For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, this embarrassing showing on the largest stage by the Baltimore Ravens has to be concerning. This was a game that had all of the hype and buildup. It was a chance at home for the Ravens to exorcise their demons of the past; to demonstrate that their physicality could elevate them above the speed and magical moments of the Mahomes-led Super Bowl champions. Everything was on the line, but the Ravens were totally dominated after their initial strong drive to begin the game. The score was only this close because of a poor decision by Kansas City to allow a TD kickoff return and because the lopsided score at halftime made the Chiefs complacent for several series. But when they needed to kick it into gear, the Chiefs were met with little resistance from a confused and disconnected Ravens defense.
Here are some of the areas of concern going forward:
– The lack of physicality on the part of the linebackers against the run and their inability to cover short to mid-range passes over the middle. In the past you could always count on the linebacker unit to define what it means to “play like a Raven.” Somehow they have become almost invisible and the weak link in the defense. Where were the rookies: Queen and Harrison? They were caught flat-footed, staring into the backfield, wondering why so many receivers were flooding their zones for wide open receptions.
– What has happened to the Ravens tackling at the second level? Our defensive line still has some dominant physicality, but it used to be that a linebacker or safety could put a hit on a runner and stop him sometimes in his tracks. No longer. Now we have to suffer the indignity of being dragged along for 5-10 extra yards as additional defenders try to jump on the back of the pile to finally slow the runner to a crawl to force the ref to finally blow the whistle – sort of like a mercy call. It doesn’t look like we want to aggressively confront runners and wrap them up in the secondary.
– The outside linebackers generated little significant pass rush. Time after time, one of the edge defenders on the line would take an inside pass rush lane, only to leave the flank totally exposed for Mahomes to roll out and take his time surveying the field or jaunt on over to the sideline for an easy ten yard gain. What has happened to Ferguson? He seems now like a wasted draft pick. Judon should have used this stage to hit the cash register for the extra millions he will want to demand in free agency. He could not make a play. McPhee seems just too old and slow to make much of a difference any more. The Chiefs seemed to have an answer for whatever type of blitz scheme the Ravens tried to use.
– The communication in the secondary was continually exposed as pointed out numerous times by the TV commentators. Partly you have to give the Chiefs credit for their excellent play scheming and the speed and quickness of their receivers. But they were running wide open all over the field. The Chiefs are able to spread out the defenders and make use of the entire field. We tend to play too soft to try to protect against the big play over the top. But they get so many yards after the catch that they end up slicing and dicing us all the way down the field. We need to be more physical with the receivers at the line of scrimmage. [By contrast, look at how the Chiefs were able to crowd the line against us on defense and dare us to throw the ball downfield. They did not give us any space to maneuver.]
– This was another big game where Jackson seemed to tighten up and not have the touch on his passes that we have seen in other games. He was just a little off all night so that he missed on the big chances where we needed to convert. It didn’t help that his receivers didn’t rise to the occasion and help him out with some big-time catches. If the throw wasn’t perfect, they weren’t making the play. The wide open Brown down the right sideline in the fourth quarter should have been an easy TD. Mark Andrews seemed to struggle all night.
– The offensive line continues to struggle in pass protection. It is hard to imagine that a QB as elusive as Jackson could be cornered for four sacks.
– The coaching staff places too much stock in Mark Ingram II. I think the other two backs deserve more reps. Dobbins gives us more versatility and speed to get to the corners. [There was one sweep to the left sideline that I thought would go for a big gain and Ingram just never got there.] Gus the Bus seems more efficient and powerful in the runs up the middle.
– I didn’t like the play calls at the end of the initial drive of the game. We easily and efficiently moved the ball on the ground all the way down inside the five yard line. On second down, if we had just kept running the ball straight up the gut for 3 more plays, we certainly would have been able to get that crucial initial TD. The stop by the Chiefs there set the tone for the game.
– I think Devin Duvernay has earned more chances at the wide receiver position. He has been excellent on the sweep play and has caught the couple of balls thrown his way. Let’s try to use his speed in conjunction with Brown.
Bottom line, if it were not for some Kansas City miscues (like a poor game from their kicker), the score differential would have been worse. We were only in the game for one brief moment in the fourth quarter where we crawled back to a 7 point deficit. But then we allowed a demoralizing dominating time-consuming drive that put the game away with an embarrassing TD reception by their offensive tackle.
But it must be said, this was only one game and it is a long season. Hopefully we can address some of the above concerns.