John Harbaugh came in with a plan. All in, take every chance to score. In the end, the Packer defense rose to the occasion on three critical stops and the Packers walked away winners in Baltimore.
On the Raven’s first drive they methodically drove the ball to the Packers three yard line. Harbaugh trusted his backup QB, Tyler Huntley, to score on 4th down. The Packer defense rallied, De’Vondre Campbell tracked the shifty passer, sacking Huntley as he broke the pocket for the sideline.
Those three points that Harbaugh gambled on would prove the difference in the game. He was probably fearful of a Rodgers air bombardment as he knew the Ravens secondary were all second stringers. Perhaps the string of game winning drives he watched Rodgers make on tape led to his decision to go for the final fourth quarter two point play instead of going to overtime with great momentum. In the end, Harbaugh is consistent, now losing two games during the 2021 season on failed 2 point extra point tries.
The Ravens are known for their run defense. Many coaches would have drawn up a pass happy game plan. LaFleur stuck to his team strengths and ended up with 96 rushing yards on 25 carries. The run set up enough passes to get Rodgers 3 touchdown throws, tying Brett Favre as the all time Packer leaders in touchdown passes.
For not practicing going on close to four weeks, Rodgers missed a couple he normally makes, but he made throws when he needed to keep drives alive and his receivers caught the clutch passes. Davante Adams juggled a touchdown and a critical third down pass but made the tough catches. Marquez Valdez-Scantling came to play in Baltimore. Five catches for 98 yards including a highlight touchdown grab and extension over the goal line were all made to look easy.
Once again the Packers started slow, Rodgers missed a wide open Adams on third down to force a first quarter punt and the Ravens kept the ball for most of the rest of the quarter. Rodgers had the ball as the first quarter ended and the eight play 84 yard touchdown drive evened the score at seven.
The Ravens responded with an eleven play, 73 yard, scoring drive that gave the Ravens a 14-7 lead. The Ravens game plan focused on their giant pass catching tight end, Mark Andrews. The Packers defense schemed safety Darnell Savage to match up on Andrews. That plan was a failure for most of the game. Savage was beaten on multiple passes and seemed to want no part of tackling him. Andrews had 10 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers seemed to realize their original scheme wasn’t working. They brought in Kevin King to match up on Andrews but King could not stop the simple slant route that the Ravens had run repeatedly.
With the Packers receiving the second half kickoff they reeled off six running plays on the 13 play drive that was helped by a questionable pass interference penalty on Baltimore that erased what could have been a crucial Allen Lazard drop on third down. The very next play Rodgers found Aaron Jones all alone in the end zone on a cleverly designed play with multiple crossing patterns that worked as a pick play by Lazard on Ravens linebacker Otaro Alaka. Alaka stumbled, leaving Jones uncovered for the catch and score.
The Ravens scored on a field goal in their first drive of the third quarter but the Packers responded with their second touchdown of the quarter upping their led to 28-17. On the next series the Packer defense stuffed the Ravens, yet on their own 29, Harbaugh decided to go for it on 4th and 6 with over twelve minutes left in the fourth quarter. Huntley missed his pass and the Packers took over. Rodgers then missed an open Lazard in the end zone on third down. Mason Crosby was the bright spot on Special Teams, nailing the 29 yard field goal and all his extra points to put the Packers up 14 in the fourth. 31-17.
The Ravens have a good track record for 4th quarter comebacks in 2021. They almost added to that resume by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth and shutting down the Packers offense for a quick punt. But the Ravens, who had repeated success running and passing up the middle of the Packers defense during the game, tried a sideline throw on the two point conversion attempt that was well defensed by rookie Eric Stokes.
The Packers now have sealed the North division and still lead the playoff hunt as the top seed. Next up, the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau on Christmas. Let’s hope for a merry day for the Green and Gold.