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Mike Preston

Mike Preston’s report card: Position-by-position grades for Ravens’ 24-17 playoff loss to Bengals | COMMENTARY

CINCINNATI — Here’s how the Ravens graded out at each position after a season-ending 24-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Sunday night’s AFC wild-card playoff game at Paycor Stadium.

Quarterback

Tyler Huntley didn’t dazzle anyone with his arm, but he managed the game well and made several big plays down the field, a key missing ingredient in this offense. Huntley completed 17 of 29 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, including a 41-yarder to Demarcus Robinson in the third quarter, as well as an interception. He also ran for 54 yards on nine carries. Huntley, though, fumbled reaching the ball toward the goal line and Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard returned it 98 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, which was the difference. He’ll be criticized by a lot of Baltimore fans, but he was trying to make an extra-effort play. I can’t fault him for that. Grade: B-

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Running backs

J.K. Dobbins wanted the Ravens to hitch a ride on him in this game and he was the offense’s top weapon, finishing with 62 yards on 13 carries as the Ravens rushed 35 times for 155 yards. He worked well in combination with Gus Edwards, who had 39 yards on 12 carries. These two were definitely up for the challenge. Grade: A-

Offensive line

The Ravens pounded the Bengals at the line of scrimmage, especially during a 17-play, 10-minute second-quarter drive. They ran some good-looking tosses and sweeps to Dobbins, and guards Kevin Zeitler and Ben Powers and center Tyler Linderbaum worked combination blocks well off the line of scrimmage. The problem is that these guys struggle in pass blocking when the Ravens have to come from behind. The Bengals had two sacks, but Huntley was pressured several times. Grade: B

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Receivers

The best thing about this group is that they held onto the ball and didn’t have any drops. Wide receivers combined for three catches for 61 yards while the Ravens made good use of their tight ends, using all three and putting rookie Isaiah Likely on the outside on occasion. Tight end Mark Andrews had five catches on 10 targets for 73 yards and Josh Oliver had two catches for 26 yards. Grade: C

Defensive line

This group struggled in the first quarter because the Ravens were on the field too long, but the Bengals averaged 2.1 yards per carry and finished with only 51 rushing yards. Calais Campbell, Broderick Washington and Justin Madubuike could have provided more pressure, but Washington finished with three tackles while Campbell and Madubuike each had two. Grade: B+

Linebackers

The Ravens were not dominant but this group held its own against one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. The Bengals had only 234 yards of total offense as the Ravens, especially inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen, flew all over the field. Smith had eight tackles and Queen had six. The Ravens got decent pressure on quarterback Joe Burrow from outside linebackers Odafe Oweh, Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Houston as the Ravens finished with four sacks. Grade: A-

Secondary

For the third time this year, the Ravens didn’t give up any big plays to the Bengals wide receivers. They stayed with their bend-but-don’t-break approach, which kept them in the game, but they needed to be more aggressive and have cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters press the Bengals at the line of scrimmage. Peters needed to calm down. The Ravens like his effort and intensity, but the lack of discipline causes problems. Rookie safety Kyle Hamilton had a team-high nine tackles and adapted well throughout the season to playing in the slot. Grade: A-

Special teams

Justin Tucker had one field goal of 22 yards but appeared to come up short on two kickoffs, which might have been by design. James Proche II is indecisive on punt returns and rookie Jordan Stout averaged 47.2 yards on three punts with a long of 53 yards. The Ravens, though, were undisciplined in the second half trying to block punts, one of which resulted in a roughing-the-kicker penalty that gave the Bengals a first down. Grade: B

Coaching

Coach John Harbaugh did everything right in preparing his team, from holding out several starters in last week’s game to getting them ready to be physical against a soft team. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman stayed with his game plan of running the ball but he had some strange calls, like throwing to fullback Patrick Ricard in a goal-line situation or having Andrews carry the ball out of the backfield in a short-yardage situation. The final two minutes were poorly executed, too. Defensively, coordinator Mike Macdonald likes to play a lot of zone but needed to switch up to more man-to-man coverage to disrupt the Bengals’ receivers and keep pressure on Burrow, who had to throw quickly behind a banged up offensive line. Grade: C


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