The Ravens outplayed and outhit the Cincinnati Bengals for a lot of the night time however got here up brief after quarterback Tyler Huntley fumbled on the aim line and watched Sam Hubbard return the ball 98 yards for a game-winning landing in a 24-17 loss Sunday night time. This agonizing consequence was too acquainted for a group that completed the season feeling it was higher than its document confirmed.
Here are 5 issues we discovered from the Ravens’ last recreation of the 2022 season.
Tyler Huntley was so near being the hero; as an alternative, he’ll must reside with the play that misplaced the sport.
Huntley had simply put his group in place to win. All week, he had heard the Ravens couldn’t beat the closely favored Bengals with out Lamar Jackson at quarterback. National reporters had stated he would cut up time with undrafted rookie Anthony Brown.
All that doubt, and right here he was taking part in the sport of his life. On consecutive snaps of a tied playoff recreation, he discovered Mark Andrews for 25 yards alongside the sideline and sprinted 35 yards by a gash within the Cincinnati protection to place the Ravens on the cusp of a go-ahead landing. On third-and-goal, he leaped for pay grime, solely to be met excessive within the air by Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson, who knocked the ball unfastened. Somehow, it landed within the fingers of defensive finish Sam Hubbard, who chugged 98 yards for the longest fumble return in postseason historical past.
With one unbelievable (an overused phrase but it surely suits) twist, the Bengals leaped forward 24-17 — the ultimate margin of a recreation Huntley and his teammates had managed.
How merciless sports activities might be.
Neither Huntley’s teammates nor coach John Harbaugh tried to faux the fumble was simply one other play. “Obviously, the biggest play of the game,” Harbaugh stated afterward.
He wished Huntley had burrowed by the protection slightly than attempting to vault over it, however Huntley didn’t sound so certain. “Maybe they wouldn’t have returned it all the way,” he stated. “But at the time, I just felt like everybody was packed in. They shot for our O-linemen’s legs. … I just tried to make a play.”
Running again J.Ok. Dobbins, like many Ravens followers, felt Huntley “should have never been in that situation.” He needed the ball. “I believe I would have put it in the end zone,” he stated.
But that was not actuality. Instead, Huntley needed to reside with a second that undermined all of his good work on an evening when he threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 54 extra and went toe-to-toe with Joe Burrow, the man who went No. 1 general the identical 12 months he went undrafted.
Teammates did their finest to face up for him.
“He played his heart out,” Andrews stated. “I love that guy.”
Defensive finish Calais Campbell, the last word voice of expertise, consoled him within the locker room.
But Huntley knew the fumble would weigh on his coronary heart and thoughts for a very long time to come back. “I’m going to be thinking about that the whole offseason — just how one play, they won the game,” he stated. “It’s a whole different situation if that doesn’t happen.”
The Ravens are bored with feeling proud in defeat.
We have heard comparable phrases so many instances after slim defeats in high-stakes video games.
“I think people can say what they want about our team, but if they don’t think we’re a good team, then I don’t think they’re paying attention,” Harbaugh stated.
“It’s not always the best team that wins,” linebacker Roquan Smith stated. “You can’t dwell on it. You can’t get down about it. That’s life. … It’s all about how we’re going to respond next year.”
The Ravens earned the best to say this stuff by outplaying the defending AFC champions on enemy turf. At the identical time, they’ve to grasp their followers are fed up with noble defeat.
The truth is, offensive coordinator Greg Roman known as a goal-line play that didn’t work once they had an opportunity to grab management of the sport within the fourth quarter. Many who root for the Ravens is not going to be completely happy if he nonetheless has his job in per week.
Others groaned as Harbaugh declined to name a timeout as 34 seconds ticked off the clock with the Ravens on the Cincinnati 17-yard line on their last drive of the sport. Harbaugh stated he needed to attain with out giving the ball again to the Bengals, however once more, that gained’t fulfill many who watched.
Difficult because it was to digest, the loss match the theme of squandered promise that characterised a lot of this Ravens’ season.
There was a time, after they dealt with the Saints in New Orleans with Smith newly put in on the coronary heart of their protection, when the 2022 Ravens appeared able to go on a run. They had been 6-3, with time to relaxation and heal because of a serendipitous bye week and a comparatively simple schedule awaiting them down the stretch.
When the video games resumed, nonetheless, their offense remained in hibernation. They gained video games through which they scored 13, 10 and 16 factors, and their standing as a contender grew extra tenuous when Jackson limped to the locker room after the primary quarter of their Dec. 4 victory over the Denver Broncos.
Few predicted they might have an opportunity towards the streaking Bengals, who little question needed to humiliate them after a contentious regular-season finale on the identical discipline. So, in fact, the Ravens performed their finest recreation in weeks. Huntley pushed the ball downfield. Andrews made clutch grabs. The protection bottled up Burrow for the third time this season.
They did a lot proper and nonetheless, they ended the night time looking for the phrases to clarify why it had not labored out.
J.Ok. Dobbins will likely be a pivotal determine because the Ravens flip their consideration to 2023.
Dobbins couldn’t include his anger after the sport. He anticipated to hold the Ravens to victory and couldn’t perceive why he wasn’t given extra alternative to take action.
“I’m a guy who feels like if I’m on the field all the time, I can help this team win, and I wasn’t,” he stated after carrying 13 instances for 62 yards and catching 4 passes for 43 and a landing. “It’s the playoffs. Why am I not out there?”
He was not finished, saying he had expressed his frustrations to coaches on the sideline: “I’m tired of it. I’m a playmaker. I’m a guy that my teammates feed off me when I’m on the field. I should be out there all the time.”
While many followers shared Dobbins’ fury when it was over, others will possible understand immaturity or selfishness in his feedback.
Dobbins is likely one of the most outspokenly formidable gamers on the group. Last week, he stated he would need the sport on his again even when Jackson was at quarterback. This uncommon drive helped push him from the highschool fields of small-town Texas to a 2,000-yard season at Ohio State. It fueled him to common 5.7 yards per carry this season after a 12 months spent rehabilitating a horrible knee harm. He had the boldness to place his season on maintain for a follow-up surgical procedure when he knew his knee nonetheless was not proper.
Harbaugh would in all probability desire to not hear Dobbins say he ought to have had the ball as an alternative of Huntley on a selected play. But he admires his No. 1 operating again’s underlying want to be nice. Dobbins was the Ravens’ most dynamic offensive participant in Jackson’s absence. He may very well be one of many key stars on the group subsequent fall if he channels his frustration into self-improvement, as he promised he would.
Anger is ineffective if spewed chaotically, however nobody would accuse Dobbins of residing his life with out objective.
Ja’Marr Chase reminded the Ravens what they lack.
The Ravens have developed an efficient defensive method towards Burrow, giving him few possibilities to shoot for explosive performs.
But even in a tense recreation, with each yard onerous to come back by, nice playmakers transcend. Chase is Cincinnati’s nice playmaker.
He didn’t embarrass the Ravens as he had in his 201-yard breakout final season, however he discovered each crevice of their protection schemes, making the third-down catches that stored the Bengals transferring as they constructed a first-half lead. The Ravens knew he was public enemy No. 1 and nonetheless, he beat them.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey gave the second-year star credit score for adjusting when his favored vertical routes had been unavailable. “We wanted to play a little off here, a little press here,” he stated. “I think they did a really good job of, based off what we were doing, they did something different. They obviously had some stuff where Chase was going to be a big target, and it basically worked pretty good.”
Chase’s manufacturing was one more reminder of the void the Ravens have to fill at huge receiver. Andrews is the closest they must a cross catcher who can win towards any protection. They will once more hope for 2021 first-round choose Rashod Bateman to interrupt out in 2023 after he misplaced most of this season to harm. But no Baltimore huge receiver caught greater than two passes towards the Bengals, persevering with a pattern we’ve seen for many of this 12 months. Something has to alter — expertise, scheme or each — as a result of the Ravens begin each massive recreation at a deficit.
Buckle up for the season of Lamar.
All too usually over the previous few days, the Ravens’ preparations for his or her climactic rematch with the Bengals felt like a mere subplot to the intrigue round their franchise quarterback, his swollen knee and his unsettled future.
When it turned apparent final Wednesday that Jackson wouldn’t in reality swoop in to save lots of the season, we swiftly turned to debating what that meant.
Was he extra significantly harm than anybody realized and had the Ravens created false hope by expressing a lot optimism about his prognosis within the hours and days after he limped to the locker room in Week 13? This was the preferred idea amongst followers after Jackson spoke by way of Twitter, saying his knee remained unstable and that he couldn’t “give a 100% of myself to my guys and fans.”
But a much less sympathetic line of considering emerged Friday and Saturday. First, Ravens huge receiver Sammy Watkins was quoted in The Washington Post, saying of Jackson: “I hope he hobbles back out there.” Then, Michael Vick, considered one of Jackson’s childhood heroes, delivered a pointed message to the Ravens quarterback on Fox’s Saturday pregame present: “Put a brace on it. Let’s go.” With these feedback, we started to glean that not everybody within the NFL brotherhood endorsed Jackson’s reluctance to play at lower than full power.
Teammates had been extra forgiving after the sport, which Jackson didn’t attend. “You know, a 50-60% Lamar Jackson, I just don’t think he was really healthy enough to go out there,” Humphrey stated. “He kind of made that clear with the tweet he sent. There was a lot of speculation with him not having the contract, this, that and the third. But you know, I don’t even know if I should say this, but he’s like limping around the facility. That’s kind of the crazy thing that people don’t see. Obviously, we knew that he wasn’t going to be out there with us, but hopefully we sign him to a big-term deal and he’s a Raven with me forever.”
The Ravens almost gained Sunday with out the participant round whom their offense was designed. But the story at all times tilts again to Jackson, and he’ll dominate the headlines round this group for the foreseeable future. Since he and the Ravens put contract negotiations on maintain earlier than the season, we’ve got assumed these discussions would resume and that normal supervisor Eric DeCosta can be prepared to make use of the franchise tag — within the neighborhood of $45 million — to maintain Jackson in place for 2023 if no extension may very well be reached.
This is a sophisticated sufficient story on these phrases. Is Jackson in a weaker negotiating place after accidents reduce brief every of his final two seasons? Would he maintain out (or hold-in) subsequent summer season if the Ravens resort to the franchise tag? But it will likely be way more difficult if there’s a real disconnect between Jackson and the franchise over the dealing with of his knee harm. For the primary time on this complete saga, the thought of a commerce doesn’t appear far-fetched. The Ravens have a championship-caliber protection and several other key items — left deal with Ronnie Stanley, tight finish Mark Andrews, operating again J.Ok. Dobbins — on offense. They may attempt to trade Jackson for sufficient draft capital to choose his alternative and nonetheless not free-fall out of the playoff image. For all of the successful and pleasure he has delivered to Baltimore, perhaps the Ravens now not need to be held in thrall to the drama round their quarterback. Perhaps it is not going to come to a breakup, however each chance is on the desk as we sit up for the following few months.