Well, that’s a wrap on the 2016 Baltimore Ravens season (with one more game to go). Baltimore fell 31-27 to their arch rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in dramatic fashion. The Ravens showed heart in their last meaningful game of 2016. They also showed, as John Harbaugh stated after the game, that they are indeed close to being a great team.
It is always disappointing for a season to end without a post-season appearance. But, the reality is, not every team can make it every year. Baltimore was a much better team in 2016 than it was in 2015. It was hard to see any optimism for this team after Week Nine last year. This year, the team started off 4-0 in AFC North games, beat the Cincinnati Bengals for the first time in five games, and were in contention for a division crown until Christmas. It wasn’t the season most fans hoped for, but it was much better than 2015.
Now it is up to the Front Office to build even more on that improvement in 2017. Here are my thoughts on the Raven’s loss to the Steelers.
What I Liked
- Fought Hard Against The Odds. Not many NFL analysts picked Baltimore to win this game, but they gave Pittsburgh hell anyway. Who knew they would’ve led 20-10 early in the 4th quarter, with 2 interceptions, and a chance to sweep Pittsburgh for the second straight year? This game is already being seen as the best game of 2016. The tide turned after a 3-and-out from Joe Flacco’s offense along with two straight touchdown drives from the Steelers. After losing their 10-point lead, Baltimore answered with a 14-play, 75-yard, 5:58 second touchdown drive to take the lead back with 1:18 seconds to go. Of course, the defense faltered and could not hold the lead, but no one can say Baltimore didn’t fight hard.
- Using Juszczyk On The Final Drive. Baltimore took back their lead late in the 4th quarter with a long touchdown drive that was capped off by a 10-yard Juszczyk run. Both of the first-time Pro Bowler’s rushes and receptions came on that final drive, totaling 25 yards. Juszczyk is one of the last fullbacks left in the league, and he deserves a spot on this Baltimore offense.
- Linebackers Getting Interceptions. Both inside linebackers (C.J. Mosley and Zachary Orr) recorded interceptions in the second half on Sunday. That makes 4 for Mosley, and 3 for Orr on the year. Their 7 interceptions total more than the entire defense recorded in 2015 (6). Mosley’s biggest knock the past few years has been his pass coverage, but next to Orr, it has improved. Look for this linebacking duo to wreck havoc on opposing QBs for years to come.
What I Didn’t Like
The 4th Quarter Collapse. Giving up 3 touchdowns in the 4th quarter is unacceptable. Even more so because they held the Steelers to 10 points in the first three. Why was there such a monumental collapse? Many factors contributed to it.
First, Baltimore’s use of prevent defense has come back to haunt them yet again. The defense played so well under its normal scheme in both games against Pittsburgh this season. Once they had a lead in the 4th quarter, they switched to a prevent defense, and allowed Pittsburgh to gain momentum both times. In the two meetings this year, Pittsburgh scored 5 touchdowns in the 4th quarter, while Baltimore primarily used its prevent packages. While the prevent defense was much to blame on defense, the offense also faltered in the 4th quarter.
The two biggest drives, to me, that paved the way for Pittsburgh’s comeback came from Flacco’s offense. Mosley’s interception gave Flacco the ball on Pittsburgh’s 11-yard line up 17-10 with a chance to go up by 14. Baltimore couldn’t capitalize (Darren Waller was unable to hold on to an endzone reception) and settled for a field goal. Pittsburgh scored a touchdown on its next drive, and Baltimore responded with a 3-and-out. Pittsburgh scored again and suddenly this was their game to lose, leading 24-20 with 7 minutes to go.
That type of inefficiency in the offense loses games, and I have written multiple times this year that it would not fly in the final 4 games of 2016. Baltimore’s Achilles Heel this season has been its inconsistency on offense, for many reasons.
Flacco and Steve Smith Sr. missed much of the offseason coming off serious injuries. New skill position players were introduced like Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Kenneth Dixon, and Benjamin Watson (for a short period). Starting running back Justin Forsett was cut and OC Marc Trestman was fired, both midseason. And finally, the offensive line struggled with injuries for much of the year and were shuffled around often. The offense did have some high points throughout the year, and most often came when they were consistent with their players/play-calling. If Baltimore can get over the injury bug, and pair that with an offensive coordinator that has a set identity, the offense can build on the potential it showed at times this year.
- This was a gut-wrenching loss for Baltimore. A season with promise ended against their bitter rivals, in an environment they have won in before, and with a game they felt they should have won. The offense played well for much of the game, but dealt with inefficiencies on two late, critical drives. The defense had no answers in the 4th quarter, and gave up two separate leads. Baltimore preaches playing for 60 minutes every game under John Harbaugh, and this game was the perfect example for what can happen if you don’t. Baltimore improved from 2015, and can now focus on how to make more improvement in 2017.
Week Seventeen Preview
- Baltimore may have nothing to play for in the final week of the regular season, but there is still one major reason to watch. Steve Smith Sr. will be playing the final game of his 16-year career, which will most likely end in the Hall of Fame. Smith Sr. is the most passionate player on the field during each game, and will leave a void in leadership for Baltimore’s 2017 squad. His 2016 stat line going into this final game is 67 receptions, 765 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Not bad for an old man.
Ravens’ Alex Collins Arrested
Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins was arrested early on Friday morning following a car crash about a mile from the Ravens’ team facility, according to a report from the Baltimore Sun.
Per the report: Officers responded to a report of a car that had crashed into a tree on the 10000 block of Dolfield Road at about 6:48 a.m. Friday morning, Baltimore County police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Peach said.
Collins, 24, was arrested, however charges were not made public at the time of this writing.
Ravens vice president of public relations Chad Steele told The Baltimore Sun that the team has spoken with law enforcement and is aware of the situation involving Collins.
Collins is coming off a down year with Baltimore after a breakout campaign in 2017. Collins managed only 411 yards rushing in 2018 and was placed on injured reserve back in December, ending his season early.
Ray Rice Says He Is Done With Football
Former NFL running back Ray Rice, who had been working to try and get a second chance in the NFL over the past couple of years, is no longer pursuing a comeback.
“I’ll be the first one to say it; I don’t have to retire to tell you I’m done with football” Rice said, during an interview on CBS This Morning.
“The pressure I was under of being a star, that was the person I hated the most.”
Rice was suspended indefinitely back in 2014 when a video surfaces showing Rice punching his then-fiancee, now wife, Janay Rice while the two were alone in an elevator.
Rice was never picked up by another team following the conclusion of his suspension, and his release from the Baltimore Ravens.
Rice said that he sees “similarities” between his situation and the one of former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, who was recently cut loose by the team when a video surfaced showing him pushing and kicking a woman in a hallway.
“Somewhere down the line everybody who’s sayin’, ‘Does he deserve a second chance for football?’ And this that and the other— I actually got my second chance” Rice said of Hunt, who cleared waivers and is now a free agent.
“During my darkest moments, and I used to ask myself, ‘How could she even be—want to support me?’ … That’s understandable. But I think what’s misunderstood about us is that the friends we were before the incident. That’s why, like I said, when I look at Kareem Hunt, I wanna know what his life was like. I want to know what happened in life. I know Kareem has apologized, and has expressed remorse for survivors of domestic violence.”
Ravens Trying To Entice Fans With Lower Concession Prices
The Baltimore Ravens are attempting to win back fans and their latest plan is making a big step toward doing just that as the team announced on Tuesday that they will reduce concession prices at M&T Bank Stadium in 2018.
The Ravens have been on a mission to bring back fans who were angered by some players’ national anthem protests coupled with their 3-year playoff drought.
A series of moves have demonstrated their efforts. The team invited fans to ask questions at a media pre-draft news conference held a question-and-answer session with fans at the team facility with owner Steve Bisciotti, coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome, and also have had team president Dick Cass meet and talk to fan clubs.
While the team has sold out every game during their 20-year history at M&T Bank Stadium, empty seats grew in numbers as the 2017 season wore on, and the no-shows are very obvious.
The organization is taking this initiative very seriously.
“It’s something I would really like to take a hard look at, and at least, come up with select items that we can do,” Bisciotti said back in February of this year.
“If it means us … I can’t make Aramark do that with me, but I can make them go along as long as it’s my share of the profits that I’m waiving. Yeah, I’d like to take a look at that. I think we could probably do that.”
There is an official news conference scheduled for Thursday where the Ravens will officially announce price reductions on concessions.
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