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’ Lamar Jackson Posts Perfect Passer Rating
Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback continues to make a strong argument for MVP honors this season, and Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals only strengthened his case.
Jackson became the second player in NFL history to produce a perfect passer rating (158.3) in multiple games in a single season, joining Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who accomplished the feat twice back in 2007.
Jackson posted a perfect rating in the Ravens’ season opening victory against the Miami Dolphins, becoming the sixth player in league history to post perfect ratings in multiple career games.
Jackson fueled the Ravens’ rout of the winless Bengals on Sunday, a game that resulted in a 49-13 final score.
“I’m a quarterback at the end of the day,” Jackson said, according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. “I want to prove that each and every day I go out and practice. I treat it like it’s a game. If I miss a pass at practice, I’m ticked off.”
“I mean, jeez, you go out there and he’s whipping the ball and putting it in awesome spots,” Ravens tight end Nick Boyle said. “You saw his awesome passes today. That’s something he can do that people don’t think he can do or didn’t think he could do. That’s what makes him so dangerous. He could do everything.”
Jackson entered the 2019 season with plenty of questions regarding if he could be the long-term NFL quarterback for the Ravens, given his style of play.
Jackson has answered those questions, and then some.
“He’s one of the most exciting players I’ve ever seen,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “(He’s) dynamic. I’m interested to see what teams do down the road here to stop him, because he certainly is hitting on all cylinders right now.”
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Ravens’ Earl Thomas Celebrates Victory Over Seahawks
Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas was extra motivated when playing his former team, the Seattle Seahawks, on Sunday, and the victory over Seattle meant a little bit more than a normal regular season win.
Thomas spent his first nine seasons with the Seahawks, including their Super Bowl championship back in 2014, but had a rather sour departure from the team, highlighted by a rift with Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.
Thomas and the Ravens won the game 30-16 at CenturyLink Field.
“I definitely came in here with a purpose, and we got it done,” Thomas said following the game, according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.
While Thomas had his issues with his former head coach, he has the utmost respect for his former teammate, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who has the same respect for Thomas.
“I hold Earl in high regard, man,” Wilson said. “I really love him. Just how much he’s meant to my family, his family and everything else, and what that means and then also just to the Seahawks organization and what he’s meant … he played really good today, he played great, he was battling out there, back-and-forth … Earl’s one of the best to ever do it.”
Throughout the game Thomas could be seen talking trash to the Seahawks sideline.
“You knew I was going to say something,” Thomas said. “I definitely said what I had to say. It was between me and them.”
Thomas played a big part in keeping the Seahawks offense in check, chipping in five tackles of his own, in an impressive, and convincing victory.
“Earl had a great game,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “And it meant a lot to Earl. Earl didn’t have much to say. He just wanted to go ‘do.’ I think he played great. No big plays. Nothing over the top, Earl and Chuck both. Earl was back there, patrolling the back end. A couple of critical tackles. I mean, sometimes you forget about the safety when he’s doing his job so well.”
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Ravens’ Lamar Jackson Says ‘I hate running’; I’d rather pass
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson worked all offseason to change the perception of him that he is a running quarterback, intent on changing the narrative about his style of play and vowing that he would be running less.
Three games into the season and Jackson is showing his preference of throwing as opposed to taking off for a run.
“I hate running,” Jackson said, according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. “Only if I have to, but my job is to get the ball to the receivers, the tight ends, running backs. If I have to run, I’ll do it, but I’d rather just sit back and pass it. I like throwing touchdowns instead of running them.”
Thus far this season, Jackson is averaging 33 passes and just nine rushes per game, which is a considerable drop from his 17 carries per game during his rookie season.
Jackson did tuck the ball and run for a score during Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, but he insists that running the ball was his only option on the play.
“I only could run it. There was no one open,” Jackson said. “I had to make him miss. I’m one-on-one. I like my chances over anyone one-on-one.
Currently, Jackson is on pace for over 900 yards on the ground, and his ability to create highlight-reel runs often amazes his teammates.
“He’s wild, man. He’s amazing,” Ravens’ running back Mark Ingram said. “I don’t think there is anything like him in the league, as far as just extending plays and being able to juke defenders. He’s special. He can extend plays and buy time for us to get open, receivers to get open, or him take off and run at the last resort and juke people, spin around people, make people fall.”
But even more impressive than his production on the ground has been Jackson’s improvement as a passer, and he carries a 113.9 passer rating s the Ravens enter their Week 4 tilt against the division-rival Cleveland Browns.
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