Another week of football, and another gritty, hard fought win for the Baltimore Ravens, who improved to 3-0 with a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens have found ways to win each week so far, something they were not able to do in 2015.
Buffalo, Cleveland, and Jacksonville combine for a 1-8 record this year, leading analysts to wonder whether this Baltimore team is a contender or not.
Baltimore has played dominant defense in all but one quarter of football this year, and the offense has made enough plays to win games each week. Winning games early in the season can carry momentum over into the more difficult second half of the schedule, and make the Ravens a team to watch in the playoff race.
Joe Flacco spread the ball out yet again (nine different targets) en route to a franchise record 21-straight completions, and the defense sealed the victory with another late interception. Here are my main points from Week Three.
What I Liked
- Winning Ugly. This is the type of football Baltimore has been used to playing during the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco era. The Ravens love winning ugly because it means they hashed out a hard fought victory. This team is tough, resilient, and plays 60 minutes of football every week.
- Young Players On Defense. This is the Timmy Jernigan and C.J. Mosley the Ravens knew they were getting when they spent two early draft picks on the pair. Mosley has stepped into the lead linebacker role this year with a bang as he recorded his second interception of the year in as many weeks. Jernigan has a sack in three straight games to start the season, and he looks like a playmaker from the defensive end position. Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce make a solid wall up front, helping limit the Jaguars to 48 yards rushing. Matt Judon and Za’Darius Smith are hungry for their first sacks of the season, and are consistently finding themselves in the backfield. Tavon Young and Zachary Orr each contributed their first career interceptions in the fourth quarter Sunday. This defense is young and hungry.
- Special Teams. There is no debate that Justin Tucker is worth the rich contract he signed this offseason. Tucker converted all five field goal and extra point tries against the Jaguars, and is kicking 100% this year. For the second straight week the special teams unit has blocked a kick, with both blocks having major implications on the final outcome of each game. Devin Hester did muff a punt in the fourth quarter, but that hasn’t been a consistent problem for him throughout his record setting career.
- Steve Smith Sr. Each week a different receiver has lead the offense in receiving yards, and this week was Smith Sr.’s turn. Smith hasn’t enjoyed the flashy start to the season that he did last year, but he is contributing important plays each week, like his five-yard reception on 4th-and-2 on the Raven’s final possession.
- Taking The Division Lead. With Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Cleveland all taking a loss this week, the Ravens have taken the division lead for the first time in over a year. The Ravens have a chance to build on that lead with two upcoming home games in the next two weeks.
What I Didn’t Like
- The Running Game. This is becoming a recurring problem. The running game has been nonexistent for three games now. The offensive line is not opening holes and the running backs are not making plays. The hope is this will change when 4th-round rookie Kenneth Dixon returns to the field. Baltimore needs to find a solution sooner rather than later because the key to AFC North football late in the season is a sound running game in the colder months of the year.
- Realizing Ronnie Stanley Is Human. For the first two games Stanley was solid in both pass protection and run blocking. This week he let the fact that he’s a rookie show, giving up his first sack and committing a penalty. I don’t see this as a recurring problem, but it was the first time he showed any rookie mistakes.
- Lack Of Touchdowns. Scoring enough points to win the game hasn’t been the problem for the Ravens, but scoring touchdowns has. Flacco ran a touchdown early, but was not able to find the endzone again against a defense that had given up 65 points in its previous two games. Baltimore has scored only four touchdowns compared to nine field goals in three games.
- Giveaways Late In The Game. Flacco threw two interceptions and Hester fumbled a punt all in the fourth quarter. Turnovers like that lose games, and the Ravens are lucky the defense picked off two of its own to bail out the offense and special teams late on the road. Giveaways like that won’t fly later in the year, and Flacco is well aware of that.
- This is the type of win the Ravens needed. They’ve won three different games now in three different ways. Week One was defensive domination, Week Two was a come from behind victory, and Week Three was a thrilling back and forth contest won on the road. The Ravens have matched their road wins from 2015 (two) only three games into the season. The defense has five interceptions in three games, a stark contrast from last year’s six total in 16 games. The Ravens are proving they’ve fixed their past mistakes.
Preview of Week Four
- The Ravens come back home for a rematch of last year’s 37-33 loss in Oakland with the hopes of starting the year 4-0 for the first time in the Harbaugh/Flacco era. Oakland’s defense was suspect in Weeks One and Two, but tightened up against the Tennessee Titans this week. This figures to be a lower scoring affair than last year as both teams improved their defenses in the offseason, and the Ravens hope to capitalize at home against an up-and-coming Raiders squad.
Ravens’ Alex Collins Arrested
Per the report: Officers responded to a report of a car that had crashed into a tree on the 10000 block of Dolfield Road at about 6:48 a.m. Friday morning, Baltimore County police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Peach said.
Collins, 24, was arrested, however charges were not made public at the time of this writing.
Ravens vice president of public relations Chad Steele told The Baltimore Sun that the team has spoken with law enforcement and is aware of the situation involving Collins.
Collins is coming off a down year with Baltimore after a breakout campaign in 2017. Collins managed only 411 yards rushing in 2018 and was placed on injured reserve back in December, ending his season early.
Ray Rice Says He Is Done With Football
Former NFL running back Ray Rice, who had been working to try and get a second chance in the NFL over the past couple of years, is no longer pursuing a comeback.
“The pressure I was under of being a star, that was the person I hated the most.”
Rice was suspended indefinitely back in 2014 when a video surfaces showing Rice punching his then-fiancee, now wife, Janay Rice while the two were alone in an elevator.
Rice was never picked up by another team following the conclusion of his suspension, and his release from the Baltimore Ravens.
Rice said that he sees “similarities” between his situation and the one of former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, who was recently cut loose by the team when a video surfaced showing him pushing and kicking a woman in a hallway.
“Somewhere down the line everybody who’s sayin’, ‘Does he deserve a second chance for football?’ And this that and the other— I actually got my second chance” Rice said of Hunt, who cleared waivers and is now a free agent.
“During my darkest moments, and I used to ask myself, ‘How could she even be—want to support me?’ … That’s understandable. But I think what’s misunderstood about us is that the friends we were before the incident. That’s why, like I said, when I look at Kareem Hunt, I wanna know what his life was like. I want to know what happened in life. I know Kareem has apologized, and has expressed remorse for survivors of domestic violence.”
Ravens Trying To Entice Fans With Lower Concession Prices
The Baltimore Ravens are attempting to win back fans and their latest plan is making a big step toward doing just that as the team announced on Tuesday that they will reduce concession prices at M&T Bank Stadium in 2018.
The Ravens have been on a mission to bring back fans who were angered by some players’ national anthem protests coupled with their 3-year playoff drought.
A series of moves have demonstrated their efforts. The team invited fans to ask questions at a media pre-draft news conference held a question-and-answer session with fans at the team facility with owner Steve Bisciotti, coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome, and also have had team president Dick Cass meet and talk to fan clubs.
While the team has sold out every game during their 20-year history at M&T Bank Stadium, empty seats grew in numbers as the 2017 season wore on, and the no-shows are very obvious.
The organization is taking this initiative very seriously.
“It’s something I would really like to take a hard look at, and at least, come up with select items that we can do,” Bisciotti said back in February of this year.
“If it means us … I can’t make Aramark do that with me, but I can make them go along as long as it’s my share of the profits that I’m waiving. Yeah, I’d like to take a look at that. I think we could probably do that.”
There is an official news conference scheduled for Thursday where the Ravens will officially announce price reductions on concessions.
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