When Ravens coaches and players analyze the 2021 season, they will see a team that has lost about as many close games as they have won, that has finished with a negative points margin (minus-5) for the first time since 2015, that has taken more hits than they have won. in the end he could endure. They will see a team that, as running back Latavius Murray said on Sunday, “didn’t make it at the end of the day.”
“A fairy tale again [of] two seasons, if you will,” Murray said after the Ravens’ sixth straight loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Baltimore, 16:13 in overtime. “In the first half of the season, we found a way to win those games. We didn’t do it in the second half.”
On a macro level, this was the difference between the Ravens competing for the top spot in the AFC and failing in the playoffs. But on a micro level, the difference between winning and losing was sometimes only one game. Here are 10 that defined the Ravens’ 8-9 season.
Preseason: CBA Marcus Peters and RB Gus Edwards tore their cruciate ligaments in the same workout
Injuries at the end of the season happened in different games, but they ended one of the worst stretches of preseason bad luck in recent history. On August 28, running back J.K. Dobbins, who had shown his breakthrough potential throughout training camp, tore his cruciate ligament in the Ravens preseason finals. On September 2, reserve runner Justice Hill tore his Achilles tendon. On September 8, the Ravens lost Peters, arguably their best quarterback in camp, and Edwards, one of the NFL’s most effective running backs, in multiple games in practice.
Earlier in camp, the Ravens lost linebacker LJ Fort (anterior cruciate ligament tear), 2020 starter and special team leader, and rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman (groin), their top pick in the draft, to serious injuries. By the end of the season, 25 Ravens were placed on injured reserve.
Week 1, Raiders: QB Lamar Jackson sacked in overtime
Defensive End Carl Nassib’s forced fumble that allowed Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr to throw the game-winning touchdown pass to Zay Jones three plays later ended in a nightmarish debut for the Ravens’ pass defense. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Raiders pressured Jackson 54.5% of the time he was dropped in their 33-27 victory. More impressively, they rarely sent more than four pass rushers after him.
Jackson was fired three times and hit the game eight times, the last of the Ravens season with Ronnie Stanley and Alejandro Villanueva on offense. Stanley, an All-Pro pick in 2019, didn’t play again in 2021 – he suffered his second consecutive season-ending ankle injury in October – and Villanueva replaced him with a left tackle where his level of play fluctuated.
Week 2 vs. Chiefs: Quarterback Lamar Jackson converts fourth and second
After taking a 36-35 lead in Baltimore with three minutes left, the Ravens received a forced fumble from outside linebacker Odafe Ove and a game-tying catch from wide receiver Sammy Watkins to secure fourth on their 43-yard line.
Instead of returning the ball to quarterback Patrick Mahomes with less than a minute left, coach John Harbaugh asked Jackson if he was willing to go for it. Of course he did. Jackson made a quick dash with his shotgun, looked for a crease, and charged forward 2 yards. The prime time victory was the Ravens’ first victory over Mahomes (343 passing yards and three touchdowns) and began a five-game winning streak.
Week 3, Lions: K Justin Tucker scores NFL-record 66-yard field goal
The Ravens ended up with the best special teams in the NFL playing this season in part because there’s only one Justin Tucker. According to Pro Football FocusRanking 35 of 37 field goal attempts this season, the Pro Bowl kicker led the NFL in both hitting percentage and hits made compared to expectations.
His 66-yard hit was, of course, unexpected. The Ravens, 17–16 behind, needed to convert fourth and 19th with 26 seconds left to give Tucker a chance. After Jackson found Watkins for 36 yards, Tucker lined up from Detroit’s 48 yards with three seconds left. His fourth field goal of the day hit the crossbar at Detroit’s Ford Field and went through the posts, breaking Matt Prater’s record-breaking 2013 shot (64 yards).
Week 5 vs. Colts: WR Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown catches overtime winner
Jackson went 37 of 43 for 442 yards and four touchdowns in the prime-time comeback victory, and most of his finishes looked as prosaic as his last. On the second goal, five minutes into overtime, he stepped back, pretending to wait for Brown to open up, then whistled him a 5-yard touchdown pass near the front of the end zone.
The 31-25 win was a career day for both Jackson, who had a career-high 442 passing yards, and Brown, whose 125 receiving yards and two totals set season highs. But the Ravens’ passing offense rarely made it easy over the next three months.
Week 7 vs. Bengals: WR Ja’Marr Chase scores from 82 yards
No game better epitomized the struggles of the minor Ravens, and no game better epitomized Cincinnati’s dominance of the Ravens this season. In the middle of the third quarter, Chase separated from cornerback Marlon Humphrey, caught a pass from quarterback Joe Burrow, broke out of safety after a tackle attempt on DeSean Elliott, spun without the safety of Chuck Clark, and led everyone into the end zone. .
In two spectacular wins, Burrow burned the Ravens for 941 passing yards, seven touchdowns and one interception, while Chase had 15 catches for 326 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens, plagued by injuries in minor games, finished the season last in the NFL in pass defense (278.9 yards per game, the worst for the franchise) and last in 40-yard games allowed (18).
Week 12 vs. Browns: Quarterback Lamar Jackson throws third interception in five assists
Jackson’s off-season malaise seemed to start in Week 10, when the Ravens’ offense failed to solve the Miami Dolphins’ heavy 0-cover problem. Two weeks later, however, his struggles reached an almost absurd level. Late in the second quarter of an eventual 16-10 home win over the Cleveland Browns, he threw three interceptions in five assists. Each throw was from a clean pocket.
After adding a fourth pick in the fourth quarter, Jackson finished the game with a 46.5 passer rating, the worst starter of his career. (One life-saving moment: his brilliant attempt in the third quarter to find tight end Mark Andrews for a 13-yard touchdown.) 673 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions. He only averaged 5.8 yards per pass attempt and 4.6 yards per carry during this period.
Week 13, Steelers: CB Marlon Humphrey injured after catching a touchdown
The Ravens had already lost Peters and Elliott to season-ending injuries when the Steelers, trailing 13–12 late in the fourth quarter, lined up with the third goal of 5 Ravens. insult by another injury. Humphrey, who played in All-Pro, like Peters in 2019, tore his chest muscle while trying to clear the ball from Johnson near the goal line.
His absence from the already depleted quarterback room led to Harbaugh venturing into a 2-point conversion after the Ravens scored on the ensuing possession. But Jackson’s pass to Andrews’ open position flashed through his fingertips, and the Ravens, who had come into play at the top of the AFC, soon began a steep decline late in the season.
Week 14 at Browns: Quarterback Lamar Jackson injured in scrum
No game this season could have been more impressive than linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoa’s innocuous-looking tackle on the Browns’ tackle as he rolled out for a short throw to Andrews. Jackson suffered a bruised bone in his right ankle and was hauled off the field never to lose again in 2021.
While reserve Tyler Huntley impressed in an eventual 24-22 loss in Cleveland, the Ravens had to play the last four-plus games of their season without their MVP and former NFL MVP.
Week 15 vs. Packers: QB Tyler Huntley misses 2-point try
If the Ravens had won just one of their last six games, their season could still be alive. Green Bay’s 31:30 victory in Baltimore didn’t shatter their playoff hopes or reflect badly on the Ravens themselves, who played with a roster further hit by the coronavirus outbreak. But the game did capture the minimal difference that defined their season.
Huntley’s pass in the game’s decisive two-point try never reached Andrews, instead being deflected by an outstretched hand from Packers safety Darnell Savage. Huntley also never saw Brown, who ran wide open across the middle of the end zone. It was the Ravens’ eighth and final attempt at 2 points of the season; they converted only two.