Ravens

Are the Ravens the NFL equivalent of the NBA's Houston Rockets?

Ravens

One of the biggest talking points surrounding the Ravens after their Monday night loss to the Chiefs has been their inability to comeback and win against good teams when they become one-dimensional.

That sentiment was echoed again by former wide receiver Torrey Smith when he spoke with the Washington Football Talk podcast this week.

NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay asked Smith if he saw any similarities between the Ravens and the NBA's Houston Rockets, given their shared recent histories of dominant regular season teams who struggle to get over the hump in the postseason.

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"I think there’s a lot of truth to that," Smith told the podcast. "The Baltimore Ravens, when they play well and they control the game, it can get ugly fast. But when you watch them play, and you force them to be a team that has to drop back and throw the ball, or you get out ahead and throw them off schedule, then maybe it makes them get a little bit antsy about sticking to the run, it hurts them. And you were able to see that."

Smith ultimately agreed with the comparison to the Rockets. Both the Rockets and Ravens play a unique, game-changing style that blows the doors off opponents when it's working well. When the Ravens are playing at their best, they are unstoppable. But both have also struggled to win when it matters despite historic regular season success, and both have run into trouble against other elite teams. 

 

It's hard not to agree with the comparison. Both teams even have preternaturally gifted leaders (James Harden and Lamar Jackson) whose styles make the two teams nearly impossible to defend, but who can look particularly out of sorts on off days. 

Despite Lamar Jackson's stellar overall record, Smith isn't sure yet that the Ravens are able to pass their way out of a deficit when it counts.

"With the Chiefs and the plays they were able to make, and the offense just struggling, they weren’t as balanced," Smith said. "And the Ravens are best when they’re running the ball well, they’re hitting you with the play action and Lamar can make plays. They’re not a team that you want to straight up drop back and throw 40 times a game. When Lamar throws over 34 passes, they’ve been beaten three times in the last two years. Their recipe for success, even with his bigger number games, are when he’s throwing less than 34 [passes]. So I thought that was pretty interesting because you watch some of the big games recently, with Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers, these guys have thrown over 40 times in multiple games...but then with the Ravens, Lamar will have a big game but they’ll only have 30 attempts, 32 attempts. And so to me, their recipe for success, they aren’t really built to throw the ball 40-something times and win."

It's hard to find success in the modern NFL without being able to throw. And it's not as if Jackson is incapable of throwing - the Ravens had some of the best passing stats in the league last season, and are among the most efficient passing teams in the league to begin 2020.

But so much of it is predicated on the threat of the rushing attack, something the Ravens have occasionally abandoned too early in games. And it's cost them.

Despite a few notable setbacks, however, Smith knows the Ravens have more than enough talent to win big games.

"I think there’s some truth to it, but I wouldn’t say they don’t perform well vs. great teams," Smith said. "I mean if you win 14 games you beat a lot of good teams along the way."