Ravens Review and Preview – Part 4 of 5
Part 4 of this series is dedicated to reviewing the final 4 games of 2017. Part five will look deeper into the 2018 preview. Kudos to my colleague Rivers McCown and his piece looking ahead at certain aspects for the Ravens – I will work off it next week with team level analytics and projections. If this series is new to you, jump to Part 1 here.
The 4th quarter of the 2017 season starts with the Ravens sitting at a 7-5 and in the midst of a three game win streak. This quarter of the season brings games against the Steelers on the road and the Bengals at home. To make the playoffs, they will probably need 10-6 – so at least a 3-1 record over the last 4 games of the year.
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Game 13: BAL at PIT – BAL 38 vs PIT 39
Good teams “start strong and finish strong…” This does not happen for the Ravens this week on the road in a divisional game. Ravens gave up the first 14 points and the last 10 points in a loss to the Steelers. Approximately, the 35 minutes of game clock in the middle of the game shows the Ravens with a 38-16 points advantage. The GameMap shows the extremely poor start for the Ravens. Their first possession ends in a interception after over 4 minutes and 30 seconds of possession. The Steelers capitalize with a touchdown drive. The Ravens punt on their next possession and pin the Steelers deep in their own territory at the 10 yard line. This is great opportunity to hold the Steelers and get good field position. The field position marker for the drive is labelled with a red “1” on the graphic. The steelers take that ball and march 90 yards in 12 plays. Ravens down 14 as the second quarter begins.
The Ravens then score on their next five possessions – 4 TDs and a FG. Highlighted a red “2” in the graphic is the Steelers FG they kick just before halftime. This turns out to be an important possession. The drive begins with just under 2 minutes left in the half and starts after the Tucker touchback. 11 plays and 50 yards later, a 43 yard field goal ends the first half. The Steelers put all shotgun and no huddle on the Ravens. This same thing – FG just before half – will happen in game 14 against Cleveland and also in game 15 against the Colts except the Colts miss their FG attempt. View the GameMaps to see this trend revealed.
The last highlighted drive is the red “3” in the 4th quarter. Points are being scored very quickly in the 4th quarter and the Ravens find themselves up 38-36 with about 3:20 left in the game. The Steelers have just scored a TD and the Ravens answer with a 3 and out. The play calls go: incomplete, 7 yard run by Collins and incomplete on 3rd and 3. They punt and the Steelers do what playoff teams do – they come thru in the clutch and drive for a game winning 46 yard field goal.
The Steelers are now 11-2 and the Ravens fall to 7-6. Big Ben had a big day statistically throwing for 506 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to top 500 yards passing three times. AB goes for 11 and 213 and Bell scores 3 tugs. This leaves the Ravens in the position where they will probably need to win out to make the playoffs….
Game 14: BAL 27 vs CLE 10
Cleveland takes a 7-3 lead midway thru the 2nd quarter on a 96 yard TD drive. Cleveland looks to be much improved this year and we’ll discuss that in the 5th article in this series but last year, the Browns were in the midst of a perfect backwards running of the table and the Ravens got their second win against them.
The Ravens score two TDs late in the first half but again yield a FG drive just before half. Unlike last week, this one will not come back to be a big factor in the outcome of the game but it is a trend that should be addressed. The Browns go 47 yards in less than the last minute of the first half to kick a 45-yard FG to get points as the 1st half closes.
Ravens get a defensive TD to put the game out of reach in the middle of the 3rd quarter as they also do more nice work in the second half. They take the ball away twice and get a turnover on downs. The Ravens now sit at 8-6 and the playoffs are real if they win out.
Game 15: BAL 23 vs IND 16.
3 FGs by each team and two missed FGs in the first half by the Colts highlight a game that BAL never trails in. The Ravens handle their business against the Colts with Jacoby Brissett at QB. The Colts fall to 3-12 on the season.
Game 16: BAL 27 vs CIN 31 –
With playoff possibilities on the line, The Ravens give up a very late go-ahead TD to the Bengals. The Bengals – with no playoff hopes alive – will end the season 7-9 and enjoy knocking the Ravens out of the playoffs.
Dalton throws a 49-yard touchdown pass with 44 seconds left to take a 31-27 lead. But look back at the first quarter. The Ravens start slow again on offense. Throughout most of the first half, they consistently have starting field position in their favor (note the location of the squares on the GameMap). If it weren’t for a huge kickoff return from Chris Moore that the Ravens turned into a TD just before half… the Ravens would have been down two touchdowns going into the intermission. Also note the low spot of the green line on the “Game-Q” chart – this marks the cumulative drive performance for the offense and the collectively poor performance until just before halftime.
In the second half’s first drive, the Ravens offense gives up an 89 yard interception return for a TD before running off three consecutive scoring possessions for 17 points to take the lead 27-24. That lead will not hold up as the Bengals go 90 yards in 11 plays and score on 4th and 12 with a 49-yard pass to Boyd from Dalton. Ravens will not be able to get a first down and end the season watching the Bengals kneel the game out.
“Nobody’s happy,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We didn’t make the plays. We weren’t good enough.”
That would sum up both game 13 against the Steelers and game 16 against the Bengals – both divisional games that were very winnable with better performance late on the 4th quarter. Good teams win those games – good teams finish. Can the Ravens finish some of those games in 2018? Will they be good enough to create those same game situations in 2018? I will look a little closer at that next week in part 5 of this series.