Flying with the Flock: Ravens vs. Titans Recap
FLYING WITH THE FLOCK: RAVENS VS. TITANS RECAP – Perhaps the Ravens have finally learned their lesson. With two losses already this season in “trap games,” it was refreshing to see Baltimore handle business against an inferior opponent.
Same Old Story
With a 15-point lead entering half, it felt Baltimore was on the cusp of a blowout. But keeping with the season’s theme, they failed to pull away and left the door open for Tennessee. On the Ravens’ second drive out of the half, Lamar Jackson threw an interception deep in his own territory.
Judging by Jackson’s reaction, it seemed Rashod Bateman broke his route off in a way that his QB didn’t expect, resulting in an apparently ugly miss. Two plays later, Kyle Hamilton was ejected for a brutal hit on a Titans receiver. Tennessee cashed in on the short field and penalty yardage, coming away with their first touchdown of the game and cutting their deficit to five.
It was shades of last week’s implosion in Pittsburgh, and the dread of another heartbreaking loss ballooned with each Ravens error.
Next Man Up
But an unlikely hero emerged in London. Geno Stone, the man who replaced Hamilton, made an excellent play to intercept a deep Tannehill pass and quell the Titans’ comeback effort. Despite rotating in and out as a starter, Stone has a team-leading three interceptions this season.
Set to enter free agency after this year, his nose for the football in limited action ensures a team will compensate him handsomely.
Red Zone Woes
Entering this game, the Ravens boasted the league’s third-best red zone offense, coming away with touchdowns 72.2 percent of the time. But offensive coordinator Todd Monken must have left his red zone call sheet in the terminal when he boarded the team flight last Monday. The Ravens were an abysmal one for six converting red zone possessions into touchdowns against the Titans.
Tennessee deserves credit for making life hard inside their 20, but considerable blame also falls on Baltimore for a failure to execute. A 16.7 percent success rate would be the worst red zone offense in the league by a large margin, but one week of struggles after five of dominance shouldn’t have fans in a panic. It was nice to see the Ravens’ Zay Flowers finally get his first touchdown.
The rookie has been everything the team could have dreamed of to this point, and it was about time he was rewarded for all his work.
A Kicker’s Dream
John Harbaugh was unrecognizable making fourth-down decisions on Sunday. The typically aggressive, analytics-driven coach suddenly became the model of conservatism. The Ravens faced seven fourth downs inside Tennessee territory with five or fewer yards to go.
Harbaugh elected to kick a field goal or punt on all of them. Justin Tucker did not complain, tying his personal record of six field goals in a single game. I joked in the preview about London fans’ appreciation for kicking, but I’m sure even they were a little tired of seeing number nine trot onto the field.
I, for one, was happy to see some restraint on Harbaugh’s part. Getting greedy has cost the Ravens over the past few years, so a Flacco-esque victory was a nostalgic treat.
It might not have been dominant, but that win felt major. Facing a scrappy Titans team outside the country a week removed from an emotional division loss is no easy task. A matchup with a 5-1 Lions team is hardly a homecoming gift, but it was the organization’s choice not to take their bye week directly following the trip to London.
As frustrating as this season has been, it’s trending upwards. The Ravens are atop the AFC North, relatively healthy, and have the conference’s fourth-best point differential.