One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.
That’s how many wins in a row the Baltimore Ravens have ripped off. Lamar Jackson hasn’t thrown an interception in six straight games. The Ravens are 9-2, and currently the second seed in the AFC. They’re being mentioned as the best team in the NFL, from fans and analysts alike. They’re coming off of an absolute decimation of the Los Angeles Rams, but not everything went their way.
Let’s take a look.
Everybody and I mean everybody is talking about the Baltimore offense, led by the phenomenon that is known as Lamar Jackson. It would be easy for me to talk about the 285 yards rushing. It would be simple for me to talk about how Miles Boykin led the team in receiving yards, or how Marquise Brown and Willie Snead led the team in receiving touchdowns with two apiece. It would be a quick four hundred words on how Jackson didn’t have a single incompletion in the first half.
The defense is the story here, though. They started off scarily enough, with Matt Judon getting up slowly and walking off of the field, followed by Marlon Humphrey. Both would return quickly though, and the defense would start doing what they’ve done over and over again since playing the Bengals the first time – play absolutely lights out.
Marcus Peters had his best game as a Raven, leading the team in tackles, notching an interception (his third in five games), and forcing the Rams offense to block him, which led to a Jimmy Smith sack off of a double CB Blitz. Earlier in the day, I had told some other RSR guys about how his tape was absolutely perfect to watch in many areas. I didn’t think he could get any better. Turns out, I was wrong. He didn’t miss an assignment. His feet mirrored ‘his guy’ on every rep. His hands in press coverage were as good as any of the elite corners in the league.
Domata Peko played his best game as well – not that it shows up in the box score. He earned a 61.0 grade in coverage, per PFF (if you’re into that sort of thing) and opened up gaps for the rushers to get through. Jaylon Ferguson showed improvement yet again, especially impressing when sealing the edge. Brandon Carr has shown himself to be the perfect complement to Chuck Clark, transitioning to safety faster and better than I would’ve guessed.
The fear of losing Wink Martindale to a head coaching position grows every week. A defense that was bordering on miserable in the early part of the season (ranked as low as 27th) is now the 12th ranked overall defense, and climbing. They’ve torn apart star quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson. They’ve shut down star running backs like Todd Gurley. They’ve handled star wideouts like Tyler Lockett (underrated), DeAndre Hopkins, and Brandin Cooks with ease.
Unfortunately, outside of the aforementioned quick hits to Judon and Humphrey, the Ravens did suffer a big loss – pun intended. One of the fat boys on the front line is out for the season, and his name is Matt Skura. He went down early, and went down hard.. and honestly it didn’t affect the team that much, as they were still able to double-team the monster known as Aaron Donald, even with UDFA Patrick Mekari replacing Skura.
Skura has gotten a lot of hate over the past year or two, mostly from fans. The truth is, he played well in 2018. The bigger truth is that he’s played very well in 2019. He’s second in Pro Bowl votes for AFC centers, which is saying something about a guy who plays an unheralded position, on a largely doubted team. He does a lot of things for the team as he anchors the offensive line that’s been healthy all season, and there could be a drop-off in cohesiveness over the next week or so – not a great thing when the formidable front seven of the San Francisco 49ers in next up on the list.
The Ravens will likely keep Mekari in that position, as he played admirably against the Rams. The other option would be to move the natural center (Bradley Bozeman) to center, as Mekari is a natural guard.
The Marie Avgeropoulos
I’m getting really tired of putting Lamar Jackson in this spot.
I’m getting really tired of putting Marcus Peters in this spot.
Maybe ‘really tired’ is the wrong description. However, I’m sure you understand what I’m saying. That’s why this week, I’m going to put a player here that is the unsung hero of the defense.
Chuck Clark was a 2017 sixth-round draft pick by the Ravens. After Tony Jefferson went down, he became the starting strong safety, and helped transform the entire face of the defense.
In 2018, Eric Weddle was the field general, and you could see him processing the offense, changing the defense, and putting players where they need to go. Fast forward to 2019, and Clark is doing the same things.
You won’t see things like that show up in the box score. You won’t see him making splash plays every game. You won’t have to have his jersey. He’s not a household name, and he may never be. But he is a big part of the reason that the defense has had such a turnaround. And he’s a big part of the reason that the defense held up so well against the Rams on Monday Night.
You’ll notice that there was no ‘Ugly’ section this week. Until there’s a reason for it, I’ll be leaving that section out of these articles. The next test for the Ravens is the biggest test. I have to say, after this seven-game stretch, I have far more confidence in this team than I did before then.
Rest the players in Weeks 16 and 17? Sure, why not. Let’s blow the roof off of this mother….hecker.