Welcome Ravens fans. I'm Josh, the bartender of your virtual Ravens sports bar. We're all friends here. The beer is cold. As fans since '96 we all know there are the Ravens games that just stand out (good and bad) and tonight, boy, tonight was one of those games that we'll talk about over a beer and a shot at one of our favorite corner bars for years to come. The season opener in Las Vegas on Monday Night Football against the Raiders was much like a typical night in Sin City. You're up big one minute and the next thing you know, you're flat on your back and lost everything. As the Ravens take a redeye flight back to BWI from Vegas, let's hope the team we saw tonight stays there and the real Ravens team shows up next week against (checks notes..) Kansas City..oh God.
Here are four factors from tonight's game that I wanted to talk to you about at the virtual Ravens sports bar (The Crow's Nest) my football friend. Tonight, we drink to forget but no tabs are allowed.
John Harbaugh, Greg Roman/BaltimoreRavens.com
Let's face it, we've seen the John Harbaugh/Greg Roman act so many times it gets old. The Ravens were built around the run game this season until the unholy timing of losing the top 3 running backs on your depth chart a few weeks before the season began. Yet, it seemed like GM Eric DeCosta got himself a diamond with Ty'Shon Williams who was third on the depth chart at running back but getting rave reviews from coaches and vets in training camp and DeCosta signed a bruiser to replace Gus Edwards in former Saints running back Latavius Murray as an instant contributor to the Baltimore offense. So, what do the Ravens do with their revamped running game? That's right, they passed the damn ball. More than they should have. While offseason pickup Sammy Watkins nearly had a 100-yard game and Hollywood Brown had a touchdown, this isn't successful Ravens football. The name of the game for the Ravens to prevail is to win the battle for time of possession. When things are going right for the offense, the running game grinds down the field, Jackson completes some passes as the defense tires, and the clock ticks as the other offense gather dust on the sideline. Tonight, the Raiders won the possession battle 36:47-29:08. Another coaching blunder was Harbaugh going for it on 4th down at the end of the first half instead of kicking a field goal and getting the ball back to start the second half. A 17-10 lead with momentum is a lot better than a 4th down stop and giving the Raiders a little life. Both Williams and Murray were effective tonight running the ball but could never get into a rhythm because Roman‘s play-calling went away from the run game again to start the second half with 3 straight incompletions from Jackson. Tonight and the playoff loss to the Titans in 2019 are more than enough evidence that when you don't play to the strength of the offense when you don’t run the damn ball and throw tight routes the Ravens lose their identity, and more often than not the game Itself.
Derek Carr passed for 400 yards against the Ravens/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The Raiders have their fair share of weapons at wide receiver but no one would confuse Derek Carr with an upper-echelon type quarterback. With Las Vegas's top running back Josh Jacobs hobbled by a toe injury, this would be the type of game that the Ravens defenders could pin their ears back and bull-rush Carr into making a few turnovers. There was a problem with that though. The Ravens defensive line could not get an effective pass-rush on Carr and he had all day to find Darren Waller and Bryan Edwards. It was apparent that the secondary was not up to the task on one on one matchups in the second half as the Ravens gave up 23 points as Edwards nearly scored to end the game and Zay Jones burnt Marlon Humphrey for a touchdown in overtime to ice the win in overtime for the silver and black.
Give Las Vegas credit, they drew up some nice schemes to isolate Waller on man on man matchups as the Ravens played very little zone defense
We're used to seeing the secondary step up in big situations and Humphrey was a disappointment tonight. The drive at the end of the second half that led to the tying field goal was a low point in recent Ravens history. For the last twenty years, it was almost unthinkable to make that drive down the field on the Ravens defense. It was the definition of "Playing Like a Raven" that the defense was going to hold strong and make that play at the end to seal the win. Tonight, the pride and the effort was not there for the Baltimore defense. Do you think that the former Ravens defensive players recognized this? Hey, don't take my word for it, let's see what former Raven Bernard Pollard had to say about tonight's effort at the end of overtime.
Lamar Jackson had two costly fumbles in the OT loss to the Raiders/Baltimore Sun
I will preface this section with a mea culpa that I love Lamar Jackson and what he has brought to Raven's identity. His stats were good on Monday night (19/30 235 yds 1 TD, 12 carries 86 yards) as he found his receivers and clearly has established a nice repertoire with both Brown and Watkins. He's also so dangerous in the open field and broke some great runs and put the offense on his back when they needed it. The problem with Jackson is the same kind of problem the Browns have with Baker Mayfield. It's that inopportune knack for a turnover in the absolute worst spot for it. Mayfield was brilliant against the Chiefs on Sunday and Cleveland had a chance to win the game and Mayfield threw a ridiculous interception while trying to throw the ball away in the final few minutes. Jackson did the equivalent against the Raiders. After the wild sequence in overtime where the Ravens caused a turnover in the end zone and after (another) Mark Andrews critical dropped pass, Jackson did the one thing on third down that gave the game to the Raiders. He put the ball on the turf and gave the Raiders great field position. We are at year four now of Jackson under huddle as our signal-caller. He's been brilliant, he's brought a swagger to the offense but there's always that critical mistake factor in his game when it's coming down the stretch. There's always the chance as the pocket collapses he'll pull off a highlight play on his own raw talent but it's on him to stop making that critical mistake that ultimately could cost the Ravens the game. This loss isn't on him. The moment he lost the ball though the game was over.
The Ravens Offensive Line/BaltimoreRavens.com
The Offensive Line
This is the group I put tonight's loss on. The linemen for the Ravens made the Raider's defense look like the '86 Bears. Losing Tyree Phillips to an injury mid-game hurt but former Raven Yannick Ngakoue made All-Pro guard Ronnie Staley (himself returning from a season-long injury) look like a statue as Ngakoue ended up in the Ravens backfield almost at will. Free-agent signing Aljerando Villanueva was effectively a speedbump to the Raiders pass rush and it became clear why the Steelers let him walk without an afterthought. The way the Ravens offense is designed is predicated on a line that is able to open up gaps for the running backs and able to shift and chip linebackers and safeties that are blitzing Jackson. It's clear that the absence of Nick Boyle at tight-end is a big cog in the Ravens offense machine. The Raiders looked ripe to fall victim to a screen-pass but the line was either unable to get down the field or the coaches failed to call it. The line is the foundation for this team and when they crumble, the whole team falls with it.
I'm telling myself not to overreact. It's week one. The Ravens could pull off the upset next week. They are still a playoff-caliber team. The schedule eases up after next week and there is an extra game added at the end of this season against (checks notes) the Rams.