Jameis Winston connected with Mike Evans. The Bucs top receiver hauled in four catches for 121 yards, 87 of which came on two deep passes in the first half. Both times Winston was able to catch Jimmy Smith slipping and connect with Evans for the big play. That would change in the second half when the Ravens put Marlon Humphrey on Evans.

Baltimore’s second year corner continued his strong 2018 season by coming up with two huge plays late in the game. The first was an interception early in the fourth quarter. On the previous possession the Ravens had scored a field goal to take an eight point lead but the game was still very much in reach for Tampa Bay. Humphrey’s interception gave the Ravens offense the ball around mid-field with only a field goal needed to make it a two possession game.

Unfortunately that didn’t happen and the defense had to go out and get the job done one more time. After a huge run stuff by Brandon Williams on third and one the Bucs decided to go for it on fourth and four. Once again Humphrey was responsible for the big play as he broke up what would have been a first down completion by Winston.

Sunday ended up being one of the best games in Humphrey’s career, which is somewhat surprising considering he has been dealing with a lingering groin injury the past few weeks. Humphrey suffered the injury two weeks ago and ended up leaving the Kansas City game early after aggravating it. His health will be a huge factor moving forward as the Ravens continue to play some must win games. 

2 – Sticking to the offensive game plan 

“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Myself and many other fans have used this cliche phrase over the past few weeks in reference to the Ravens offense and it was more true than ever in week 15. With Lamar Jackson under center the point totals haven’t been the highest and there have been a handful of ugly turnovers, but the run heavy formula has led to success and that was the case once again this week. 

On a wet and slippery afternoon, the Ravens continued to grind it out on the ground. Gus Edwards led the way with 104 yards on 19 carries while Kenneth Dixon provided an additional 48 on 11 touches off the bench. As usual Jackson was heavily involved in the run game thanks to both his designed plays and scrambles. Jackson would end up running the ball 18 times, which is the most since his first start in which he carried the ball a historic 26 times.

The media will continue to hound Jackson for his inconsistency throwing the ball. However, there was no need for him to pass this week with the rainy weather. It became clear early on that Jackson was going to struggle throwing a clean ball in the rain so seeing him take off for positive yardage rather than force a throw down field is always going to be a plus in my eyes. Jackson ended up rushing for 95 yards to give the Ravens 242 as a team. This marks the fourth time in the last five weeks that the Ravens have rushed for over 200 yards, with last weeks loss to Kansas City being the only difference. They were very close to reaching the 200 yard threshold in that game too, finishing with 194 yards on the afternoon.

The Ravens also got back to dominating the time of possession in this win. Holding on to the ball was absolutely essential down the stretch when the Ravens were trying to hold on to an eight point lead. Even after a special teams turnover, Baltimore still managed to eat up almost 11 minutes of the third quarter and then over ten minutes of the fourth quarter. The win was sealed with a seven minute drive in which the Ravens ran the ball 12 times and dared the exhausted Buccaneers defense to stop them.

3 – Turnovers and penalties

The weather wasn’t the only thing that was sloppy on Sunday. The Ravens edged out a 20-12 win thanks to the defense and rushing attack but there was plenty of mistakes along the way that could have been avoided to make the win much easier. Right off the bat, you have to mention the two turnovers. Jackson’s fumbling issues are nothing new but I expect much better from Cyrus Jones on his special teams blunder. Jones has been known to fumble punts in the past but this is completely different since he initially avoided the ball and allowed it to hit the turf. I have no idea why he would try to scoop it up when there was five white jerseys around him ready to down the ball.

The Ravens defense should be credited for holding the Buccaneers to just nine points off of these two turnovers. Both set Tampa Bay’s offense up with a short field but they did not end up being game breakers. 

The Ravens also finished the game with eight penalties totaling 70 yards. Last week was the perfect example of penalties being a difference maker in a close game and there were times where it seemed like the Ravens would suffer a similar fate again against the Bucs.

A defensive holding call in the endzone set Tampa Bay up with first and goal and eventually led to their only touchdown of the afternoon. Later on the offense shot themselves in the foot while trying to close things out. Despite sitting at mid field after Humphrey’s interception, the Ravens offense quickly put themselves in a fourth and 41 situation with three very avoidable penalties. It goes without saying but these things need to be cleaned up if the Ravens want to win on the road next week against a good Chargers team.

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Image credit: Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun


Podcast Episode 29: Baltimore Sports whip-around with 105.7 The Fan late-night host Terry Ford

Image Credit: The Baltimore Feather 

Welcome to Episode 29 of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell, editor Nolan McGraw, and author Ian Schultz.

Following a a heartbreaking 27-24 overtime loss to the Chiefs, the top of Episode 29 revisits the Ravens’ valiant effort at arrowhead stadium (3:20). We’ll also take a look at recent quotes from Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (18:23), reveal our lists for Who’s Trending (32:20), and go over some things to watch for on Sunday when the Ravens return to M&T Bank Stadium to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (45:42).

Up next, we welcome in this week’s guest, 105.7 The Fan late night talk show host Terry Ford (54:58). In our exclusive interview with Uncle Terry, you’ll hear his takeaways from the Ravens loss and his thoughts on the six managerial candidates for the Orioles (interview was recorded hours before the Brandon Hyde story broke). At the end of our conversation with Terry, he shares some interesting stories from his long radio career, such as the strangest phone call he’s ever taken on the air.

After Mr. Ford hops off the phone line, we get you caught up with all things Maryland Basketball (1:11:07). Both Nolan and Jake got a chance to watch the Terps in-person from the Royal Farms Arena on Saturday when the Terps took down Loyola Chicago 55-41. With the Terps now at 9-2, does this team have what it takes to make some noise in March?

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 29 (1:20:51). In addition, you’ll hear our raw reactions to the Orioles reportedly hiring their new manager, Chicago Cubs Bench Coach Brandon Hyde, as the story broke in the middle of the numbers segment.

You can find the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on SoundCloud, iTunes, 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!

The Charm City Bird Watch Podcast is brought to you by Seven Sports Bar & Grille. For a limited time only on behalf on Charm City Bird Watch, you can receive a 10% discount off any entree dish when you tell your server or bartender the promo code ‘Charm City.’

Three things we learned from Ravens 27-24 overtime loss to Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, MO — Having a 24-17 lead with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Baltimore Ravens found themselves one play away from picking up one of the biggest road wins of the John Harbaugh era. But after Patrick Mahomes found Tyreek Hill for 48 yards on fourth down, the momentum shifted.

The Chiefs tied the game up with less than a minute left in regulation and got the ball back again when Justin Houston strip-sacked Lamar Jackson. Even though Harrison Butker‘s missed 43-yard field goal sent the game into overtime, the Chiefs won the overtime coin toss and Butker redeemed himself with a 35-yard field goal on the Chiefs’ first possession. That kick ended up being all the Chiefs needed, as the Ravens’ ensuing drive stalled on downs and the Chiefs walked away with a 27-24 comeback win.

Here’s three things we learned from Sunday’s valiant but disappointing overtime loss.

1. Once again, defense crumbles in crunch time 

Yet again, the Ravens defense played one hell of a game on Sunday. The NFL’s #1 defense limited the league’s #1 offense, which averages over 35 points-per-game, to 27 points. With a lead in the fourth quarter, the pass rush got consistent pressure. But twice on fourth down when it mattered the most, the unit allowed two daggers – the 48-yard completion from Mahomes to Hill on 4th-and-9, and the five-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to Damien Williams on 4th-and-3.

Before Kansas City’s 11-play, 75-yard drive the tied the game up at 24, the Chiefs had not scored in the second half. On their first possession of the third quarter, Chuck Clark snagged the Ravens’ first interception in nine weeks. The next two Chiefs drives before the touchdown drive resulted in punts. Containing the NFL’s top offense in the manner that the Ravens did is great, but when it mattered most the defense just couldn’t find the one stop they needed to seal the win.

To be fair, due to Houston stripping Jackson on the third play of Baltimore’s last possession of regulation, along with the Chiefs winning the overtime coin toss, the Ravens defense was on the field an awful lot at the end of the game. And it showed. It’s not the defense’s fault that the offensive line completely collapsed at the end of the game. With that said, not getting off the field twice on fourth down brought back the all-to-familiar memories of 4th-and-12 against Cincinnati from last season.

Hill is the most explosive receiver in the NFL and finished the game with 139 receiving yards on eight receptions despite playing through and injured ankle and wrist. The discouraging part of the 48-yard completion is seeing defensive leaders like C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle come up short of making the big play yet again.

After the game, Brandon Carr said that the Ravens need to find ways to close out games against tough opponents. It’s been a struggle for the Ravens for some time now. If they can’t figure that out against the Chargers or hypothetically in the playoffs, the 2018 season could end exactly like it has the last two years for Baltimore.

2. Kenneth Dixon: From afterthought to arguably the Ravens top option at running back

When Kenneth Dixon went down with yet another knee injury in week 1 against the Bills, many thought that would be the end for him. Since the Ravens drafted Dixon in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, Dixon has only played in 15 games due to injuries and suspension.

With Dixon went on injured reserve, Alex Collins and Buck Allen led the Ravens’ backfield. Then Baltimore worked a trade with the Packers for Ty Montgomery before the bye. But as Collins struggled with a foot injury and Allen’s snap count went down, an opportunity opened up for Dixon when he became eligible to return to the practice field. Now, the Ravens backfield looks completely different than it did at the start of the season with Dixon, Montgomery and Gus Edwards sharing the load.

Although Edwards received twice the amount of carries than Dixon did on Sunday, Dixon’s 7.4 yards-per-carry was just over three yards more than that of Edwards. The coaching staff might be limiting Dixon’s snap count due to his injury history, but Dixon has more powerful legs than Edwards or Montgomery. He has the ability to extend runs and can push defenders forward without much assistance. When Dixon is on the field and effective, it’s easy to see why the Ravens used a fourth-round pick on him.

Dixon still needs to prove his sustainability, but right now he’s making a case for the Ravens to hold onto him beyond 2018.

3. Harbaugh’s aggressiveness on fourth down was the right move

On the Ravens’ first drive of the second half, the Ravens faced a 4th-and-1 on the Chiefs’ 39-yard line. Trailing 17-10, Harbaugh elected to go for it instead of punting. When Edwards was handed the ball, he was stuffed at the line for no gain. Kansas City took over and three plays later Clark intercepted Mahomes before the Ravens scored a touchdown open a 14-play drive. That touchdown, a 10-yard completion to Maxx Williams, came on 4th-and-2.

Many were quick to judge Harbaugh’s decision to go for it on fourth down after failing to convert on Baltimore’s previous drive, but relying on field goals wasn’t going to cut it against the NFL’s number one offense. In games like these, coaches need to be aggressive and score as many points as possible. Against an opponent like the Falcons who couldn’t move the ball at all on the Ravens, settling for three points is okay. The Ravens trailed the Chiefs 17-10 at the time of the fourth-down conversion, and if they don’t score the touchdown they still would have trail Kansas City instead of tying the game up.

Rather than knock Harbaugh down for being aggressive in the red zone against the top seed in the AFC, celebrate the fact that the decision worked and that the Ravens ended up with seven points instead of three.

As deflating as yesterday’s loss was for the Ravens, coupled along with the Colts, Dolphins, and Titans all winning their games this week, the Steelers 24-21 loss to Oakland still has the Ravens just a half-game out of first place in the AFC North. While the Ravens still need to go on the road and play the Chargers, the Steelers have the Patriots at home next weekend before facing the Saints on the road in week 16. Don’t look now, but a home playoff game is still very well in reach for the Ravens with the Steelers losing three straight games.

Here’s the current NFL Playoff picture:

Image Credit: The Kansas City Star