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Mike Preston’s report card: Position-by-position grades for Ravens’ 20-19 loss to Rams | COMMENTARY

Here’s how the Ravens graded out at each position after Sunday's 20-19 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Here’s how the Ravens (8-8) graded out at each position after a 20-19 loss to the Los Angeles Rams (12-4) on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:

Quarterback

Tyler Huntley, starting for the third time in place of an injured Lamar Jackson, made a lot of plays with his legs, especially outside the pocket. In fact, it was the Ravens’ best play on offense because the Rams couldn’t contain Huntley, who rushed for 54 yards. However, the second-year quarterback missed several wide-open receivers, including Devin Duvernay in the back of the end zone and Marquise Brown streaking down the middle of the field in the first half. He also missed receivers while rolling out, but at least he controlled the Rams’ defense with the short passing game. Huntley completed 20 of 32 passes for 197 yards, but his interception — a miscommunication with Brown on a deep pass — led to a Rams touchdown at the end of the first half. Grade: C

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Running backs

The Ravens were steady and consistent pounding away at the Rams’ defense, which was one of the keys to the game. Despite having only average success in the first half, the Ravens stayed with Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray in the second half and that tandem simply ran up the middle to much success. In layman’s terms, it’s called gut running, and Freeman was at his best in the fourth quarter. The veteran had 76 yards on 14 carries, including a big 32-yard run, while Murray finished with 31 yards on 11 attempts. Grade: B

Offensive line

Controlling the Rams’ defensive line was a major priority coming into the game and the Ravens did a nice job of handling defensive tackle Aaron Donald and outside linebacker Von Miller. Donald played well during the Ravens’ first offensive possession, but the Ravens handled him fairly well with double teams, especially in the second half. In the last two quarters, tackles Alejandro Villanueva and Patrick Mekari, guards Kevin Zeitler and Ben Cleveland and center Trystan Colon wore down the Rams’ talented defensive line. The Rams finished with five sacks, but that’s not the whole story. Grade: C+

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Receivers

Huntley was good at spreading the ball around as he completed passes to six receivers. However, the Ravens need an intermediate or long-range passing game that opponents respect. Maybe they stay with the short stuff to keep it simple for Huntley, but the Ravens are going to have to score touchdowns against teams with high-powered offenses such as the Rams. And that’s with quarterback Matthew Stafford giving them a couple of gifts, too. Rookie receiver Rashod Bateman led the Ravens with seven catches for 58 yards and tight end Mark Andrews finished with six for 89, setting the Ravens’ single-season receiving yards record. Marquise Brown (three catches for 28 yards) has the potential to be a great receiver but needs to work on his attitude when he isn’t catching the ball. Grade: C+

Defensive line

As usual, the Ravens were successful keeping the opposing team’s running game under control as the Rams finished with 73 yards on 20 carries. Nose tackle Brandon Williams and defensive end Calais Campbell got some good penetration that interrupted a few running plays, but there were times when both players seemed to get tired, especially in the second half. Most of the Ravens’ pressure came from their outside linebackers. Campbell finished with four tackles but only had one quarterback hit. Grade: B-

Linebackers

Inside linebacker Patrick Queen has moments when he makes spectacular plays because of his speed. He has great acceleration and quickness, which allows him to close on tacklers or make up ground easily. But there are times when he flies in out of control and doesn’t wrap up. In pass coverage, he is a liability. The Ravens got occasional pressure from outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tyus Bowser, but it wasn’t consistent enough to change the tempo of the game or make Stafford uncomfortable in the pocket. The Ravens only had one sack. Grade: D

Secondary

Because the Ravens are missing three starters in the backend, this is a mix-and-match group. As a unit, the secondary played well in the first half, but there were still some glaring holes in zone coverage. The Ravens are playing with inexperienced cornerbacks, but these are still some of the best athletes in the country. It’s one thing to get beat on a great throw or a great catch, but the Ravens are often out of position, especially in the middle of the field. That’s coaching. Somewhere along the line, the message isn’t getting across, and it’s been that way all year. Safety Chuck Clark had two interceptions, including one he returned for a 17-yard touchdown late in the first quarter. Grade: C+

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Special teams

Justin Tucker converted on field-goal attempts of 22, 46, 46 and 34 yards as the Ravens capitalized on all three Rams turnovers. Sam Koch, who has been struggling recently, averaged 46.3 yards on three punts and put two inside the 20-yard line. He also had a long of 61 yards. The Rams, meanwhile, had an 18-yard return on a punt and kickoff. The Ravens need to tighten up the blocking on their punt coverage team. They came close to having one blocked and allowed decent pressure on another. Grade: A-

Coaching

Considering the injuries, it’s uncertain whether the Ravens can play any harder than they did Sunday, especially after coming off a big loss to the Cincinnati Bengals a week ago. Offensively, the game plan is sound, but the Ravens are going to have to throw the ball vertically if they want to beat good teams. Defensively, it’s just unreal how many times the Ravens aren’t in position, or even in the right zip code, to make plays. At this point, the Ravens have nothing to lose. They should be taking more shots down the field on offense. Grade: C+

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