Sat, 29 Jan 2022

News & Notes: Devonta Freeman Looks Ready for a Strong Finish

Baltimore Ravens
07 Dec 2021, 22:25 GMT+10

Clifton Brown

Devonta Freeman continued to run the ball effectively Sunday, a positive development the Ravens can take from their loss in Pittsburgh. Baltimore has had a carousel of running backs this season, but it appears the Ravens are rallying behind Freeman.

Freeman has become Baltimore's top running back, with at least 49 yards rushing in five of the last seven games. Against the Steelers, Freeman scored the game's first touchdown on a 3-yard run, and he was a weapon as both a runner (52 yards on 14 carries) and a receiver (five catches, 45 yards).

His ability as a receiver out of the backfield could be one way for the Ravens to counter the frequent blitzing they're seeing, giving Lamar Jackson an outlet to get rid of the ball quickly.

On several carries in Pittsburgh, Freeman got positive yards by making a defender miss or by changing direction quickly to find a running lane. The Ravens believe in a running-back-by-committee approach, but Freeman saw 51 offensive snaps (69%) to 14 for Latavius Murray and two for rookie practice squad call-up Nate McCrary.

Head Coach John Harbaugh likes how the veteran running back is trending.

"He's doing great. He's running, making guys miss," Harbaugh said. "It seems like he's getting stronger every week. He was strong in the fourth quarter,[comma] which was good to see. He's done a great job."

Steelers Appeared to Line Up Offsides on Ravens' Two-Point Try

No penalty was called, but Pittsburgh appeared to line up offsides before denying Baltimore on its two-point conversion attempt near the end of Sunday's game. Replays clearly showed defensive lineman Montravius Adams lined up past the ball, and he never moved back before the ball was snapped.

Adams did not have a direct impact on the play, as Jackson was pressured by T.J. Watt and failed to connect with Mark Andrews on a pass that fell incomplete off his fingertips. However, the Ravens would've had a do-over if a penalty had been called on Adams.

We'll never know what would've happened had Baltimore gotten another chance, but Harbaugh understandably would like an explanation on why a flag wasn't thrown.

"I haven't heard anything from the league," Harbaugh said. "When a guy is lined up - I saw the picture - that far in the neutral zone, you'd certainly expect that to get called, though."

Rashod Bateman Experiences First NFL Game Without Catch

After six straight games with at least three catches, rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman was shutout for the first time and was targeted just once Sunday. It was part of a frustrating offensive showing for the Ravens, who were held to fewer than 20 points for the fourth straight game.

Bateman has shown he can be a playmaker, but Harbaugh wants to see the entire passing game function more efficiently. Targets for individual receivers will vary from week to week. Harbaugh is more interesting in chasing points and offensive execution, rather than focusing on targets for a particular receiver.

"I'd like to see everybody more involved," Harbaugh said. "We like it when a number of guys are targeted. It doesn't always work out that way. You can't create that. I think when you start chasing that, that's when problems happen.

"I see every coach and every quarterback in the league get asked that question. How do you get this guy, or that guy more involved? As soon as you start chasing number of catches for guys, what are you chasing? That's not how the game works. But we do what everybody involved and we want it to be because we're operating effectively and efficiently with our offense. The ball's getting spread around based on what the coverage dictates. That's what you hope for."

Harbaugh Knew During Final Drive He Would Go for Two

The call by Harbaugh to go for two points to win Sunday's game in regulation wasn't a split-second decision. Asked if already knew he would go for two points as the Ravens were driving for their final touchdown, Harbaugh gave a one-word answer.

"Yes," he said.

The Ravens lost the game, but their attention has quickly turned to another key AFC North game Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Veteran inside linebacker Josh Bynes said the Ravens can avoid having so many games come down to the wire if they play better.

"In the end, we just have to find ways to win games so we wouldn't be in that situation from the get-go - that's what it's all about," Bynes said.

Harbaugh Wouldn't Discuss If Chuck Clark Jumped Offsides Intentionally

Just after the two-minute warning on Sunday, Ravens safety Chuck Clark was called for offsides, turning a second-and-2 for the Steelers into a first-and-goal at the 8-yard line. At that point in the game, leading 13-12, the Ravens needed to save time on the clock in case Pittsburgh scored.

Clark's penalty that gave Pittsburgh a fresh set of downs without burning time on the clock worked in Baltimore's favor. The Ravens used two timeouts before Pittsburgh scored the go-ahead touchdown, but still had 1:48 left on the clock for Jackson to engineer a touchdown drive.

Harbaugh declined to say Monday if Clark jumping offsides was an intentional penalty.

"I don't need to get into the strategy of it all," Harbaugh said. "But sometimes, it is, [and] sometimes, it isn't."

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