Mike Preston: In unpredictable season, Ravens hope for another twist of fate

Maybe the Ravens didn’t use all their luck in the first half of the season.

There is always that possibility.

To qualify for the playoffs, the Ravens need a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at home on Sunday and losses to the Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins. According to most projections, there is less than a 3.5% chance of this happening. But it has been a crazy season filled with many unpredictable storylines.

If the Ravens win behind backup quarterback Tyler Huntley and the Colts (at Jaguars) and Dolphins (at Patriots) lose early Sunday afternoon, all Ravens fans will be seated late Sunday night watching the Chargers play against the Raiders in Las Vegas. And if they’re lucky, the Chargers will be down by one point after scoring a touchdown with a second to go and Ravens coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman will be asked to call up the conversion play at 2 points.

OK, just kidding. But the Ravens need that kind of luck.

“Now let’s go [not] put this season to bed again because if we win this game we just need a three game game now to hit, “said Ravens defensive coordinator Don” Wink “Martindale. “I don’t want to look like Pete Rose here, but we just need a three game parlay to hit; a lot of people bet five and six – not that I’m a gambler. ”

In all fairness, the Ravens are blessed to be at this point which is a tribute to their front office and coaching staff. They’ve lost their top three running backs, the Pro Bowl left tackle, star quarterback, two Pro Bowl cornerbacks, a starting safety and a starting defensive end for a long time. It shows the depth of the roster assembled by general manager Eric DeCosta and his staff, as well as the match day preparations made by Harbaugh and his coaches.

It also puts the Ravens’ season in perspective: they’re an average team playing in a below-average league.

Their work ethic and philosophy were the keys to a good start, but they were also very lucky. Some might call it fate. In Week 2, Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire felt the Ravens’ 32-yard line with 1:26 to go, which helped Baltimore to a 36-35 victory. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker scored an NFL record 66 yards as time passed to beat the Lions, 19-17, in Week 3. Colts kicker Rodrigo Blankenship was injured at the hip in pre-game warm-ups in Week 5, which is why Indianapolis tried and failed on a pair of 2-point conversions in a 31-25 overtime loss to Baltimore.

At the time, “a victory was a victory”. Not many cared how the Ravens played as they won five of their first six games and were at one point the No. 1 seed in the AFC at 8-3.

Now their luck has changed. The Ravens (8-8) have lost five straight games and are off the playoff table.

Things started to fall apart on October 24, when the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Ravens, 41-17, and warned the rest of the league that an athletic forward seven, especially in the top four, could cause problems at quarterback Lamar Jackson. Nearly three weeks later, the Miami Dolphins repeatedly pressured Jackson to make mistakes in a horrific 22-10 loss.

Word had passed, and no one is sure how Jackson will react as he will miss his fourth straight game on Sunday with an ankle injury. Without Jackson, the Ravens’ offensive weaknesses were exposed. The running game has suffered because Jackson is their only outside threat, and pass blocking is worse because Huntley and his mate Josh Johnson aren’t as elusive as Jackson.

Forget the big games. They no longer exist in this offense, and part of that is on purpose.

Defensively, the secondary has become a revolving door for free agents on the street. Once considered the highlight of the season, the Ravens are ranked 32nd in pass defense, allowing for 220.3 yards per game. At least that’s a new problem this year on top of the continued failure to put pressure on the quarterback.

After ending last season with a division-round loss to the Bills, the Ravens wanted to improve their offense, which was ranked No. 1 in the league in runs and No. 32 in assists. They did, sitting at # 5 in a rush and # 13 on the way. However, they are No. 1 in run defense and last in pass defense. They took a step forward and a step back.

But when all injuries are factored in, it’s a major achievement that the Ravens are still in the playoff table, even though there were questionable coaching decisions on game day. It’s been a crazy year.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve seen him. I guess as a fan and just follow other teams, but it’s so rare – just when you get into position and then literally go through so much hardship and different things. than [makes it] just tough to win a ball game, ”Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell said. “You are doing everything you can. We prepared the same way in those first few games when we got into position, and we were seeded # 1 and [had] the best record in football. To, so, now, to be where we are now, where we need a lot of help getting in… It’s certainly a very unique year, and you don’t see it that often.

Campbell added: “It’s really painful, frustrating, but if the guys aren’t frustrated I would be upset because it’s something that is close to our hearts. It is our livelihood. There is a lot of passion, a lot of time and energy spent in being great at this. So it’s certainly been a frustrating year, for the most part, but at the same time, there is hope, and we definitely embrace hope, and we will enjoy the moment of being able to play this kids game that we are playing. love it so much. But yeah, you don’t see this too often, and it really hurts.

As far as the Ravens have endured in the second half of this season, they still have a chance.

Maybe they can pull a rabbit out of the hat once more. Maybe their fate is about to change again.

May be.

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