Could matters get any worse for the Baltimore Ravens?
After dropping to 6-4 on the season and into third place in the AFC North following Sunday’s overtime loss to Tennessee, the Ravens lost two of their three running backs on Monday to the coronavirus.
Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed in a late-afternoon video conference with reporters that both Mark Ingram and rookie J.K. Dobbins have contracted COVID-19 and must quarantine for at least 10 days.
So not only will the rush-dependent Ravens attack lose 62% of its running-back production (612 of 988 yards) for this Thursday’s game at arch-rival Pittsburgh — in the nightcap of the league’s annual U.S. Thanksgiving Day tripleheader — but both Ingram and Dobbins might well miss next week’s Thursday-nighter against visiting Dallas, too.
The NFL said this Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh is a go.
Harbaugh furthermore announced that defensive lineman Brandon Williams will self-isolate for a minimum of five days, after being deemed the sole high-risk close contact with either Ingram or Dobbins, as a result of the immediate contact tracing investigation conducted jointly by the league and Ravens.
This means Williams, Baltimore’s starting nose tackle, won’t be available to play in Pittsburgh, either.
The Ravens placed Ingram, Dobbins and Williams on the COVID-19/reserve list.
Earlier Monday afternoon, the Ravens had announced that on Sunday night “we were informed that multiple members of the (club) tested positive for COVID-19 and those individuals immediately began to self-quarantine.”
At that time, team headquarters in Owings Mills, MD., immediately closed and all team meetings were being conducted virtually.
By the time of Harbaugh’s conference call, the facilities reopened, but meetings were still being conducted virtually.
“We’re just carrying forward with a normal schedule at this point,” Harbaugh said, “and working hard for a big challenge Thursday night against the undefeated Steelers.”
That only one player was deemed to be a high-risk close contact is testament to how well Ravens players and coaches have adhered to the ever-tightening coronavirus protocols implemented jointly by the NFL and players union, Harbaugh said.
“I think our players did a great job on (Sunday’s) sideline with the masks, and a great job in the locker room,” Harbaugh said. “They tried to follow the protocols throughout the game and throughout the weekend at the hotel, and at meetings throughout the week. Our guys have done a good job with that. So I’m appreciative of them for that.
“That’s probably the thing that gives us a chance to play this game on Thursday night.”
The last thing the Ravens — losers of three of their past four — needed was to play their rematch against the 10-0 Steelers without two of their three running backs. Pittsburgh won the first encounter on Nov. 1, 28-24.
Gus Edwards, who has rushed for 376 yards on the season, will be Baltimore’s go-to running back in Pittsburgh.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson leads the Ravens in rushing with 575 yards.
FIVE FAST FACTS
The only two quarterbacks who rank in the Top 13 in every major statistical category through Week 11: Aaron Rodgers and Justin Herbert … Bengals WR A.J. Green on Sunday caught his first TD pass in two years and a month … The Eagles have scored fewer than 10 first-half points in half of their 10 games … The 0-10 Jets are officially eliminated from the playoffs … Cam Newton has just two TD passes in his past six games and zero multi-TD-pass games as a Patriot.
Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone said DE Josh Allen will miss time with a knee injury … Cleveland pass rusher Myles Garrett will miss this week’s game at Jacksonville as he continues his reported recovery from COVID-19 … In a Boston radio interview Monday, Newton would not say whether he hoped to return to the Patriots next season, after the expiry of his one-year contract.
DEAL WITH IT
Cleveland won again with quarterback Baker Mayfield doing little of anything elite, this time in a 22-17 defeat of the stumbling Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
In Cleveland’s past three games, all at home this month, the 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick has completed a combined 36-of-69 passes (52%) for 458 yards and no touchdowns.
To give you a sense of how paltry those numbers are, Dak Prescott of Dallas in one game last month, against Cleveland no less, completed 41-of-58 for 502 yards and four touchdowns.
Now, all that said, you have to know a couple things.
First, that Cleveland’s rushing attack has become downright savage, with both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt bludgeoning defences. So, no need to pass a whole lot, especially when Cleveland in recent games has been mostly ahead on the scoreboard, when the Browns’ elite pass-rush unit can tee off on opposing QBs.
The other mitigating factor is that the weather at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium for these past three games was horrific from a passing standpoint: Windy and rainy against Las Vegas on Nov. 1; super windy and heavy rains against Houston a week ago Sunday; and near constant cold, dismal rain this past Sunday against Philly.
Which brings to mind something someone once pointed out to me, regarding the Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady comparison: Imagine how many fewer yards and touchdowns Manning might have amassed had he played his November, December and January home games outdoors in Indy, from 1998-2010, as Brady did in Foxboro from 2000-19.
Mayfield’s modest outdoor passing totals at home this month make such a supposition intriguing indeed.
TAKING A KNEE
One reason football is such a great sport is because occasionally we see plays we’ve never seen before. Or likely ever will see again.
As was the case with one wild change-of-possession play during the second quarter of Sunday’s Cincinnati at Washington game.
Trailing 7-0, the Bengals went for it on fourth-and-goal on the Washington three. About an hour before he blew out his left knee, Bengals QB Joe Burrow rolled right, turned up and tried to extend the ball across the goal line — but Washington’s rookie pass rusher Chase Young knocked the ball out of Burrow’s grasp and it bounced into the end zone.
There, Washington safety Kamren Curl picked up the ball and ran it out just across the goal line, where Cincinnati guard Quinton Spain reached out and stripped Curl of the ball, which bounded back into the end zone.
There, Washington cornerback Ronald Darby pounced on it. Touchback? No.
Safety! A ball fumbled in the field of play that bounds back into the end zone and is then recovered by the fumbling team is a safety.
It didn’t end there.
The Bengals were flagged on the play, before Burrow’s fumble, for offensive holding. That seemingly gave Washington head coach Ron Rivera a strange choice, of either accepting the safety and thereby giving the Bengals two points before then free-kicking to them, or accepting the penalty and thereby giving Cincinnati the ball back for a fourth-and-goal from the Washington 13.
Rivera chose option No. 2, which seemed stupid, as the Bengals likely would have chosen to have kicker Randy Bullock immediately attempt a 31-yard field goal, and a chip shot of that distance typically is made more than 90% of the time.
So why would Rivera basically gift the Bengals an additional point, three instead of two? Or even seven, if the Bengals had chosen to still go for it from the 13 and scored a touchdown?
Turned out it was all moot.
Upon review, the NFL’s central replay command centre somehow decided that Curl did not obtain clear control of the initially fumbled ball while bringing it out of the end zone. So, Spain did not strip him of the ball because Curl did not have possession.
Thus, Darby’s recovery in the end zone — according to the replay verdict — was the first and only fumble recovery. And, as it occurred in the end zone, the final ruling was touchback, not safety. Rivera declined the offensive holding call against Cincinnati and his offence took possession at its 20.
As Samuel L. Jackson’s character Jules told John Travolta’s Vincent in Pulp Fiction, “I’ve seen some crazy-ass (stuff) in my time,” but that might take the cake.
MORE THAN ACL DAMAGE FOR BURROW
We might not see Joe Burrow back on an NFL field until well into the 2021 season.
NFL Network and ESPN reported Monday that the rookie Cincinnati Bengals quarterback suffered more than just a torn ACL on Sunday at Washington. An MRI revealed a torn MCL as well, plus other structural damage, the reports said.
Such multi-level damage can sideline a player from competition for 9-12 months, based on past recoveries, the reports said. If Burrow’s recovery follows that timeline, he would return to play anywhere from late August to late November of 2021.
The No. 1 overall draft pick this past April, Burrow had started all 10 games for the Bengals, leading them to two wins and a tie.
ESPN’s statistical bureau says Burrow ranks fourth in league history for most passing yards by a rookie through 10 games, with 2,688. He has completed 65% of his passes for 13 touchdowns, five interceptions, 6.7 yards per attempt and an 89.8 passer rating.
THIELEN ON COVID LIST
More NFL players on Monday were placed on the COVID-19/reserve list, including star Minnesota wide receiver Adam Thielen.
Thielen leads the NFL with 11 touchdown receptions. His 49 catches rank 18th.
Players are parked on COVID-19/reserve either for being infected with the coronavirus (minimum 10 days) or as high-risk close contacts (minimum five days). It was not immediately known which reason landed Thielen on the list.
Besides Thielen and the three Baltimore Ravens (RB Mark Ingram, RB J.K. Dobbins and NT Brandon Williams), these players went on the list Monday: Buffalo TE Tommy Sweeney, Chicago free safety Eddie Jackson, Las Vegas defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, Miami offensive tackle Jesse Davis, San Francisco DT D.J. Jones, San Francisco DE Jordan Willis and Washington practice-squad RB Javon Leake.
Four players were activated from COVID-19/reserve.
All 32 starting QBs, after Sunday games, with last week’s rankings in brackets:
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (2). Makes it look simple, easy.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (1). Second-half hiccups until tying drive.
3. Russell Wilson, Seattle (3). Rediscovered his Sept/Oct magic.
4. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (5). Pro Bowl calibre yet again.
5. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay (7). Played Monday night.
6. Josh Allen, Buffalo (8). Idle in Week 11.
7. Derek Carr, Las Vegas (9). Nearly matched Mahomes.
8. Kyler Murray, Arizona (6). Vexed early by Seattle’s bad D.
9. Philip Rivers, Indianapolis (12). Good as he has looked so far.
10. Justin Herbert, L.A. Chargers (17). He’s got it for a livin’ fact.
11. Jared Goff, L.A. Rams (14). Played Monday night.
12. Deshaun Watson, Houston (20). Picked apart Patriots defence.
13. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee (16). Made all the clutch throws.
14. Matt Ryan, Atlanta (11). His third-down mental clock is gone.
15. Matthew Stafford, Detroit (13). Played with mangled thumb.
16. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (15). This rating is probably kind.
17. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati (19). Done for the year. Helluva start.
18. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland (21). Team winning in spite of him.
19. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota (23). Most. Enigmatic. QB. Ever.
20. Cam Newton, New England (22). Slowest release in the NFL?
21. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami (18). Vic Fangio derails hype train.
22. Nick Foles, Chicago (24). Idle in Week 11.
23. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia (25). Is his confidence gone?
24. Daniel Jones, N.Y. Giants (26). Idle in Week 11.
25. Alex Smith, Washington (27). Feel-good story of the season.
26. Andy Dalton, Dallas (NR). Nice way to return as starter.
27. Nick Mullens, San Fran (29). Idle in Week 11.
28. Drew Lock, Denver (31). When he avoids the picks he’s good.
29. Joe Flacco, N.Y. Jets (32). Making something out of nothing.
30. P.J. Walker, Carolina (NR). Ex-XFL star did fine. But Detroit.
31. Jake Luton, Jacksonville (28). Steelers welcomed him to NFL.
32. Taysom Hill, New Orleans (NR). See that arm punt? Sheesh.
THIS WEEK AHEAD
Quick thoughts on Week 12 games (all on Sunday unless noted):
Texans at Lions, Thursday, 12:30 ET: One has fired its head coach already. The other, soon. Fitting on turkey day.
Football Team at Cowboys, Thursday, 4:30 ET: Alex Smith vs. Andy Dalton with NFC East possibly on the line.
Ravens at Steelers, Thursday, 8:20 ET: Wouldn’t beleaguered Baltimore just love to ruin Pittsburgh’s perfect season.
Raiders at Falcons, 1 ET: The Raiders’ revival is for real. As Atlanta is likely to find out.
Chargers at Bills, 1 ET: This could wind up the most fun shootout of the day, Justin Herbert vs. Josh Allen.
Giants at Bengals, 1 ET: Coming off tumultuous bye week, New York should beat Burrow-less Bengals.
Titans at Colts, 1 ET: Two weeks later they meet again, this time tied atop the AFC South at 7-3 apiece.
Browns at Jaguars, 1 ET: Might Cleveland actually get decent weather for a game? Watch, it’ll thunderstorm.
Panthers at Vikings, 1 ET: You know Teddy Bridgewater wants to play against the team that gave up on him.
Cardinals at Patriots, 1 ET: All-pro Cards WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. all-pro Pats CB Stephon Gilmore? Delicious.
Dolphins at Jets, 1 ET: Miami in the north at this time of year? A cautious bet, at best. Tua will be harassed.
Saints at Broncos, 4:05 ET: Taysom Hill, a BYU product, returns to mountain country. Don’t discount Denver here.
49ers at Rams, 4:05 ET: San Fran knocked off L.A. last time, but not with Nick Mullens at QB.
Chiefs at Buccaneers, 4:25 ET: Super Bowl preview? Yeah, maybe. Brady (with Pats) was 2-1 vs. Mahomes.
Bears at Packers, 8:20 ET: It is inconceivable that Nick Foles of Bears could match TDs with Aaron Rodgers.
Seahawks at Eagles, Monday, 8:15 ET: If Carson Wentz can’t exploit Seattle’s awful pass defence, well, yeah.
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