As if losing to the New England Patriots wasn’t bad enough, the Baltimore Ravens suffered a brutal season-ending injury blow on Sunday Night Football. With Nick Boyle done for the year, Mark Andrews will have to carry the load at tight end moving forward.
Will Boyle’s absence prove problematic for Baltimore’s run-based offense? Or can Andrew step up as a blocker in order to keep the Ravens in the mix for a playoff spot?
New England held Baltimore in check on Sunday Night Football
Heading into Sunday Night Football, the Patriots faced a tough task in slowing down the Ravens and their potent rushing attack. But on a wet, windy night in Foxborough, Bill Belichick’s team answered the challenge.
New England held Baltimore to just 115 yards rushing. Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins, and Mark Ingram ran for a combined 60 yards on 17 carries.
Lamar Jackson completed 24-of-34 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. However, he also threw a critical interception right before halftime that brought a swift end to a potential scoring drive.
Meanwhile, the Patriots employed a ground-and-pound approach that the Ravens simply couldn’t stop. Second-year back Damien Harris racked up 121 yards on 22 carries. Cam Newton scored his ninth rushing touchdown of the season. Rex Burkhead averaged 5.2 yards per carry and caught two touchdown passes.
Overall, the Patriots showcased tremendous physicality, energy, and effort on both sides of the ball. And thanks to some key stops late in the game, New England held on to win by a final score of 23-17.
The Ravens suffered a season-ending injury blow against the Patriots
The Ravens lost more than a football game on Sunday night. During the third quarter, Nick Boyle took a direct hit to his left leg from Patriots linebacker Terez Hall. Immediately, players from both teams frantically signaled for medical attention.
Boyle got carted off the field after sustaining what appeared to be a significant knee injury. At his post-game press conference, John Harbaugh delivered some sobering news about the team’s starting tight end.
“He’s going to be done for the season, unfortunately,” said the Ravens head coach.
Although Boyle does not play a prominent role as a pass-catcher, he excels as a blocker. The 2015 fifth-round pick has steadily seen his playing time increase over the years. After spending his first two seasons as a rotational piece, Boyle has locked down the starting tight end spot since 2017.
His contributions as a blocker earned him a hefty raise. In March 2019, the Ravens signed Boyle to a three-year, $18 million contract extension.
But with their highly-paid tight end sidelined for the remainder of the season, the Ravens need Mark Andrews to step up quickly.
Losing Nick Boyle means more work for Mark Andrews
If Baltimore has any shot at making a Super Bowl run, it will need Mark Andrews to take his game to another level. Since entering the league as a third-round pick in 2018, he has shown excellent pass-catching ability.
However, the 6-foot-5, 256-pound tight end does not exactly draw rave reviews for his blocking skills. But with Nick Boyle unavailable, the former Oklahoma star will have to improve in that area moving forward.
General manager Eric DeCosta could also consider promoting Xavier Grimble or Sean Culkin from the practice squad. Grimble spent the last four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and brings solid size (6-foot-4, 261 pounds) to the mix.
Culkin— who tips the scales at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds—started 12 games for the Los Angeles Chargers after making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2017.
Perhaps Baltimore will go with a tight-end-by-committee approach as the season continues. After all, utilizing Andrews as a blocker means Jackson won’t have one of his most trusted weapons available as a potential target.
And for a team that continues to struggle offensively, that could lead to even bigger problems moving forward.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.