Podcast Episode 30: Ravens head west with season likely on-the-line; Brandon Hyde era begins in Baltimore

Image Credit: Orioles Hangout

Welcome to Episode 30 of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell, editor Nolan McGraw, and author Ian Schultz.

Kicking off the show this week is over 50 minutes of Ravens talk following Baltimore’s 20-12 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday (4:30). We discuss some nuggets from John Harbaugh’s Monday press conference (16:27), tell you Who’s Trending (29:19), and go over some things to watch for on Saturday night when the Ravens go to war with the 11-3 Los Angeles Chargers (39:44). The Chargers have the home field and two extra days of rest, and the Ravens’ playoff chances are likely on the line. Don’t worry, we called out the NFL’s poor scheduling for ‘Don’t Be A Jerk’ and broke down the Ravens’ playoff scenarios depending on what happens this weekend.

Up next, Jake welcomes in this week’s guest, server Jimmy Colliflower of Seven Sports Bar & Grille (54:50). Since Jimmy is an Eagles fan, we talked plenty of Nick Foles and the Eagles’ impressive 30-23 win over the LA Rams on Sunday Night Football. Jimmy & Jake also discussed this year’s playoff picture and Lamar Jackson‘s development.

For our Orioles segment this week, Nolan & Jake went over the key quotes from Monday’s press conference with general manager Mike Elias introducing Brandon Hyde, the 20th manager in team history (1:13:16). Communication between the front office and the coaching staff was clearly an issue when Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette worked together, but all indications are that communication will no longer be a problem with Elias and Hyde at the forefront of the Orioles’ rebuild. Hyde was the first name mentioned by several contacts Elias reached out to during his managerial search. There’s still tons of work to do this offseason, but this looks like another great hire by the O’s.

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 30 (1:27:23).

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!

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 (including Jimmy) or bartender the promo code Charm City.’

*Offer expires after the new year*

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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

Three things to watch for as the Ravens welcome the Bucs

The Baltimore Ravens welcome the Tampa Bay Bucs to M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday at 1pm looking to bounce back from their heartbreaking 27-24 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

With the loss, the Ravens moved to 7-6 on the season but remained locked into the #6 seed in the AFC playoff picture. A Steelers loss to Oakland kept Baltimore just a half game out of first place in the AFC North Division as well.

Sunday was the first loss of rookie starting quarterback Lamar Jackson‘s NFL career. Jackson was solid this past Sunday, going 13-for-24 for 147 yards and two touchdown passes. He also added in 67 yards rushing. His nine-yard touchdown pass to John Brown gave the Ravens a 24-17 lead with 4:04 remaining.

Unfortunately, Jackson fell victim to yet another late-game collapse from Baltimore’s top ranked defense, who allowed Patrick Mahomes and company to go 75 yards in 11 plays to tie the game with 53 seconds remaning. Jackson yielded a sack fumble that Kansas City recovered with 44 seconds left. Harrison Butker then missed the field goal attempt, sending the game to overtime.

Kansas City took the opening drive 58 yards before adding a field goal to go ahead 27-24. Baltimore’s last drive came up short when Robert Griffin III failed to convert a fourth down toss to Willie Snead who was essentially tackled on the play.

Here’s what to watch for ahead of Sunday’s tilt with the Bucs.lamar-jackson-fantasy-football-starter

Lamar Jackson will be looking to keep the Ravens offense running successfully this Sunday. Image Credit: Sports Illustrated

1) Lamar Jackson: QB1

Jackson has started each of the last four games for the Ravens and has done a great job, making just enough plays to keep the Ravens in playoff contention while filling in for presumed starter Joe Flacco while he nursed a sore hip.

This week, however, he received a new title from Head Coach John Harbaugh: QB1.

This is a headline that I was not expecting to be publishing this season. That’s right, folks, the Lamar Jackson era has officially begun in Baltimore. For the first time in his career, Flacco will serve as the backup quarterback Sunday against the Bucs.

Against a Chiefs defense that ranks just 30th in total defense, Jackson and the Ravens offense mustered just 321 yards of total offense. It was also Jackson’s third straight game with a turnover. For the second straight week, Jackson had to exit the game for an injury concern, this time as he attempted to lead the Ravens down the field for a potential game-winning drive.

Jackson is a lights out athlete. He is easily the Ravens best offensive player. What he has added to the running game is an element that Flacco cannot provide to this team and the coaching staff feels that what he brings to the table is currently more valuable than what Flacco brings.

I have come to terms that this decision was going to be made, but during Thursday’s press conferences the following quote surfaced:

Does that sound like the Ravens have a ton of faith in Lamar throwing the ball? Even if the statement by Mornhinweg is the truth in-house, this is the kind of thing that should stay out of the media circus.

Jackson will be presented with another golden opportunity to compile some big numbers as the 27th-ranked Bucs defense comes to town. They are 27th against the pass, 20th against the run, and they give up 29.5 points-per-game. The Ravens offense has averaged 22.5 points-per-game with Jackson as the starter against four defenses, giving up just under 29 points-per-game.

I for one would like to see the “ceiling game” from Lamar this Sunday. Throw for 250 yards and two scores. Pitch in your 55-80 yards per game on the ground and put this one away early.  You’re the guy now. Prove it.

Baltimore-Ravens-replace-Dean-Pees-promote-Don-Wink-Martindale-to-defensive-coordinator

The Ravens Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale will be looking for his defense to bounce back from a disappointing finish against the Chiefs. Image Credit: Baltimore Gridiron Report

2) Will the defense respond from an ugly ending?

The defense was superb on Sunday for the Ravens. Holding Mahomes and the number one ranked offense in the NFL to 17 points through 56 minutes is commendable for sure. Picking up three sacks and an interception was exactly what this defense needed to do to keep the game close.

But once again, in the closing moments of a massive game, the defense wilted once again. This trend started for the Ravens on Christmas night in 2016 when the defense surrendered a 10-play, 75-yard drive in 69 seconds to allow the Steelers to clinch the AFC North with a 31-27 home win.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota Vikings

Eric Weddle and the defense continue to squander late leads. Image Credit: USA Today

It continued last season with a late-game collapse once again in Pittsburgh in a road night game that saw the Ravens squander a 38-29 lead with six minutes remaining. And who can forget Andy Dalton and Tyler Boyd connecting for the game-winning touchdown pass with 44 seconds remaining, capping an 11-play 90-yard drive that took just 1:59.

This is the fourth absolutely monumental moment that the defense came up small in recent memory.

Their rankings are impressive. They are second in yards-per-game allowed. Third against the pass. Fourth against the run. They are the number one defense in the NFL allowing just 18.5 points-per-game. But when push comes to shove in recent memory, they aren’t getting the job done with the game on the line.

There will be no rest for the weary this Sunday as the 5-8 Bucs bring the NFL’S second ranked offense to town. Tampa leads the league in passing yards-per-game. Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith will have their hands full with standout wideout Mike Evans. Evans has 70 grabs on the season for 1,207 yards and five touchdown catches.

Evans is joined in the receiver ranks by Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson, who continues to nurse a thumb injury. These four form a quartet of receivers that have amassed over 640+ yards and four touchdowns.

The Ravens defense will have their hands full for the second straight week. Hopefully Jackson and the offense can put enough points on the board so that the defense doesn’t have to make the late game stop.

3) Can the run game continue torching the opposition?

Lamar Jackson is the straw that stirs the drink for the Ravens running game. The rookie sensation has helped pace the Ravens to 910 yards over the last four games. Jackson has 332 of those yards.

Gus Edwards continue to hum along as well with 382 yards of his own. Edwards has not rushed for 100 yards in back-to-back weeks but continues to prove to be an impact player.

Kenneth Dixon intrigues me. I know that Dixon has struggled to stay healthy throughout his Ravens career and I have often referred to him as the Michael Campanaro of running backs. He has also struggled to avoid off-the-field issues as well. But he has a bit of something something that is very appealing in a running back. He seems to have that little wiggle that coaches and scouts talk about.

The third year running back out of Lousiana Tech has only played in 15 career games but has found himself healthy each of the last three weeks and has produced three good outings. He has a total of 140 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries the last three weeks. He is humming along at 4.8 yards-per-carry and has done a nice job in spelling Edwards when the undrafted rookie needs a breather.

The new-look Ravens running game is the key to the turnaround of this season. They will need to continue to carry the mail if the Ravens are going to end their three-year playoff drought this season.

Preditions

Jake McDonnell– Ravens 27 Bucs 20

Nolan McGraw– Ravens 28 Bucs 21

Jay Stavros- Ravens 20 Bucs 17

Ian Schultz– Ravens 24 Bucs 19

The Ravens should be able to escape with a victory on Sunday but for some reason this one feels like it will be closer than most folks indicate that it will be. While Jameis Winston is not an elite quarterback, he comes to town with enough weapons to make life difficult on the Ravens defense. The offense makes enough plays to get the Ravens to 8-6.

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Image Credit: WNST