Sat, 28 Jan 2023

Kyle Barber Familiar Fears Arise After Fourth Quarter Defeat

As Justin Tucker's field goal attempt from 67 yards fell short, the Ravens suffered a familiar defeat, losing a two-score lead in the fourth quarter as the Jacksonville Jaguars won, 28-27. Many considered these losses to be behind the franchise, including NFL.com's Eric Edholm.

"Entering Sunday, Baltimore's four-game win streak, with a couple of close ones in there, helped ease many minds over the Ravens' propensity for letting leads slip away late. Gone are both the win streak and the eased minds," Edholm wrote. "And yet we'd be remiss not to mention the failures of the Ravens' defense late, allowing the Jaguars to come alive late after Baltimore had dominated them in the third quarter. This one is going to sting for the Ravens, who watched the Bengals match their 7-4 mark to tighten the AFC North even more."

The blown-lead loss, along with the offensive struggles that have plagued the team throughout the season, have The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer questioning the Ravens' being Super Bowl contenders.

"After the game, the Ravens said there were lessons to learn about the razor-slim margin between victory and defeat," Shaffer wrote. "But after another fourth-quarter collapse, what other wisdom is there to gain that this season's low points haven't already offered? The Ravens entered this game with promising playoff odds, but they left it with even more questions about their prospects if they get there. Not many Super Bowl contenders struggle this much passing the ball or in high-leverage situations."

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec ponders the same.

"The Ravens said all the right things, just like they did after the losses to the Dolphins, Bills and Giants," Zrebiec wrote. "What they haven't done is shown that they've learned their lesson. And until they do, it's going to be awfully hard to consider them a viable Super Bowl contender. They entered Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville looking like a team that was ready to go on a run. They exited it with the same-old questions about their ability to close games."

Red Zone Issues Could Be Ravens' '*Fatal Flaw*'

Entering Sunday's game against the Jaguars, the Ravens red zone offense had scored touchdowns at a 52-percent rate, good for No. 20 in the NFL. They finished going 2-for-5 for touchdowns in the red zone against the Jaguars, and Press Box's Bo Smolka thinks this could be the Ravens "fatal flaw."

"The Ravens couldn't beat the Jaguars with short field goals, so there is no reason to think they can do it against any high-octane offenses that they hope to see in the postseason," Smolka wrote. "And if they don't get this red-zone problem figured out, there might not be any postseason."

ESPN's Jamison Hensley: "The Baltimore offense is keeping lesser teams in games by failing to finish off drives. The Ravens are 3-of-9 in the red zone the last two games, including 2-of-5 on Sunday. Jackson is struggling inside the 20-yard line after excelling there for years. Over the last two weeks, Jackson is 2-of-10 passing for 17 yards in the red zone. From 2018 to 2021, Jackson had completed 60.2% of his red-zone passes, throwing 59 touchdowns and two interceptions."

Baltimore Positive's Luke Jones shared a similar sentiment.

"But if we're going to continue to look at [the red zone struggles] in terms of not just take it a week at a time as a team but as you and I are and fans are looking ahead and seeing how this team might stack up to the other heavyweights in the AFC, I'm seeing flaws that are going to do them in and they're going to do them in sooner rather than later in postseason," Jones said.

Part of the difficulties in the red zone were play clock issues, which have bogged down the Ravens according to Zrebiec, "the past couple years."

"The Ravens' red zone issues are now a trend and there's hardly one thing to point to. Demarcus Robinson and Mark Andrews both had potential touchdown catches clank off their hands, although Baltimore did get in the end zone after Andrews' drop," Zrebiec wrote. "Jackson, who completed just 16 of 32 passing attempts and missed a wide-open Robinson for a potential long touchdown on the first drive, sailed a pass to an open Oliver in the end zone. There was another instance where the Ravens took a delay of game penalty while in the red zone. The play clock issues are not a trend. Rather they've been almost a constant in the past couple of years."

Numerous members of the media noted the play clock issues during the game.

Lamar Jackson's Passing Lacking Precision

Throughout the season, Lamar Jackson has struggled connecting with his pass catchers. On Sunday, Jackson didn't link up with wide receiver Demarcus Robinson early for a touchdown and struggled with downfield passing. For Smolka, Jackson's accuracy "is an issue that can't be ignored."

"But the Ravens can't ignore the misfires from Lamar Jackson, who overshot open receivers on deep balls at least three times. Jackson finished 16-for-32 for 254 yards, and his completion percentage, which had been ranked 24th coming into the game (63.4), has slipped to 62.1 percent," Smolka wrote.

Though the receiving unit didn't lend many favors with four players dropping catchable passes, Smolka believes more of the offensive struggles relate to Jackson's imprecise throws.

"The bigger issue, though, was Jackson missing on what could have been home run throws, including overthrowing a wide-open Robinson by several yards on the second play of the game," Smolka wrote. "Jackson also overshot Andrews deep down the right sideline, and lofted a pass down the seam just past a leaping Josh Oliver. A deep pass for Duvernay also landed incomplete. When the Ravens offense scuffles, offensive coordinator Greg Roman faces the lion's share of the criticism. But several times in this game, the scheme and the play design had receivers running free, but Jackson overthrew them. That's on Jackson, not Roman."

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