After a devastating 17-3 loss to the Bills in the divisional round, the Ravens finished their 2020 season with a record of 12-6 including playoff games. Despite some midseason losses and a COVID outbreak, the Ravens played good football for the majority of the season—but it still felt like a letdown, right? Let’s recap the Ravens season and declare if this year really was a disappointment.
The first seven games are when we saw the Ravens at their best. The Ravens opened up against the Browns at home and played the same caliber football we saw in 2019. Lamar Jackson’s passing was on point and the running game complimented it. The defense was strong holding the Browns to 6 points. After this game, most people thought the Ravens would have a repeat 2019 season as was predicted before the season started, but this would be short lived as soon as Week 3.
Coming on a Monday night after a 33-16 win over the Texans in Week 2, the Ravens were steam rolled by the Chiefs. This game was without a doubt the worst team performance by the Ravens all season, including the playoffs. Many would argue the loss to the Bills was worse, but I’ll get to that in a bit. The Ravens defense couldn’t cover or tackle as Patrick Mahomes imposed his will for 60 minutes. After the 34-20 loss, many, including myself, thought this was just a hiccup against the best team in the NFL. This was true and false.
The Ravens would go on to play fundamentally sound football against Washington, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia. At 5-1 going into their Week 7 bye, Ravens fans were back in the 2019 mindset. This would be short lived. The Ravens would go on to lose to the Steelers at home 28-24 following the bye. This loss definitely dampened the Ravens spirits as they didn’t play nearly as bad as in Week 3, but not good enough to beat a good-at-the-time Steelers team. Once again, we all thought this was just another hiccup against a good team, but the Ravens’ flaws were starting to seep through and become very apparent. The passing game was non-effective against good defenses and the Ravens reliance on the run made them predictable and easy to beat especially against playoff teams. This leads us into the dark weeks of the Ravens season.
Following the tough Steelers loss, hope was restored once again as the Ravens beat the Colts 24-10. It was clear the Ravens offense was not on the same level as their 2019 team, but the 2020 squad could still win the division. Then a monsoon at Foxborough changed the Ravens’ season for good.
The Ravens defense was manhandled by the Patriots’ rushing attack and the offense couldn’t get anything going in the rain. This loss sealed the Ravens fate, but when things couldn’t get any worse, they did.
The Ravens lost a game they should have won against the Titans in Week 11 and COVID hit the team right after. Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, and many other key players were lost moving into a crucial Week 12 matchup against the Steelers. At 6-4, the Ravens were now looking like a team that could miss the playoffs entirely. However, despite ultimately losing 19-14 with Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorely at QB, some hope and energy emerged at the Ravens’ lowest point of the season. The defense was spectacular against the then-undefeated Steelers and J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards emerged as a legit duo in the backfield. With the return of Lamar Jackson in Week 13 and a weak schedule moving forward, there was still hope for the 6-5 Ravens.
In the home stretch of the 2020 season, we saw what it truly means to be a Raven. To play your best football when it mattered most. To comeback and force yourself into the playoffs. To defy those who say you’re no good anymore. Even though the only team above .500 faced was the Browns, this was still an impressive span of games.
The Ravens enjoyed the return of Lamar Jackson in Week 13 as they easily stomped a Cowboys team with one of the worst defenses in the league, 7-5. Lamar Jackson saved the day with two game winning drives to beat the red-hot Browns in Cleveland, 8-5. The Ravens put down the Jaguars like a dying animal, 9-5. The Giants didn’t stand a chance, 10-5. The Bengals? Ha, 11-5 and the 5th seed in the playoffs despite being 3rd in the division and in the hunt back in Week 12.
The Ravens won the games they were supposed to at the end of the season which punched them a ticket to Tennessee.
The Ravens played with a chip on their shoulder against a Titans team they should have beaten back in Week 11. Lamar Jackson’s rushing attack and the Ravens D forced a satisfying win over a cocky Titans team. Then on to Buffalo…
The Ravens would encounter one of the most winnable games of the season in the divisional round, but they flat out failed. The defense held a hot Bills offense to 220 total yards and 10 points. If the offense had been slightly competent, the Ravens would have moved on to play Kansas City, but poor offensive play-calling and execution, including a pick-six, destroyed all hopes for a Super Bowl appearance. If the defense hadn’t played as phenomenal as it did, this would easily have been the Ravens worst game of the season, but Week 3 still takes the cake.
So, was the Ravens’ 2020 campaign a disappointment? Was it really that bad? Yes and no. Even though the Ravens didn’t finish with a 14-2 record to clinch the division and didn’t receive an MVP season from Lamar Jackson, I would consider 2020 to be an above average year. Not just because Lamar Jackson finally won a playoff game, but because the Ravens finally found out who they are and what they need to become a championship squad.
It is clear many teams were not prepared for the dynamic Lamar Jackson in 2019, which accounted for his dominating success as a passer. I don’t think Jackson regressed in 2020, but it is clear teams caught on to the shtick. This means the Ravens need to mix up play-calling next year to keep defenses guessing allowing for Jackson to become dynamic and effective.
It is also clear what the team needs are. Jackson needs a big receiver with reliable catching ability. Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews are enough to win in the regular season, but not in the playoffs. The Ravens could also benefit from having a pass rusher. This was one of the few weak spots on defense holding them back from being a top 2 unit in the league.
After Patrick Mekari’s poor performance against the Bills, drafting a center wouldn’t hurt either.
The Ravens had some hard-to-watch moments in 2020, but the ability to work through the adversity and win big games doesn’t make this season a letdown. The fact many had high expectations for this team makes it seem like a disappointing year, but the Ravens grew because of it.
As free agency and the draft come into focus, the Ravens will look to build and strengthen their roster this spring in hopes of a successful 2021 season.