…head coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman re-organise the team’s playbook. Or at least open it up a bit.
Quite a bit.
OK, so the Baltimore Ravens were playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who remained perfect for the 2020 NFL season with a 19-14 win at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in a game that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said his team played… well, substandard.
And Harbaugh’s team was missing superstar starting quarterback Lamar Jackson, out due to the coronavirus, along with three teammates currently on the COVID-19 list.
And also missing starting running back Mark Ingram and starting wide receiver Willie Snead, among a total of nine total starters – counting Jackson – on either side of the line of scrimmage.
And the Ravens and Steelers finally got around to playing, six days and three COVID-mandated postponements later, after the teams’ original Thanksgiving night fixture was stymied by a COVID-19 outbreak.
By? Guess who? Yes, the Ravens’ camp.
But enough excuses.
Truth is, over the last several weeks, despite having the reigning NFL MVP at the controls – before Jackson’s falling afoul of that virus – Baltimore’s offence had never looked all that great, relying too much on the run-pass options from Jackson’s legs and arm, in that order.
And without him? They looked worse, despite the prospect of having another former Heisman Trophy winner – and experienced NFL quarterback – in Robert Griffin III at the helm.
Ahead of the game against the all-conquering Steelers, Jackson had led the Ravens to nine touchdowns over the last four games, passing for five of those touchdowns, running for another, while also throwing two interceptions.
Jackson also averaged only 203 yards passing and 57 yards rushing out of Roman’s offensive schemes around Jackson’s RPO’s, as the team averaged nearly 24 points per outing over games in November.
Not exactly setting those games alight, as the Ravens went 1-3 in that span.
Alas, against the Steelers, Griffin was even worse.
The former Washington and Cleveland quarterback led the Ravens on a touchdown drive in the opening quarter, but only threw for a mere 33 yards on 7-of-12 passing and ran for 68 yards on seven carries before exiting the game midway through the third quarter with a hamstring injury.
The gimpy Griffin made way for Trace McSorley, holder of many passing records in college at Penn State but without a passing attempt in the NFL to his name entering the game, and did his best to rally the Ravens, throwing for 77 yards and a touchdown pass on 2-of-6 passing, and 16 yards on three rushes.
McSorley’s touchdown pass, to be fair, was more to the credit of Marquise “Hollywood” Brown’s running after taking a pass from the third-string quarterback on a 15-yard “hitch” route, and did the rest of the work.