Three positive takeaways from Ravens’ Week 17 bitter defeat
Plenty of ink will be spilled on how poorly the Baltimore Ravens played in Week 17’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but here are just a few bright spots from Sunday night.
Baltimore’s offense completely broke down in the final quarter, and head coach John Harbaugh placed most of the blame on himself and the coaching staff for coming up with a faulty game plan.
There was a lot to criticize about Week 17’s game, yet in an effort to stay positive (it is the new year after all), why not dive into some of the more promising takeaways first?
Here’s a short breakdown of what the Ravens did well on Sunday.
The Ravens’ pass defense
“Pass” is the key word here since the run defense looked the worst it’s been since linebacker Roquan Smith joined the team.
Even with Calais Campbell out, the Ravens simply should not have allowed Steelers running back Najee Harris, who hadn’t eclipsed 100 rushing yards all season, to rush for 111 yards with the rest of Pittsburgh’s running back room adding 98 yards as well.
The team’s pass defense, on the other hand, held the Steelers’ receiving corps to 168 yards in the air with no single receiver totaling more than 40 yards.
Some worries surfaced after Marcus Peters got injured as Brandon Stephens has been asked to step up and take starting snaps, but Stephens put together a fine performance that included a crucial red zone pass deflection in the first quarter.
Kyle Hamilton logged a quarterback hit, and Chuck Clark and Marcus Williams finished first and second respectively on the team in total tackles.
The caveat is, of course, that Baltimore was facing a volatile and inexperienced passer in Kenny Pickett. Holding, say, the Cincinnati Bengals’ three wideouts to 80 yards would be a much more impressive feat, but this is a solid start.
Mark Andrews’ resurgence?
There’s a question mark at the end because we’re not sure if Andrews can generate more consistent production heading into the playoffs.
In Week 17, though, Andrews finished with a team-high nine receptions for 100 yards, by far his biggest game since Week 6 against the New York Giants.
Andrews has suffered from injuries, Lamar Jackson’s absence, and has also been swallowed up in opponents’ double-team packages for the second half of the season, yet Andrews burst back onto the scene as Huntley’s favorite and most reliable pass-catcher.
When targeting Andrews, Huntley was 9-for-9; when targeting the other receivers, Huntley was 5-for-11 for 30 yards.
Having Andrews back in elite form could help unlock the Ravens’ offense moving forward, albeit he alone wasn’t enough to carry the team to a much-needed win.
J.K. Dobbins with 17 carries
Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins finished with a career-high 17 carries on Sunday night, and he turned those carries into 93 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
The fact that Dobbins received the lion’s share of the running back workload could just have been part of the game script, but it could also be due to the Ravens’ growing trust in him.
Dobbins was getting inconsistent carries at the beginning of the season and just didn’t look fully recovered from 2021’s horrendous injury; after his mid-season surgery, however, Dobbins has gotten double-digit carries in every game and has been slowly working his way up to prime form.
With Lamar Jackson still sidelined, Dobbins embodies the most talented and productive ball-carrier on the Ravens’ roster and should be fed as such.
Greg Roman was heavily criticized for not utilizing Dobbins in the fourth quarter of Week 15’s loss to the Cleveland Browns, and now it appears as though the Ravens are leaning more on Dobbins to sustain drives and serve as a dangerous threat in the red zone.
Dobbins only has two rushing touchdowns on the year, yet the scoring production will come later — first things first, the Ravens have to give him the ball.
Some honorable mentions of things we liked from the game: Justin Tucker is making field goals again and all is right with the world. (He perfectly hit a 51-yarder in the dead center of the goal posts.)
Isaiah Likely also recorded the team’s only touchdown — tight ends and touchdowns are two things that just feel proper in the Ravens’ offense for 2023 and beyond.