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Fact or fiction: Analyzing the Ravens' biggest perceived weaknesses after 2-1 start

The Ravens' blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs exposed some of their shortcomings. It also seemed to create some out of thin air.

With their 34-20 defeat at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens were easy fodder for sports talk radio, cable TV, Twitter, message boards — pretty much everywhere. Over 14 million people had watched on “Monday Night Football,” and there was a lot to pick apart.

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Much of the criticism was valid; some of it wasn’t. As the Ravens move on to Sunday’s game against the Washington Football Team, here’s a look at some of the Ravens' biggest perceived weaknesses — and whether they’re fact or fiction:

Fiction: Lamar Jackson has a big-game problem

Jackson is a victim of recency bias here. Two of the biggest losses of the Ravens quarterback’s young career have come in his past four games: Monday night’s loss to the Chiefs and the divisional-round loss to the Titans. By ESPN’s QBR scores, where an average quarterback would be expected to post a 50, Jackson’s overall play was below average: 40.4 against Kansas City and 30.4 against Tennessee.

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But the Ravens would not have gone 14-2, and Jackson would not have been named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, if he had a big-game problem last year. In wins over the streaking Seattle Seahawks (78.8 QBR), the undefeated New England Patriots (84.9), the AFC South-leading Houston Texans (91.4) and the eventual NFC champion San Francisco 49ers (65.1), Jackson was, if not the best quarterback on the field, then at least a worthy winner.

And his game has blossomed under the lights of a national audience. In his first four career prime-time starts — a 2018 win against the Los Angeles Chargers and 2019 wins against the Patriots, Rams and New York Jets — he went 59-for-88 for 748 yards, 12 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added 281 rushing yards and two scores.

Fact: The pass rush hasn’t improved.

The Ravens invested heavily in their defensive front this offseason. They signed Pro Bowl outside linebacker Matthew Judon to the franchise tag at a cost of $16.8 million. They traded for Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell and signed him to a two-year, $25 million deal. They gave defensive end Derek Wolfe an incentive-laden one-year contract. They drafted inside linebacker Patrick Queen, a high-potential blitzer, with their top pick.

And yet by almost every metric available, after Monday night’s no-sack no-show, the Ravens' pass rush is worse than it was last year:

  • According to Pro-Football-Reference, their pressure rate — which measures how often a quarterback is hurried, knocked down or sacked per drop-back — is 18%. Last year, the Ravens finished at a middle-of-the-road 23.4%.
  • Their raw sack percentage has fallen from 6.4% to 4.9%.
  • According to Football Outsiders, their adjusted sack rate, which accounts for down, distance and opponent, is No. 23 (5.2%). Last year, they finished No. 14 (7.7%).
  • According to Pro Football Focus, they don’t have an edge rusher or interior defender rated above a 65.6 in pass rushing. (Outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, who’s played sparingly so far, grades out the highest.). Under the PFF ratings scale, grades between 60 and 69 are considered backup-level.

One reason for optimism: The Ravens are still above average at defeating pass protections. After ranking No. 14 last season in ESPN’s pass-rush win rate — the rate at which a team’s pass rusher is able to beat his block within 2.5 seconds — the Ravens are No. 13, with only a 1% drop-off in success. It just hasn’t translated to sustained production yet.

Fact: Drops remain a concern for Mark Andrews.

Andrews is one of the NFL’s best tight ends. He also does not have the NFL’s best hands.

Because dropped passes are a somewhat subjective stat, the NFL does not track them as it does, say, yards after the catch. But according to PFR, Andrews dropped eight passes last season — seven in the regular season, one in the postseason. His regular-season drop rate of 7.1% was tied for the 24th worst in the NFL last year and seventh worst among tight ends.

Over his first two games this month, Andrews caught six of nine targets, with no ball-security problems. On Monday night, the drops resurfaced: two in the first half and one in the second.

The game’s circumstances magnified the problem, as it had in the Ravens' playoff loss to the Titans. Back in January, Andrews' failure to bring in a pass from Jackson led to an early interception by safety Kevin Byard that knocked the Ravens on their back foot. On Monday, with the Ravens trailing 27-10 midway through the third quarter, Andrews got his hands on an end-zone shot. But he couldn’t complete the catch, and the Ravens settled for a field goal.

Fact: The Ravens abandoned the run too early Monday.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman was widely criticized for his decision to abandon the Ravens' run-first principles in the playoff loss to Tennessee. With an early deficit and Mark Ingram II limited by injury, Ravens running backs finished with just nine carries for 42 yards. Jackson finished with 59 pass attempts, a number that doesn’t account for other drop-backs.

On Monday night, the Ravens' ratio was more balanced: 28 pass attempts (and four sacks taken) versus 21 carries (including two scrambles). But Roman’s early-game play-calling left himself open to more criticism.

On the game’s opening drive, the Ravens moved easily to Kansas City’s 15-yard line with six runs and one pass. When three straight passes led the Ravens to a fourth-and-3 situation, Harbaugh decided not to go for it. Kicker Justin Tucker’s 26-yard field goal gave them an early lead that Kansas City overtook on the next drive.

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Then the Ravens started to try something new. On their second drive, a first-down run was nullified by a questionable penalty. Facing first-and-20, the Ravens called three straight passes and ended up losing 4 yards.

On their third drive, after wide receiver Devin Duvernay’s kickoff return for a touchdown, it was more of the same: three straight passes, 4 yards gained, another punt.

Over the Ravens' next three possessions, their last of the half, they ran the ball as much as they passed it only once, and they didn’t score a single offensive touchdown. The Ravens entered halftime averaging 7.9 yards per carry and 2.3 yards per pass attempt — but they’d run it just nine times.

RAVENS@WASHINGTON

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Radio: 1090 AM, 97.9 FM

Line: Ravens by 13

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