The Baltimore Ravens may have had a chance to win the AFC North had the Bills-Bengals game been rescheduled, but let’s be honest: the Ravens do not deserve the divisional crown.
This year’s AFC North winner, the Cincinnati Bengals, will forever have an asterisk stamped next to their name in light of the Damar Hamlin incident. The Bengals did in fact win on a technicality, a rippling side effect of the Damar Hamlin situation in Week 17’s Bills-Bengals game, which most would agree was rightly cancelled.
Technicalities aside, though, it’s almost impossible to argue that, pound for pound, the Ravens were the best football team in the AFC North this season. If Baltimore somehow miraculously makes it to the AFC conference championship game, this argument can be revisited, but taking into account the season as a whole, the Ravens fell short of expectations and have no one to blame but themselves for their second-place finish in the division.
And no, it’s not because Lamar Jackson got injured.
Here’s a look at three areas where it all went wrong for the Ravens in the 2022 season.
Double-digit blown leads
In 2022, the Ravens recorded five blown leads which resulted in a loss: three were double-digit leads in the fourth quarter (against the Dolphins, Bills, Giants), one was a nine-point lead against the Jacksonville Jaguars also in the fourth quarter, and one was a 10-point lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third quarter.
In NFL history, 39 teams have recorded a double-digit lead at some point in each of their first six games, but the Ravens are the only qualified team with a losing record, according to ESPN.
All of Baltimore’s blown games have a few things in common: terrible second-half scoring differentials, leaky defensive coverage allowing chunk yardage plays, and sloppy penalties.
Lamar Jackson was playing in four of those five losses, which goes to show this problem doesn’t originate at the quarterback level but rather seeps through every layer of the team, from individual player performances to the play-calling to the mentality to everything in between.
In some cases, the defense let the offense down; in others, the roles were reversed. There’s no clear red-handed culprit here, just a bad habit of self-inflicted breakdowns in clutch scenarios leading to heartbreaking and demoralizing losses.
Thankfully, the Ravens were able to stamp out this ugly pattern more or less halfway through the season. Their most recent loss to the Steelers in Week 17 felt different from their other double-digit blown leads in that Baltimore never really were in control of the game. Still, the team will want those early season losses back.
The second part to this issue is that the Ravens haven’t been able to beat good teams. Baltimore has just one win against a team currently with a winning record all season — that was against the Cincinnati Bengals in October.
Ravens choked away the AFC North much earlier in the 2022 season
No improvements to the passing game
It all started with the Marquise Brown trade… or did it? Was it Rashod Bateman’s season-ending injury instead? Or Mark Andrews’ decline in production? Or should we all just throw up our hands and fire Greg Roman?
Pass the blame to whomever you want, but the passing game has regressed from last year and the Ravens have turned into a one-dimensional team because of it. In 2022, Baltimore averaged 172.8 passing yards per game, ranking 29th in the league above Tennessee, Atlanta, and Chicago. Those three teams currently have rookie or inexperienced quarterbacks under center — what’s the Ravens’ excuse?
The Ravens have also recorded 19 passing touchdowns on the year, which is roughly half of those of each of the AFC’s Big Three.
Baltimore’s run-heavy offense has inevitably hit a wall, and the team which was built around Lamar Jackson has become inconsistent and unsustainable. To run it back in 2023 with the same core roster pieces would be to keep jamming a square peg in a round hole. The results won’t get much better.
Change is brewing, and it happens to coincide with one of the most significant years in the Ravens’ modern era: Jackson’s contract year. There may be no quick fix to the Ravens’ ineffectual passing attack, yet after a season as disappointing as this, there are vital decisions to be made about the future of this offense.
Does the team want to keep building around Jackson, perhaps giving him a legitimate No. 1 receiver next year? Or will the team scrap their entire offensive philosophy, fire a few bodies, and start anew?
Awful red zone execution
This perhaps is more of a coaching issue than anything else and ties into the Ravens’ glaring offensive shortcomings this year. Baltimore is currently ranked 30th in red zone efficiency in 2022, struggling week after week to convert drives into touchdowns.
Watching the Ravens try to score a touchdown embodied the definition of insanity: to do the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
After the bye week, the Ravens held one of the league’s easiest remaining schedules, slated to play seven sub-.500 teams and presumably cruise to the top of the AFC North. Instead, Baltimore lost three of their last seven games, scoring an average of 14 points per game.
Head coach John Harbaugh once proudly said the Ravens can’t lose if their opponents don’t score, a true testament to the franchise’s gritty brand of defense. Well, the Ravens can’t win if they don’t score touchdowns, either. It works both ways.
Coin flip or no coin flip in the playoffs, first place or last place in the division, the Ravens cannot be satisfied with their 2022 performance.
The veil has been lifted. Despite putting together a 10-win season, Baltimore represent a postseason pretender rather than a serious contender and must re-evaluate their priorities or else risk going down the same painful road next year.
Congrats, Bengals. You earned the division.