A painful way to begin the season.
The Ravens came out on the wrong end of a Monday night thriller in Week 1, losing to the Raiders in overtime by a score of 33-27. It was a wild, electric contest that saw an almost impossible game script play out in Las Vegas.
Baltimore scored the first 14 points of the game and held two separate leads of 17-10 and 24-17 in the second half. Unfortunately, they came up short late and now begin the season with an 0-1 record as a result. This marks the first time the Ravens have lost a season opener since 2015.
Some takeaways from the disappointing defeat below.
1) Offensive line is a huge work-in-progress
For most of the offseason, the Ravens worked with a patchwork offensive line. It was not until the final week of the preseason that they fielded a legitimate a unit of five potential starters. There was some concern that they didn’t have enough time to gel but also some room for optimism that they could piece things together and hit the ground running.
Against the Raiders, the Ravens’ offensive line looked more like the former. Aside from opening a some good rushing lanes, they were generally overmatched by the Las Vegas front-seven — specifically in pass protection.
Maxx Crosby had his way with Alejandro Villanueva all night. He had two sacks and five quarterback hits. Yannick Ngaouke and Carl Nassib got pressure, also. Ronnie Stanley was far from his best and on top of that, starting left guard Tyre Phillips exited early with a leg injury and was carted off the field.
To be fair, Jackson was frantic in the pocket and hesitancy to deliver the ball at times, which did not help matters. However, the pocket collapsed quickly far too much, divulging the Ravens’ offense into off-script plays.
2) The Ravens did not generate enough pass rush
On the flip side, the Ravens’ defensive front was not nearly as effective. Against a pieced-together Las Vegas offensive line, this was a favorable matchup for the Ravens to take advantage of on-paper. Unfortunately, they were not disruptive enough.
The Ravens had three sacks and seven quarterback hits as a team — identical numbers to the Raiders — but it did not feel that way. Derek Carr had ample time to throw late in the game and picked apart the Ravens’ secondary in the fourth quarter and overtime. Carr seemed far too comfortable and it showed, as he finished with north of 400 passing yards.
In usual fashion, “Wink” Martindale dialed up Cover 0 blitzes and other packages but nothing seemed to hit home. Odafe Oweh, Pernell McPhee and Justin Houston had some nice individual moments getting pressure. Patrick Queen had a sack himself, also.
But to win this game, the Ravens needed to outright win the matchup in the trenches. That did not happen to the degree it should have.
3) A tale of two games for both sides of the ball
For the first three quarters of this game, the Ravens’ defense was generally stout. They allowed just 10 points and pitched two scoreless quarters in the first and third. The defensive backs were mostly sticky in coverage, the Ravens limited big plays, and tackled well in the open field.
During this same span, the Ravens offense scored 17 points but were far from stellar. Of their eight drives during the first three quarters, four resulted in a punt and one resulted in a turnover on downs after a failed conversion attempt on 4th & 1. The Raiders went scoreless in the third quarter. Instead of capitalizing, the Ravens mustered only a field goal and gained less than 50 yards of offense.
Then, in the fourth quarter, the script flipped. Las Vegas put together back-to-back touchdown drives but each time the Ravens responded with a go-ahead score. The defense needed one stop late in the game and could not manage to get it.
Did the Ravens offense have some nice moments? Yes. Did the defense have some nice moments also? Yes. However, it was an uneven team performance overall.
4) Lose the turnover battle, lose the game
The Ravens’ defense only forced one turnover on Monday night. It did not come until Averett’s interception in overtime. They missed some opportunities earlier in the game as Chuck Clark, Marlon Humphrey and Chris Westry all had their hands on potential interceptions.
After Averett’s interception, Lamar Jackson was stripped by Carl Nassib on third down and the Raiders recovered in scoring territory. They capitalized with a game-winning touchdown pass. When Jackson lost another fumble earlier in the fourth quarter, the Ravens were leading 17-10 at the time and the Raiders had just turned the ball over on downs. The Raiders tied the game just five plays later.
Jackson made a handful of nice throws and dazzling runs throughout the evening, as per usual. However, good things will not happen if you fumble three times. While he didn’t put the ball in harms way through the air at all, the Raiders scored two touchdowns off his late turnovers.
Criticism should be given where it’s due.