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The Sideline Observer

Sports and Culture Commentary

Five Takeaways from the Ravens’ Loss to Los Angeles

This Ravens-Chargers matchup proved the “defense wins championships” mantra. On Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Chargers had the superior defensive talent and gameplanning, completely shutting down the Ravens offense for over three quarters.

At the end of the third quarter, the Baltimore Ravens had -2 passing yards. Yes, your eyes read that correctly, negative two passing yards. It was the most abysmal offensive showing I have seen in person of any team, much less my favorite Ravens. Here are my five takeaways from Baltimore’s brutal Wild Card loss.

1.     Los Angeles Figured out Lamar Jackson

Leading up to Baltimore’s Wild Card matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers, the Ravens were averaging over 250 yards per game on the ground, including a 22-10 victory over the Chargers. Los Angeles proved to Baltimore that they did their due diligence in the film room this week. Per Next Gen Stats, via Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Chargers used seven defensive backs on 58 out of the 59 total defensive snaps.

Anthony Lynn and his defense must have found the new-look Ravens’ kryptonite as they were able to beat their rushing attack with a brilliant combination of block shedding and speed. For the first time, Lamar Jackson was completely powerless. It was only until the fourth quarter when Lamar passed for 160 yards and two touchdowns that he was able to find any success.

2.     We Have Seen Joe Flacco’s Last Passes in Baltimore

No, this isn’t a joke. This isn’t some twisted reality and we’re just now waking up. The fact of the matter is Lamar Jackson has been dubbed the “quarterback of the future” by coaches and players alike. How you feel about that is your business.

After completing just two-of-eight passes for 14 yards and an interception in the first half, thousands of fans wanted to put in Joe (Cool) Flacco to start the second half. Later, many fans in the stadium, along with myself, were jeering the decision to roll with Lamar into clutch time.

After completing just two-of-eight passes for 14 yards and an interception in the first half, thousands of fans wanted to put in Joe (Cool) Flacco to start the second half. Along with myself, many fans in the stadium were jeering the decision to roll with Lamar at the very end of the game, especially late in the game where the quarterback needs to be able to throw an accurate 15-yard pass.

Who knows where Flacco will end up next season, but according to Harbaugh, there will “definitely be a market.” This is the most clear-cut indication Harbaugh has given us that Flacco is on his way out, saying goodbye to his 11-year stint in Baltimore.

The Ravens could save 10.5 million dollars by choosing to cut/trade Flacco before July 1, and that is looking to be the most attractive option for a team that only wants to get younger.

3.     John Harbaugh’s Future is in Baltimore

After a resurgent back half of the season, the Baltimore Ravens announced they plan to keep John Harbaugh as their coach next season and an extension was in the works. Harbaugh’s career record with Baltimore and in the NFL, is an impressive 114-78 (.594).

Along with his savvy coordinators, Harbaugh led a dead in the water 4-5 squad into AFC North champions- their first division title in six years. This is no small feat; making a complete offensive overhaul midway through the season is a ballsy move to say the least, and it paid off double.

The Ravens were able to find their quarterback of the future while they will have to see off another one. After their division-clinching performance against the Cleveland Browns, John Harbaugh proved his pride to coach this year’s Ravens. “This is the best team I’ve ever been associated with in 34 years of coaching and even back to pee-wee,” per Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk. The Ravens have built an intriguing and unique culture in the locker room and I believe this team is going nowhere without Harbaugh at the helm.

4.     Lamar Jackson Has to Learn How to Pass

Make no mistake. Anthony Lynn’s game plan for Baltimore Sunday was nearly perfect. If not for a few fourth-quarter blunders and some cheap big plays, the Chargers defense played a completely perfect game. Unfortunately, Lynn was able to figure out a remedy for the Ravens’ gashing rushing attack.

While attending the game, I was able to see Derwin James lined up at inside or outside linebacker for much of the game. Using a multitude of defensive backs and versatile linebackers with superior speed utterly shut down the Raven’s offensive game plan.

Jackson will have his first off-season in Baltimore this summer and it is imperative that he learns how to be more accurate throwing the football and lose his one-dimensional QB playing style.

5.     The Ravens Should Keep Robert Griffin III This Summer

It’s time to discuss the elephant in the room, Robert Griffin III was the Ravens’ most unappreciated player on the 53-man roster this season. He was able to help the entire offense, old and young, in ways that surpass the human eye.

Initially brought in to present competition to incumbent starter Joe Flacco, Griffin III found his niche in Baltimore doing much more than just backing up Flacco. At just the age of 28, Griffin ended up serving as a mentor to first-round pick Lamar Jackson in a multitude of ways.

Whenever the camera pans to the sideline, you would have to be blind not to see Griffin coaching up Jackson after any given drive. With Joe Flacco leaving the city of Baltimore, the Ravens would be doing Griffin a disservice in not letting him continue to backup Jackson and mentor him for seasons to come.

With Ozzie Newsome stepping down as Ravens GM after 22 seasons, Eric DeCosta has a lengthy roster overhaul to complete this off-season and many decisions to make, regarding impending free agents and cap-savers such as Joe Flacco, C.J. Mosley, Jimmy Smith, and Eric Weddle.

It was an up-and-down 2018 campaign for Baltimore, but the sky’s the limit for this young, hungry Ravens team.

-Ben Grebe

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