With the commencement of the 2021 Regular Season, the Ravens traveled to Sin City to take on the Raiders. Despite being the favorites to win, the Ravens had some questions needing to be answered going into the game. How will the Ravens play without key players such as Marcus Peters, J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards? Will the offensive line hold up despite looking good on paper? Will the passing game improve? All of this and more was answered Monday night as the Ravens fell to the Raiders 33-27 in overtime.
Returning for his 4th season and 3rd as a starter, Lamar Jackson was back to lead the offense. In 2020, the offense seemed to hit a snag in the passing game resulting in Rashod Bateman being drafted in the 1st round and the acquisition of Sammy Watkins. So, how was Lamar?
Lamar Jackson was Lamar Jackson, throwing 19/30 with 235 yards, 1 touchdown, 86 rushing yards, 3 fumbles, and 2 lost. With the exception of a few missed throws, Jackson’s passes were sharp and accurate and he showed range completing balls to the outside of the field as well as downfield.
To my delight, the number of designed quarterback runs were reduced tremendously giving Jackson the ability to pass first and scramble second which is where he truly thrives. Last season, the designed quarterback runs were becoming predictable and defenses shut them down particularly in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the offensive line could not hold up its end of the bargain. Being pushed around most of the night, the Raiders defensive line, led by Maxx Crosby, kept Jackson under constant duress forcing the Ravens quarterback to fumble and make some sloppy throws.
The biggest eye sore on the o-line was Alejandro Villanueva at right tackle. Crosby was able to get under Villanueva’s pads all night and record 2 sacks with 4 QB hits. After Week 1’s performance, the offensive line must get better as the season unfolds or Lamar Jackson will not be able to play to his potential.
Quite possibly the biggest question on offense though was the running game. With injuries to J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill, it was hard to see the Ravens having an effective running game. However, the rushing attack was saved by Ty’Son Williams who had a big game despite only obtaining 9 carries. Williams displayed power and sneaky speed in his rushes which were capped off by an incredible 35 yard touchdown run. I’d like to see the Ravens feature Williams as the lead back moving forward.
In contrast to last season, the Ravens receivers had an impressive night. Sammy Watkins and Marquise Brown were true speed threats, each with multiple big time catches. Mark Andrews flew under the radar with 3 receptions for 29 yards and did not receive much attention downfield like last season. With the upcoming return of Rashod Bateman and Miles Boykin in a few weeks, this receiving core will be dangerous if Lamar Jackson has time to throw.
The Ravens defense was a tale of two cities against the Raiders. In the first half they dominated the Raiders particularly in the secondary even without Marcus Peters or Jimmy Smith. The defensive line and pass rush looked much improved with sacks from Pernell McPhee, rookie Odafe Oweh, and Patrick Queen along with consistent pressure from Justin Houston. On the other hand, the D slowly wore down and gave up big plays in the second half and especially overtime. Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, and Bryan Edwards shredded the Ravens towards the end of the game resulting in the Ravens loss.
The Ravens defense as a whole looked great in the first half but fell apart as the game went on. By overtime, they looked completely exhausted as the Raiders bulldozed them into submission. The defense was good overall, but they just didn’t have the same juice as the Raiders’ offense.
After losing a game they should have won, the Ravens and their fans should not panic just because of an early loss to an inferior team. Lamar Jackson still rode the offense downfield to score a then-probable game winning field goal with under 2 minutes remaining, but the defense just couldn’t hold on despite dominating the first half. I would say this game is much more a fluke than a sign of what’s to come. The Ravens offense moved the ball downfield even with poor offensive line play and the defense was strong for a good portion of the game. The loss hurts but the Ravens played better than the Raiders until overtime.
With an 0-1 record, the Ravens will return to Baltimore on Sunday night to take on the Kings of the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs. If the Ravens are able to get better protection from the offensive line and win time of possession, they have a shot at redeeming themselves in Week 2.