The Baltimore Ravens have won ten straight football games. They now have a 12-2 record. They locked in their playoff spot last Sunday, and are now back-to-back AFC North Champions – a feat which brought them a Super Bowl the last time it happened.
Lamar Jackson broke the all-time single-season rushing record for a quarterback, going over 1,100 yards last night. Mark Ingram is quietly having the best season of his career. Mark Andrews broke the franchise record for most touchdown catches in a season by a tight end.
And on top of it all, if the football gods smile upon Baltimore, by Sunday night they could be locked into the No. 1 seed in the AFC, guaranteeing a bye week and home-field advantage.
That’s 120 words on what came from keeping the Jets grounded. Now let’s look at the game itself. Welcome to the Good, Bad, and Ugly.
The Jets had the second-ranked run defense coming into this game. Did you know that? You should’ve, because it was only mentioned 473 times in the first quarter.
The Ravens don’t care about your top-tier run defense. They showed that once again, by rushing for a collective 218 yards, averaging 5.78 YPC as a team, and throwing in a score for good measure.
Mark Ingram continued to show why he was quietly the biggest off-season pick up for the Ravens, adding another 75+ yard game to his season, bullying linebackers and defensive backs alike. He’s on his way to a career year in Baltimore, with two touchdowns on the night, breaking his previous single-season touchdown high of 12.
Gus Edwards continues to see snaps and continues to show why he’s an underrated back, averaging 7.0 YPC last night.
And of course, Lamar Jackson. The most electric player in the NFL continues to mystify defensive players, as he cruised past Michael Vick‘s single-season rushing record that stood for 13 years, then proceeded to add to it, with 86 yards on the ground and a 10.8 YPC average.
December football is built on the back of a punishing run game, and a smothering defense. When conditions don’t allow for a fluid passing game, it’s the legs of Ingram and Jackson that will carry the offense.
The defense? The defense last night was a different story.
I know it’s easy to look at the stats, and see that the Ravens have the 6th ranked run defense, the 9th ranked passing defense, and the 6th ranked overall defense, and assume that their defense is on par with their offense.
Usually, it is good. Last night, it was not good. It was bad. Oh so bad. Judging by the stats, you probably couldn’t tell, with no Jets wideout breaking 100 yards, and no running back eclipsing 90. A look at the tape tells differently. Only one sack was to be had against a bad Jets offensive line. Corners missed tackles and gave up big plays. The defensive line struggled to stop the run. All in all, it made for some harrowing moments and plenty of 3rd and 4th down conversions.
When I start to get angry at Marlon Humphrey, you know the secondary is having a bad night. The best corner on the field was Jimmy Smith, and even he gave up a chunk play (albeit in garbage time). They were both targeted eight times, and (per PFF, I have different numbers) they each gave up five catches (I have four for Marlon, and three for Jimmy). Marcus Peters was only targeted three times – out of fear, I’d assume – and PFF credits him with zero catches allowed, even though he looked like the assigned coverage on a couple of Jamison Crowder catches made in his zone.
The past few weeks, the Ravens have been getting gashed in the run game, mostly on the edge (bring Terrell Suggs home), and with the playoffs looming, it’s time to shore that up. Like I said before, championship football is built on the backs of a strong run game and defense – Baltimore needs the defense to clamp down on opposing run games in order to finish their quest for ring number three.
Now, to be fair, last night’s game wasn’t as close as the score appeared (not that it appeared really close), and it’s because of…
Special teams were definitely special last night.
Not the good kind of special either. The kind of special that needs a helmet… oh, wait.
Anyway, you get it.
They allowed big returns all night when covering. There was a punt blocked and returned for a score. Justin Tucker missed an extra point (like, what?). And for whatever reason, De’Anthony Thomas ran sideways for eight yards in an attempt to break downfield, ending up with a five-yard return.
Jerry Rossburg would never have allowed this. Chris Horton needs to step it up, because the Ravens need to be firing on all cylinders when they come out of the first-round bye that they seem destined to land.
It was honestly sickening. I know, I know. The team is 12-2, and was never really in danger of losing to the woeful Jets. But this isn’t nitpicking. The game of football is played in three stages, and if one of those stages is playing terribly, it puts more weight on the other two. If two of them are playing badly, you better hope that the final stage can carry the team – or that the team you’re facing is as bad as the Jets.
The Katherine McNamara
Yes. It’s time for a change.
However, it’s not time for a change in this section. A previous winner returns this week.
It’s the MVP. I mean, come on. He broke Vick’s record. He waved special teams off of the field on a fourth down again just to score a touchdown. He had 296 total yards and the third five-touchdown (or more) game of his season.
Lamar Jackson hasn’t reached his ceiling yet. I don’t know if people realize how incredible that is. He’s going to be younger than the next Heisman winner (Joe Burrow) when he wins MVP. And it’s all because the Ravens took a shot on him, and John Harbaugh built an offense around him. Then, the other players bought in, and now you have what you see before you today.
The best quarterback in the NFL this season (and it isn’t particularly close anymore).
There’s not much more to say. This team hasn’t rested on its laurels and coasted into a wild card spot. This team is hungry. It knows what it can achieve, and what it needs to do to get there. It’s been an exhilarating ride, with highs and lows, question marks and answers, and I couldn’t be more excited to see how it ends.
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Have a weekend, Ravens fans.