Baltimore Ravens Penalties Are Root of Their Problems in 2020

Baltimore Ravens Penalties

For the third time in four weeks, the Baltimore Ravens penalties played a huge part in their loss. The Ravens dropped their fourth game of the year to the Tennessee Titans in a 30-24 overtime loss. Just a week after succeeding their loss total from a year ago, the Ravens dropped back-to-back games for just the second time in the Lamar Jackson era. However, Baltimore did not play a bad game.

During two separate instances, the Ravens had the chance to close out the game and get a much-needed win. First, an opportunity for the Ravens defense to hold the Titans with just over eight minutes to go in regulation. This series came about because the previous Ravens drive stalled due to a Mark Andrews false start penalty on third and one at midfield. Second, a chance from the Titans 14-yard line with 50 seconds left in the game. Dez Bryant failed to get set before a potential game-winning pass to Marquise Brown and instead of taking a potentially four-point lead with under 45 seconds to go, found themselves in first and 15.

This was a sight all too familiar for the Ravens in 2020. Head coach John Harbaugh has been known as one of the best coaches in the NFL but has failed to get a grip on his team in key situations. It seems like every week, Baltimore is finding a new way to make things harder on themselves. The Ravens are one of (if not) the most talented teams in the NFL but their lack of discipline has been a noticeable problem in key situations. Baltimore’s penalty problems need to be pinpointed if they are to get a hold of their quickly free falling season.

Baltimore Ravens Penalties Are Root of Their Problems in 2020

Penalties From A Key-Play Perspective

If there has been one thing that has defined the Ravens coming out of their bye week, it has been the game-breaking plays that have gone against them. Whether it is drops, penalties, or untimely turnovers, the Ravens have failed to put their foot on the gas when they need to the most. Even with other obvious issues, penalties seem to be their biggest momentum killers.

A.J. Brown‘s herculean catch and run was the highlight of the game, but the Ravens were shooting themselves in the foot long before that go-ahead touchdown. Marlon Humphrey‘s 39-yard defensive pass interference call set up the Titans first touchdown drive of the game and a Pernell McPhee roughing the passer call with 2:35 in the second half changed a would-be fourth and seven at the Ravens 41 -yard line into a Stephen Gostkowski field goal with just 48 seconds left in the half. Forcing the Titans to punt from the 41-yard line may have been a chance for Trevor Daniel to pin the Ravens but also would have given Jackson and the Ravens offense the ball with just over two and a half minutes and all three timeouts remaining.

Against the New England Patriots, Matt Skura‘s finger injury led to three bad snap-fumbles that killed any momentum Baltimore could find on the night. The biggest mistake was during a wildcat play with Mark Ingram under center from the Ravens 48-yard line. Skura sent the ball well wide of Ingram and instead of a potential fourth-down conversion down 10 points, New England received the ball deep in Ravens territory. The play resulted in a Patriots field goal. Baltimore played the rest of the game down by at least a touchdown.

Penalties From Statistical Perspective

There is an obvious link right now between the Ravens’ losses and their penalties. Baltimore’s poor discipline has shined brightest in their biggest losses of the season and could continue to haunt them down the stretch if they cannot clean it up. In their last three losses, the Ravens have taken a total of 23 penalties for a combined 255 yards. Their opponents have 11 first downs from penalties in those games.

Through 11 weeks of the 2020 season, the Ravens have the worst penalty differential in the NFL. At –23, Baltimore’s league-worst differential is 11 less than the next closest team (Jacksonville Jaguars). They also rank second-worst in net yards from penalties with -287. The Ravens currently rank sixth in each penalties against, penalty yards against, and automatic first downs surrendered. This is despite running the ninth-least plays to this point in the season.

While penalties are a team issue, they have frequently come from a specific group of contributors. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters have gone from debatably the best cornerback duo in the NFL last season to the second-most heavily penalized (153 penalty yards) cornerback combo in 2020. Outside linebacker Matt Judon is also tied for the NFL’s ninth-most penalized player — committing six penalties for 52 yards.

Harbaugh has always prided himself in his ability to keep a stable ship but the Ravens have quickly unraveled due to disciplinary issues. They rank within the bottom-10 in almost every important penalty category and have seen leads and wins slip away in the process. Staying disciplined in big games is the easiest way to win and the Ravens have not done that enough in 2020.

Penalties From a Personnel Perspective

Baltimore’s league-worst penalty differential is a factor of two things. Being incredibly undisciplined and not having the skill players to create defensive penalties. Their 24 beneficiary penalties, as well as 342 beneficiary yards, are both ranked dead last in the NFL. The Ravens do not draw a lot of penalties because they do not have the talent on offense that allows them to. Baltimore is currently the only team in the NFL that has not drawn a defensive pass interference call in 2020.

Jackson and the offense have had problems all year finding players that can consistently create separation and it perhaps showed the most against the Titans. After going three years without making an NFL catch, Dez Bryant was easily the Ravens’ best wide receiver on the outside last Sunday. Yet, he only had four catches for 28 yards. His catches accumulated -6 air yards and he still had one drop. Bryant is supposed to be a complimentary piece, not one that has to continually pile up yards after the catch for the Ravens offense to move. He saw zero red-zone targets

Marquise Brown had another bad game. He registered his fourth drop of the year and no receptions on three targets. His biggest play, as alluded to before, was called back due to an offensive penalty late in the game. Jackson was also late to find the speedster on a second and seven deep ball from the Titans 36-yard line.

Teams simply do not have to grab and hold the Ravens receivers because they can not consistently separate. Andrews has the Ravens’ most yards before the catch at tight end. Jackson looks to have become shellshocked from the early mistimed throws between him and Miles Boykin and is now throwing with less anticipation due to his wide receivers’ failure to get open. Without consistent timing between quarterback and receivers, the Ravens are not going to draw a lot of offensive penalties.

No More Room For Error

Baltimore’s penalties have defined their season to this point. They are an incredibly talented team with the inability to stay disciplined when they need it the most.

The trend started following their bye week against the Pittsburgh Steelers but luckily for the Ravens, they get a second chance to right the ship this week. Key errors and penalties were predictably the Ravens undoing Week 8 against the Steelers. However, Baltimore also heavily outgained their rivals by over 200 yards in the game and had two chances to win outright with eight seconds left from the Steelers’ 23-yard line. Mike Tomlin and company remain the only undefeated team in the NFL and Baltimore badly needs a win after falling out of the playoff race for the first time all year. A loss Thursday would heavily complicate the Ravens’ playoff chances but a win would thrust them into a great position to capitalize on a soft schedule for the remainder of the season.

If the Ravens can’t finish Thanksgiving off with a win, they have almost no room left for error to finish 2020. Winning out after going 6-5 would be incredibly tough and finishing 10-6 does not guarantee a playoff spot in the stacked AFC. Harbaugh has proved time and time again why he is one of the best coaches in all of football and needs to get his team’s disciplinary issues together if the Ravens are to finish 2020 on a high note.

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