Ravens self-inflicted wounds narrowing their own margin for error

Ravens, Lamar Jackson (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Ravens, Lamar Jackson (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Well, here we are again. It seems like every two weeks I sit down at my computer to write a post-mortem for a depressing Baltimore Ravens loss, and here I am again to write about the collapse against the Giants, the latest in a string of meltdowns that seem to be getting worse every time.

Simply put, the Ravens are a self-destructive football team.

It is old coach-speak to say “we are killing ourselves,” but in Baltimore’s case it really is true. Despite having the underlying metrics of one of the best teams in football, they continue to kill themselves every week, giving themselves an incredibly thin margin for error.

Now, before I get a bunch of people in the comments saying that I am an apologist, let me get this out of the way: Lamar Jackson was bad on Sunday.

He missed on multiple throws and threw an inexcusable interception to give the Giants a short field to score the eventual game-winning touchdown. If you want to point to a single person most responsible for this loss, I would not disagree if you picked Jackson.

But we are way past the point of diagnosing culprits for individual losses. Because win or lose, the Ravens are turning into a team that is forcing their superstars to bail them out despite the talent that exists across the squad.

Due to their continuous self-inflicted wounds, the Ravens are increasingly becoming a team that relies on Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, and Justin Tucker to solve every problem.

The truth is the Ravens dominated the Giants on Sunday, and there are no two ways around that fact. They out-gained New York by 168 yards, had five more first downs, and averaged 7.0 yards per play to their 3.8.

The Ravens were sloppy and self-destructive in Week 6

But the simplest reason the Ravens lost the game is penalties and general sloppiness. Baltimore committed 10 penalties on Sunday, including four false starts.

This continuously put the Ravens’ offense behind the eight-ball, but Jackson actually did an exceptional job of getting them out of those holes.

In fact, in the three plays Jackson made directly after false start penalties (the other penalty was followed by a J.K. Dobbins run), he ran for 13 yards and completed passes of 19 and 16 yards.

Plays like that should net 38 yards, but they actually only netted 23 yards — barely enough for two first downs.

Overall, the Ravens gained a first down on 40% of early downs, good for the third-highest of any NFL team in a game this year, but those plays he made did not mean what they should have.

While those 7.0 yards per play number would typically mean an offense is creating explosive plays, in this game it really meant the Ravens were doing what was necessary to keep the chains moving.

One such example came on the first possession of the game when the Ravens had gains of 6, 11, 13, and 19 yards, but only netted 33 yards on the drive due to penalties and a blown-up play on third down that knocked them out of field goal range.

They got bailed out of another potential drive-killing sequence later on when the referees let Baltimore get away with a blatant delay of game penalty on a Mark Andrews touchdown reception that put them up ten in the fourth quarter.

The true game-losing sequence came on a third and short when a Lamar Jackson quarterback sneak put the Ravens a first down away from icing the game, only for an illegal formation penalty to take away the first down and push them into a third and five.

There was then a bad snap on third down, and instead of falling on the ball Jackson tried to play hero ball and threw an abominable interception to give the Giants a short field to go and win the game.

While the two most important plays in Sunday’s game were probably Jackson’s interception and a Justin Tucker 56-yard doink, the circumstances in which they were forced to make those plays provide the underlying problems for the Ravens.

Tucker was technically at fault for missing the kick, but it would have been nice if the Ravens didn’t shoot themselves in the foot to stall a promising drive and force Tucker to bail them out with a field goal from 56+ yards for the third time in four games.

Yes, Jackson’s interception was horrible, but it would have been nice if the Ravens were able to line up and snap the ball correctly.

And just last week the Ravens won because Jackson, Andrews, and Tucker bailed them out, but when your margin for error is this small you are inevitably going to wind up with results like this as well.

In many ways, the underlying win-loss results of these games become almost immaterial when looking at the greater picture.

The Ravens are too good of a football team to keep losing like this

Barring injury, the Ravens are still way too talented to miss the playoffs (an easy schedule and bad division do not hurt either), but they are way past the point of worrying about the minutia of regular season standings.

The goal is not for this team to make the playoffs, it is to win the Super Bowl, and right now the Ravens are not playing with nearly enough discipline to be a serious Super Bowl contender.

One of the themes of the 2022 NFL season has been the margin for error for elite quarterbacks being narrowed, but for the most part that is due to talent deficits in areas outside the quarterback room on teams across the league.

Teams such as the Buccaneers, Rams, and Bengals have horrible offensive lines, while the Packers have no receivers.

The Ravens have a good offensive line, and while the Ravens have clear issues with receiver depth, Mark Andrews, Devin Duvernay, and Rashod Bateman (when he has played) have all been good this year.

Lamar Jackson does not have to make up for talent deficits in the same way as those other quarterbacks, but he, Andrews, and Tucker do have to make up for the things the Ravens do to themselves.

And the underlying numbers indicate that the Ravens are a better team than the other ones who need their stars to be perfect. Baltimore ranks third in total DVOA, while Tampa is sixth (16th offensively), Cincinnati is 11th, Green Bay is 21st, and the Rams are 22nd.

And yet the Ravens sit at 3-3, the same record as those other teams, with Lamar Jackson having the same burden as their quarterbacks, purely because of what the Ravens do to themselves.

While this week it was primarily penalties, the Ravens seem to always do something stupid to keep their opponent in the game whether it be a dropped interception, a busted coverage, someone running the wrong route, or a myriad of other things a team can do to shoot themselves in the foot.

Now, now normally these types of things correct themselves, and if I were looking at those numbers for any other team, I would say that randomness will start to go the other way and they will start winning more games.

But these problems have been plaguing the Ravens for years. While this type of loss has defined the 2022 Ravens, that Giants loss could just have easily happened in 2020.

And truth be told, this is an incredible problem to have.

There are fans across the league who spend their Sundays watching bad players and bad quarterbacks who would love for their team’s problem to be that they are wasting good performances, but it is that very same fact that makes Baltimore’s continuous self-sabotaging all the more frustrating.

While many teams are dealing with intense water damage throughout the house, the Ravens have just a couple of cracks in the ceiling that are destabilizing the foundation, but they are doing absolutely nothing to fix it.

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And as long as that remains the case, they can kiss their Super Bowl dreams goodbye.