I was lazy this week. Alright, not lazy, but life definitely got in the way of things that I’d rather be doing – like writing The Chicken Box, or recording Neutral Zone Infraction, neither of which happened. But, after a hard-fought win against the hated Bengals, with none other than first-round pick Lamar Jackson in at quarterback.. Here I am, to give you the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Allow me to be abundantly clear. Players can be in a certain category, even if they weren’t completely in that category. With that in mind, let’s begin with the obvious.
Lamar Jackson. Joe Flacco was inactive with a hip injury, and so the final pick of the first round had his first NFL start. He had long been hyped for his ability to run, and man did the Ravens use his legs. 27 times, LJ carried the ball (3 kneels, 3 QB sneaks included). He racked up 117 yards on the ground, extended plays, and showed good speed and vision. (This amount of running by a QB isn’t sustainable, folks. He will get figured out, and he will get hurt.) He racked up another 150 yards through the air – and here is where the fanbase is divided.
There are those that realize that he still needs work. And there are those who think that 13-of-19 is good enough, and he should be anointed the starter. I’ve said time and again that LJ is a phenomenal athlete. I’ve also said that he is not a gifted passer.
When you break down the 13 completed passes, and see that 11 of them were considered ‘short’ or ‘dump-off’ passes, you begin to get a clearer picture of who he is (right now) as a QB. He was held to conservative pass plays because it masked his deficiencies, and combined with the run game and skill positions, it was enough. Most of his yardage came after the catch – a stat that the box score doesn’t show, which means that ‘Lamarsexuals’ don’t want to discuss it.
However, stats lie. That’s a proven fact. He also had some very bad passes – including trying to give Alex Lewis a concussion (let’s be honest, though, having Lewis out of the game wouldn’t be a bad thing.) Truth is, LJ didn’t do anything through the air that was anything out of the ordinary. His completion percentage was helped by a nice grab by Chris Moore, along with other contested catches.
Lamar had a great game on the ground, but an average one through the air. I’m not calling him a bust – I’m also not ready to anoint him the new starter. When you balance out the great versus the average, it lands him squarely in the ‘good’ category.
Coverage. Marlon Humphrey got Moss’d by John Ross. Now that that’s out of the way, beyond that, the corners played very well. The Ravens rotated them drive-by-drive, and it worked. First it was Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr. Then Humphrey and Smith. Then Humphrey and Carr – this went on throughout the entire game. With no A.J. Green to contend with, the Ravens were able to stifle the normal downfield attack from Andy Dalton, up to and including a beautiful pass breakup by Humphrey that would’ve kept the Bengals alive with very little time on the clock. Well-rested, against a banged up offense, the corners did their job – not as well as they should, but good enough to win.
Offensive line. This is new. The offensive line is in the ‘good’ category for… run blocking?! What is this, 2017? All jokes aside, missing both starting tackles, and featuring Alex Lewis (gross), the offensive line paved the way for 265 yards on the ground. The Ravens had not one, but two 100-yard rushers, after having… let me check my notes.. yep. Not one, for the entire season. Perhaps the addition of Lamar had something to do with it, but no matter what, kudos to the line for staying strong in the trenches.
Willie Snead.. and his attitude. Snead impressed even me on Sunday – and I’ve been a staunch supporter of his since before he was signed. Five for 51 on eight targets doesn’t sound great, but again, this is where you have to look past the box score. He made more than one gritty catch, and fought for yards after, including a hard-fought battle through two defensive backs for a first down to keep hope alive.
On top of this, I always appreciate a player who can stand up to the coach and tell them they’re wrong, and that they’re not being aggressive enough. Good thing John Harbaugh is likely gone, otherwise I’m sure he’d find a way to get Snead gone this off-season.
Time of Possession. The Ravens had the ball for 38 minutes and nine seconds of play time. There was a 16-minute, 18-second differential in the ToP between the teams. That will win you the football game 9.5 times out of 10.
Defensive miscues. The defense held strong at the end of the game, shutting out Dalton and the offense in the fourth quarter. Let’s be honest, though – they didn’t play spectacularly well for the entire game. They only managed one sack against an offensive line that isn’t a world-beater. No interceptions, though I think Tony Jefferson got robbed on his. Two near-interceptions would follow, from Z, then CJ, but nobody could finish the job. Mosley still flashed his propensity for losing containment, and Eric Weddle still forgot to play the ball. There were missed tackles, to cap it all off.
Against a better offense, as we have seen, this defense isn’t good enough. Ranked first in the league, the trained eye can see a middling performance and aging has-beens at certain positions. Some people won’t like that reality, but, this is my job, folks. You don’t have to agree – but then you’ll be wrong.
Special teams miscue! Speaking of losing containment, how the hell do you let a guy like Erickson get a return like that, when you’re supposed to be the best special teams unit in the league?
This is the fun part. There wasn’t anything particularly ugly about the game itself – the aftermath has been nothing short of disgusting.
The fanbase. It seems like every day, I grow to dislike this fanbase more. It’s so divided, and you can no longer have an opinion that disagrees with another, even if it’s based in facts, and logical. No, it seems as if too many are willing to don the purple shades, and excuse certain things, while abhorring others.
The most recent trend is ‘Lamar Jackson vs. Joe Flacco’, and it’s easily the one that hurts my soul – and brain – the most. It seems as if you have to be on one side of the fence or the other – not many have a middle ground, one where they can discuss Lamar as a whole – including his deficiencies as a passer thus far. It’s rarely a civil discussion in which logic and acceptance prevails.
It’s sad, really. It’s not quite the Ray Rice days, where literal fights were happening in and out of the stadium. Regardless, it’s sad that:
1. Ravens fans can’t join together with civil discussion and knowledge-building.
2. This fanbase has so many that are willing to overlook mistakes because it’s a shiny new toy making them.
We, as a fanbase, have to do better.
This may seem like an arbitrary inclusion in this article, but with the lack of a better option, and what’s been happening since…well, since Lamar was drafted, it seemed like a necessary one. Hey man, this is the only platform I have.
The Megan Fox!
Did anybody else start Gus Edwards in a deep fantasy league, this week? Was anybody else that desperate for a RB? No? Just me? Alright. Well it paid off.
Gus Edwards! 17 carries. 115 yards. A 6.8YPC. A tudder on top of it all. I can’t be certain, but to my slightly drunken eye, watching the game, I believe Alex Collins got benched in favor of Gus Edwards, which is absolutely wild, when you remember that Gus the Bus was an undrafted free agent out of my 2-year alma mater, Rutgers.
More than one person has attempted to dim the shine of what Gus did on Sunday, by saying that Lamar Jackson made the defense second-guess, and that opened up the lane for him – while some of that may be true (even I had a hard time tracking the ball sometimes), Gus isn’t getting enough credit for his accomplishments. Any other day, he would be the talk of the town, but it’s hard to get out of the shadow of the rookie first-round QB making his first-ever start.
Don’t worry, young man. I noticed. A lot of people did. See, here in Baltimore, we appreciate a hard-nosed runner that can gash a defense, and run down the clock. I’m looking forward to more of the same from you.
That’s it for me, kids. Please, don’t hesitate to leave your thoughts in the comment section, or come find me on Twitter to tell me how displeased you are with me (@ChibsRSR). Be sure to listen to this week’s Neutral Zone Infraction episode, so you can hear even more in-depth views and opinions.
Hope everybody enjoys their stolen/adopted holiday this week. Gorge yourself on turkey – but don’t be disrespectful and not eat stuffing and whatnot. It’s Un-American.