Late for Work 1/3: Ravens' Struggles to Finish Doomed the 2021 Season

Ravens Struggle to Finish, Playoff Chances Plummet

After three quarters of play against the Los Angeles Rams, the Ravens were in the driver’s seat. The defense had forced three turnovers and the Ravens extended their lead to 16-7.

But, in an all-too-familiar fashion, the game came down to the wire and for the third time this season, the Ravens suffered a one-point defeat, 20-19.

Sunday’s game mirrored the Ravens’ season. Baltimore jumped out to a 5-1 start, then sat at 8-3 and atop the AFC after Week 12. But, amidst another avalanche of injuries (including to star quarterback Lamar Jackson) and players landing on the COVID list, the Ravens sputtered down the stretch and are now in position to barely miss out on the playoffs.

“Since that wild win over the Vikings the Ravens have gone 2-6 and lost their last five straight,” Baltimore Beatdown’s Jake Louque wrote. “Six of those eight losses have been by one score, which paints the picture that the second half of this year has been the inverse of the first-that is, they’ve shown anything but the ability to finish when it counts.”

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley believes that inability to finish will have Baltimore’s season ending in Week 18.

“The Ravens’ inability to finish will keep them out of the playoffs,” Hensley wrote. “Four games in the Ravens’ five-game losing streak were decided by a total of five points. The Ravens, who once had a 91% chance of reaching the playoffs in Week 13, have watched their postseason chances plummet to 8%.”

Hensley’s mention of the 91% chance to make the playoffs is valid, but The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec remembers what it took for the Ravens to even be in such a position.

“But you can’t ignore how the Ravens even got to 8-3,” Zrebiec wrote. “They won a game on a Tucker 66-yard-field goal and a fourth-and-19 conversion to Sammy Watkins. They needed a Huntley heave to Watkins to beat the Chicago Bears. They staged remarkable fourth-quarter comebacks to beat the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts. There was no way they were going to survive living dangerously all season.”

And now, with the Ravens needing five games to swing all in their favor, many saw Sunday as a death knell for their playoff chances. The Baltimore Sun’s.

“The Ravens (8-8) remain alive on paper, but their hopes of making the postseason likely died when they could not keep the Rams out of the end zone in the last minute,” The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker wrote. “Again, they came up short by an excruciatingly slim margin against a healthier, more talented opponent.”

It’s been a painful final stretch to the Ravens’ season, and NBC Sports’ Peter King shared some of that heartache after attending yesterday’s game at M&T Bank Stadium.

“This really was a compelling game. The Ravens have been ravaged by injury and Covid unlike any team in the league. They’re paying 89 players (about 15 above the league average), with about $77 million in 2021 cap money on IR. You could argue the five most important positions on the run-heavy Ravens are QB, RB, LT, CB and CB. The starters at every one of those spots in August-Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Ronnie Stanley, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters-were hurt and not dressed Sunday,” King wrote.

“These must-win games are stressful enough for the players. But when I asked Baltimore vet Calais Campbell what this year had been like for him, he said, ‘Stressful. So stressed. Not just the game itself, but doing everything to be available for the game,’ he said. ‘I can’t afford to test positive. My team needs me. So I try to stay at home as much as possible. Even at home, I’ve been masking up, which is so weird. My son’s looking at me like, ‘Why do you have a mask on?’ But it’s crunch time. You just can’t risk it.”

Media Shuts Down QB Controversy Chatter

With Jackson still dealing with an ankle injury, Tyler Huntley was given the third start of his career. Through three games, Huntley’s performed admirably, which has created buzz among the fanbase and caused commentary on a possible quarterback controversy.

But after Huntley’s game against the Rams-one which was respectable by any NFL backup – local and national media are not fanning the flames.

Russell Street Report’s Derek Arnold:

“No, the Ravens aren’t in better hands with Tyler Huntley than they are with Lamar Jackson, and that was evident today.”

The Baltimore Sun’s Tim Schwartz:

“During this five-game losing streak, Baltimore has lost three by a single point. That seems unfathomable, but maybe it was meant to be this cruel considering how many injuries to star players this team had to overcome. Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley’s stock continues to rise, but Lamar Jackson’s absence is more proof that this team revolves around him.”


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