Your Baltimore Ravens are currently the best team in the National Football League.
There are currently four teams in the NFL at 10-2. The Ravens have already beat two of them. Until someone knocks them off, they’re the top dog.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, but man does it ever feel good to be sitting at the top of the standings. Let’s break down how it happened yesterday as the Ravens took down the 49ers at home 20-17.
Well it wasn’t the offensive juggernaut we’re used to seeing, but in a game where an unstoppable force met an immovable object, the Ravens offense moved the ball when it mattered and put points on the board.
The early touchdowns were crucial to building a lead and controlling the game. That allowed the offense to execute the ball-control offense they prefer. Never was that more evident than on the last series. The Ravens went only 34 yards over 12 plays and took 6:38 off the clock, setting it up so that the 49ers didn’t have a chance to get the ball back.
Jackson on Jackson: B+
Going into this game, the 49ers featured the #1 passing defense and the #19 rushing defense. It’s no surprise that the game plan was run-heavy. If you were to look at Lamar Jackson’s passing numbers without watching the game you’d be underwhelmed. Playing in the rain, and against a DL that good, the plan made sense though.
Lamar was his own biggest critic and called it a bad game. There were some missed throws and he lost a fumble, but he also did what he’s been doing all year, and that’s taking the game over and pushing the sticks. On the last drive that went for 6:28 and 12 plays that culminated in a game-winning field goal, Lamar ran for two crucial 1st downs and hit clutch throws to Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst.
He did what he needed to do to win the football game. Some hiccups, sure, but still a mighty fine game from the 22-year-old leading MVP candidate.
Running back: C+
“Tough sledding” is the best way to describe the running backs’ day. The 49ers took advantage of the sloppy weather and loaded the box all day. The linebackers were able to get some easy looks against the blocking scheme and it was a tough day to get much going. When you remove Jackson’s rushing numbers, the running backs collected 77 yards on 22 attempts (3.5 YPC), which is not great from a group that is normally hammering the opposing front for four quarters.
Wide Receiver: C+
This is one of those weird grades to give. Wide receivers were only targeted six times on 23 passes. On those six targets, the group had a whopping three catches for 18 yards. Of course, that is not good, but did they play badly? It just seemed like they weren’t a big part of the game plan in a rainy day against the #1 pass defense. I gave them a slight bump for that, but overall it was a very quiet day.
Tight End: A
Mark Andrews has solidified himself as a top-three TE this year. He’s a matchup-proof go-to #1 receiver and he continues to prove it. Andrews now has touchdowns in three of his last four games and is at 693 yards and seven TD on the year. Hayden Hurst added some crucial catches and Nick Boyle was an absolute animal blocking on the edges. Boyle has lived up to his contract and then some this year. Every time Lamar hits the edge it seems its Boyle leading the way and making the crucial blocks.
Offensive Line: A
This was the most impressive game from the offensive line this year. I saw them taking some flak on twitter and the RSR forum for the lack of running lanes being created, but when you have linebackers coming down hill all day you just don’t have the numbers as an OL. I spent last night doing a close re-watch and I was left very impressed for what they were able to create. Patrick Mekari, in his first full start, had a very impressive debut. Losing Matt Skura was a big blow, but it looks like Mekari is going to be able to keep things moving in the right direction.
The #49ers entered yesterday's game with league-best 44 sacks. They had one sack of Lamar Jackson on 24 pass plays. Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead came into the game with combined 18 sacks, 29 QB hits and totaled 0 and 0. What a job by Orlando Brown, Ronnie Stanley and whole O-line
— Bo Smolka (@bsmolka) December 2, 2019
Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. in particular had a heck of a day quieting down the 49ers edge rushers. Stanley has cemented himself as a top LT, but it’s Brown Jr. who has taken major steps in the last few weeks. This duo is a top OT pairing in the NFL, and the best part of it is that they’re 25 and 23 years old.
For a game where the Ravens only gave up 17 points, this grade may seem a little harsh, but the rush defense was very bad and missed tackles were a theme of the day.
I gave some of the grades a bump because they kept the 49ers off the board and made stops when it mattered, including a batted pass on 4th and 1 that led to the game-winning field goal.
Defensive Line: B-
I’ve been complaining about the pass rush in the DL section for most of the year, while noting that the run D at least played well. That was not the case on Sunday. The pass rush was actually not bad. They only got home on two sacks, but they were able to force Jimmy G to move around in the pocket.
It was the rush defense that was the big disappointment. The Ravens couldn’t contain the edges and it seemed like every time Raheem Mostert got the ball he was going for 15 yards. This was a concern early in the year against the Kansas City Chiefs and it might be the pitfall of this defense.
It was a very underwhelming game from the linebacker group. They’ve thrived on gap-control defense since adding L.J. Fort and Josh Bynes to the group. However, it’s hard to run that type of gap control when you’re facing a stretch zone scheme, which was the choice attack from the 49ers run game. Bynes made a splash play with a TFL, but other than that it was a poor showing from the linebacker group.
Defensive Backs: B
Marcus Peters had a really rough first drive to open Sunday’s contest. He whiffed on a tackle before combining with Brandon Carr to give up a touchdown pass to Deebo Samuel that put the Ravens down 7-0. It looked like he was perfectly positioned for an interception or at least a PD (it was fourth down, remember) on the play, but seemed to completely lose the ball in the air. Peters missed another tackle later in this game and it was his worst showing as a Raven so far. To be fair, the bar has been set high with all the pick-sixes he’s been getting. The reality is, not every game is perfect, and I have full confidence in Peters to bounce back.
Marlon Humphrey got banged up on the first drive and gave up a few catches, but overall he had a fine day. Chuck Clark had a great game with some key plays in the backfield including a sack forcing a fumble, a TFL and a QB hit.
Overall, the DBs settled in after the first drive and kept the plays in front of them. Some missed tackles caused the grade to take a hit.
Special Teams: A+
Look! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Justin Tucker’s 49-yard field goal sailing through the uprights!
Every time I watch a kicker in the NFL miss a game winner I’m so thankful we have Tucker. Well, that came to fruition again on Sunday as Automatuck nailed the game-winner from 49 yards away.
Talk about having confidence in your guys, the Ravens didn’t even try and move the ball forward to make the kick shorter. Oh, and let’s also note that the kick had about 12 yards underneath it.
It was an impressive day from the coaching staff once again. I was very pleased with John Harbaugh’s decisions, including going for it on 4th down on the game-winning drive. The analytical approach has been beneficial and it’s a big reason that the Ravens are having success on offense.
Wink Martindale and Greg Roman, once again, called good games that took into account the conditions they were playing in.
Now it’s all about praying one of them doesn’t get poached.
I had a tweet that summed up my feelings on the DPI calls in this game:
It's simple. You can't call that Humphrey PI and not that. No wonder people complain about officiating being inconsistent.
Like this isn't hard to understand.
— Cole Jackson (@ColeJacksonRSR) December 1, 2019
It isn’t so much about whether or not the call was PI, it’s the fact that it’s so inconsistent that it makes watching the game so frustrating. I’m far from a rules expert, but I just don’t understand how Humphrey’s was PI and the Andrews play was not.
Some have said it’s because Ward made a play on the ball. That makes sense, but Andrews had a play on it and it wasn’t even his arms being bumped (like it was on Humphrey’s play), it was his head being hit by Ward and then his upper body being impacted which meant he couldn’t make a play on the ball any longer. I just don’t get it.
On the other hand, it’s odd to have a quarterback the NFL wants to protect, isn’t it? Lamar Jackson is starting to be the beneficiary of some roughing the passer calls, as the 49ers were flagged for it twice.
The offensive line gets some love. I thought they balled out and controlled the LOS in very tough conditions.
Holy shit did the offensive line ever have themselves a game against the best DL in football!
— Cole Jackson (@ColeJacksonRSR) December 2, 2019
Once again, excuse my language. I have to start a Twitter swear jar I think.