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Ravens might check-down right out of the playoffs

Ravens might check-down right out of the playoffs

For the second week in a row, Joe Flacco set a Ravens franchise record for receptions on Monday night.

But Flacco’s 37 receptions – on 52 attempts – yielded just 324 yards, as he often relied on dumpoffs and checkdowns to running backs in a 30-23 loss to the Patriots that, for now at least, leaves the Ravens (7-6) on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs.

RELATED: INSTANT OBSERVATIONS FROM THE RAVENS' 30-23 LOSS

The Ravens aggressive offensive approach in the win over the Dolphins last week was nowhere to be found Monday night, as Flacco routinely made a quick read and a dumpoff, regardless of whether he was under pressure.

Flacco targeted his running backs 18 times, including 11 throws to rookie running back Kenneth Dixon, who finished with a team-high eight receptions for 42 yards.

In other words, Flacco threw as many passes to the running backs as he did to his top three receivers; Mike Wallace (8), Steve Smith (6) and Breshad Perriman (4) also totaled 18 targets, and many of those were short-yardage dumpoffs as well.

The Ravens simply can’t go toe-to-toe with elite offenses that way.

Flacco’s record-setting night aside, the Ravens offense looked far from elite for much of the game. The Ravens were greatly helped by two huge special teams errors by the Patriots, who fumbled two returns inside their own 25-yard line – one inside the 5 – to set up the Ravens two touchdowns.

 “They were dropping a lot of guys it seemed like most of the game in the middle of the field,” Flacco said, acknowledging that the Patriots took away much of what he had so much success with last week against Miami.

“Took a couple of shots downfield,” Flacco said. “We were hoping to be able to take a couple more.”

Instead, the Ravens relied far more often on 2- or 4-yard dumpoffs, even in third-and-long situations.

That has been a recurring problem this season. The Ravens, who entered the game ranked 30th in the league in third-down conversions, were 6-for-16 on third-down conversions against the Patriots.

Coming into the season, the Ravens boasted the makings of a high-powered offense, with one of the strongest-armed quarterbacks in the league and receivers such as Wallace and Perriman who could stretch the field.

Yet the season hasn’t played out that way.  The Ravens rank 25th in yards per pass play and rarely take deep shots downfield.

Now the Ravens are in a three-week sprint to the finish with little margin for error. They need to be aggressive, bold and get their big playmakers involved.

Two-yard dumpoffs are not the answer.

More Ravens: THE RAVENS WILL HEAD TO LONDON FOR THE FIRST TIME NEXT SEASON

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Ravens vs. Texans Week 11: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Ravens vs. Texans Week 11: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Potentially the hottest team in the NFL, the Ravens enter Week 11 on a five game winning streak while sitting at 7-2. On top of the AFC North and in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, Baltimore has picked up impressive wins over the Seahwaks and Patriots in recent weeks, and is coming off of a dominating win in Cincinnati.

A lot of the success can be attributed to the play of Lamar Jackson. Baltimore's quarterback has been phenomenal as of late attacking teams through the air and on the ground with show-stopping plays. Jackson's 2019 campaign has thrust him to the front of the MVP conversation and has plenty of analysts backtracking on old takes.

The Ravens defense has come to play as of late as well. The acquisition of Marcus Peters looks to be exactly what Baltimore needed, as the cornerback's pick-6 on Sunday was his second in only three games as a member of the secondary. As of now, everything is clicking for the Ravens.

But, Sunday will provide another big test when Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans come to town. While Houston will be without start defensive end J.J. Watt, Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and company present a formidable challenge in what could be a potential postseason battle. Here's everything you need to know about the Week 11 matchup:

Ravens vs. Texans: How to watch

What: Week 11 of the NFL regular season

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Houston Texans

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD

When: Sunday, Nov. 17, at 1:00 p.m.

TV Channel: CBS

Live Stream: Stream on FuboTV 

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090, 98Rock and 101.5 FM

Weather: 46 degrees, partly cloudy

RAVENS 2019 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1: Sun., 9/8 at Dolphins, 1:00 p.m. (W, 59-10)

Week 2: Sun., 9/15 vs. Cardinals, 1:00 p.m. (W, 23-17)

Week 3: Sun., 9/22 at Chiefs. 1:00 p.m. (L, 33-28)

Week 4: Sun., 9/29 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m. (L, 40-25)

Week 5: Sun., 10/6 at Steelers, 1:00 p.m. (W (OT), 26-23)

Week 6: Sun., 10/13 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m. (W, 23-17)

Week 7: Sun., 10/20 at Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. (W, 30-16)

Week 8: BYE week

Week 9: Sun., 11/3 vs. Patriots, 8:20 p.m. (W, 37-20)

Week 10:  Sun., 11/10 at Bengals, 1:00 p.m. (W, 49-13)

Week 11: Sun., 11/17 vs. Texans, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12: Mon., 11/25 at Rams, 8:15 p.m.

Week 13: Sun., 12/1 vs. 49ers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: Sun., 12/8 at Bills, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Thu., 12/12 vs. Jets, 8:20 p.m.

Week 16: Sun., 12/22 at Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 17: Sun., 12/29 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m.

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Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson set to square off in ‘new era’ of quarterbacks

Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson set to square off in ‘new era’ of quarterbacks

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Don Martindale isn’t looking at Sunday’s matchup between the Ravens and Texans as a single game, but rather a game in a historical context. 

With two MVP candidates at quarterback on each side in Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson, the game isn’t just one that could be a playoff preview or a matchup between two of the NFL’s best, but rather a showcase of where the NFL is headed as a league.

The NFL is moving toward quarterbacks of the dual-threat variety, signal-callers that can beat teams in both the air and on the ground. Jackson and Watson are two of the NFL’s best in that department.

“It’s not just these two quarterbacks, but it’s the new era of quarterback,” Martindale said. “The lazy question is ‘Does practicing against Lamar help you for this?’ We’re preparing for more mobile quarterbacks this year than the old school, stay-in-the-pocket-and-play quarterback from the pocket.”

Jackson and Watson both entered the league with questions aplenty about whether the two quarterbacks, who relied so much on their legs, could be successful in the NFL. As of Week 10 of the 2019 season, those questions have been squashed. 

Jackson has totaled 2,738 yards and 21 touchdowns through nine games and is on-pace for nearly 4,900 yards from scrimmage and 37 touchdowns. Watson has totaled 2,711 yards and 23 touchdowns through nine games, and is on-pace for 4,819 yards and 40 touchdowns.

If there are examples of the way the NFL game is headed, two of the best will be on the field on Sunday.

“I'd rather play against a quarterback that's going to stand there,” Earl Thomas said. “These quarterbacks coming now, they're able to run. They're able to throw it deep. They have the schemes. They have all the misdirection stuff. So I'm not enjoying these young quarterbacks that are coming into the league and doing all this spectacular stuff that they're doing. But, it's just the way the league is going now.”

The ability to both run and pass has left defenses flummoxed as to how to slow down the high-powered attacks, led by quarterbacks that can win with both their arm and their legs.

Last season, Jackson led all quarterbacks in rushing with 695 yards. Watson was in third with 551 yards.

“I know it's hard on defenses, because when you feel you have the offense figured out and you guys are covering everyone, the quarterback gets out, gets the first down, keeps the drive going,” Jackson said. “So, the defensive guys are on the field even longer. We're just doing our thing.”

But one of the storylines that makes Jackson and Watson’s stories so unique are the doubts they endured before taking over as quarterback.

Questions of durability, passing ability and most everything else followed both quarterbacks around from the time they were drafted to even today, where questions still persist about the viability of the running quarterback in the NFL.

“I guess I would question the questioners,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “When we evaluated Deshaun, we felt, obviously, very strongly about his ability to come in here and be a winner and develop into an excellent pro quarterback, which is what he's done. I definitely evaluated Lamar and met Lamar pre-draft, and he's a great player.”

To those in Houston and Baltimore, however, the idea that both Watson and Jackson couldn’t ever be successful seems wrong.

“So, 'wave of the future,' all those different things ... I think these guys are winners,” O’Brien continued. “They were winners in college. They were winners in high school, and they're winners now.”

While both Watson and Jackson — and other mobile quarterbacks around the NFL — may not have yet reached the top of the NFL passing charts, the added dimension of what they can do on the ground has made life incredibly difficult for defenders. 

“Peyton Manning was extremely hard to defend, Tom Brady was extremely hard to defend” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “But, neither one of them could run a 4.3 (40-yard dash), so you don’t have to worry about tackling them on any given play.”

Smith added that when a quarterback breaks the pocket and gets loose for a first down, it can be incredibly demoralizing for a defense that thinks it has forced a stop. 

That can be tough to prepare for, as opponents of the Ravens have noted routinely this season, when you can’t simulate the speed and movement of the opposing quarterback.

“What happens in the game where you’re playing a mobile quarterback is, when you’re practicing, you see a guy go by and say, ‘I got him,’” Martindale said. “In game, they don’t got him. So I think that’s the biggest thing, is just adjusting to the speed of it, of the mobile quarterback.”

Still, while it’s easy to draw comparisons to quarterbacks that can run and pass, and seemingly are the future of the NFL, Jackson doesn’t necessarily see it that way. Every mobile quarterback is unique, which makes them so difficult to contain.

“I play Lamar Jackson ball,” Jackson said. “I don't play nobody else’s ball.”

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