This is Tale of the Tape: Offense. For Tale of the Tape: Defense, click here
When the Ravens took the field against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night, they knew that in order to win the game they’d have to play nearly mistake-free football. Then, on the first drive of the game Lamar Jackson threw a pick-six to All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu, a moment that could have easily been the beginning of disaster for number eight and company. Instead, what followed was one of the most inspiring offensive performances we’ve seen from a Baltimore Ravens team ever, to go along with an equally inspiring victory with the lights on bright.
The evening could have been defined by that first Jackson interception, but instead will be remembered because of the dynamic runs, acrobatic throws, and even a little bit of luck that led to this all-time great performance. Let’s break down the five most important offensive plays that the Ravens executed on Sunday night!
Williams fumbles into Duvernay’s arms for a TD
Well it's still 6 points!
Tune in now on NBC! pic.twitter.com/9y6yZ80ecC
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 20, 2021
After the aforementioned Chiefs interception and score to open the game, the air was almost completely sucked out of M&T Bank Stadium. We’d seen this movie before, and every time it ended the same way. The Ravens absolutely had to shake it off and respond with a score of their own on offense, so they did what they do best. In five plays, they drove all the way down to the Kansas City ten-yard line behind strong running from Ty’Son Williams, Latavius Murray, and Devonta Freeman.
On first and goal, the plan was to keep jamming it down the Chiefs’ throats until they could stop this dynamic rushing attack. Out of the pistol, Jackson took the snap and handed off to Williams to the left while faking the keeper to the opposite side. The fake worked to perfection as defensive end Frank Clark bailed on his gap responsibility in an attempt to chase down Jackson, allowing Kevin Zeitler to pull around and get a great sealing block on him. A simultaneous kick-out block from fullback Pat Ricard on linebacker Anthony Hitchens gave Williams the sliver of daylight he needed to break into the next level of the defense. Then, comes that bit of luck we mentioned earlier.
Williams broke into the secondary with a full head of steam and charged through safety Daniel Sorensen, but what he didn’t see was cornerback Mike Hughes on his blindside. Hughes threw his shoulder right into the ball with perfect form, popping it into the air in a moment that felt like an eternity. Thankfully for the Ravens, Devin Duvernay was in the right place at the right time and the ball fell right into his hands. In the ensuing melee he dove forward through two Chiefs defenders and picked up the crucial game-tying score. A heads up moment for the second year Texas product, one Baltimore needed desperately. Just like they drew it up, right?
Hey, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
End of first half Andrews catch and out of bounds
— 𝙕𝙖𝙘𝙝🦦 (@NewEraZach_) September 21, 2021
This next one is a play that can easily be forgotten with all the fireworks we saw in the second half, but was likely of incredible importance to the final score. After Kansas City masterfully worked their way down the field in the two-minute drill for a touchdown, the Ravens were staring at going into halftime down 7 with the Chiefs receiving the ball to open the third quarter. Especially knowing in hindsight that they would march down and score to open the half, this sequence holds that much more importance.
The Ravens got the ball back with less than a minute to go, and key penalties on their opening plays left them with 33 seconds, zero timeouts, and a lot of work to do to get into scoring position. The Chiefs rushed five, and the Ravens offensive line picked it up just enough to give Mark Andrews the time he needed to get open. Big shout out to Patrick Mekari and Zeitler, who washed Clark and defensive tackle Chris Jones right out of the play.
Andrews was clearly looking to make up for last week’s overtime drop in Las Vegas as he hauled in the pass from Jackson and immediately looked towards the sideline knowing the situation. Cornerback Charvarius Ward dove at Andrews’ knees, and Andrews hurdled over him in a great display of athleticism to get out of bounds and stop the clock. The following play would see Jackson scramble up the middle for a solid gain to get into Justin Tucker‘s range.
The field goal from automa-Tuck would make the score 21-17 at half, and keep the Ravens right in the thick of things. Of course, there’s no way of knowing how the game would’ve gone had the Ravens not got the field goal, but at the very least getting those points on the board allowed them to go into the locker room feeling like they could still go tit for tat with Kansas City. In a game that was decided by one single point, this sequence very may well have been the one that gave this victory to Baltimore.
Jackson jump-pass TD
Tune in on NBC! pic.twitter.com/zDO2qGp9of
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 20, 2021
Now comes the real fun. Down 28-17 in the third quarter following the Kansas City score to open the half, the Ravens set up for 3rd-and-2 on the Kansas City 42-yard line. Had this play not worked, John Harbaugh would’ve had a heck of a decision to make, and for a split second it appeared as if that would be the case.
Jackson takes the shotgun snap and six Chiefs defenders pin their ears back in an attempt to cost the Ravens a chance at even getting three on the drive. In a rapidly collapsing pocket, he spots Marquise Brown running wide open down the middle of the field after getting behind the defense, similar to how he did in Cleveland last December. Jackson leaps into the air and throws a floating pass right into Brown’s bread basket, who had nothing but green grass ahead of him. The offensive line did all they could to hold off the Chiefs defenders, but ultimately this play came down to Lamar being Lamar.
There isn’t another quarterback in football – except the one who was standing on the opposing sideline – that makes this play. It appeared that Lamar was about to take off running, then spotted Brown all alone. At that point he was too deep into the mass of humanity in front of him to step into the throw, so he just did what he had to do to get the ball out, and it was a thing of beauty. If there was one single play in the second half that gave the Ravens the confidence they needed to hang around, it was assuredly this one.
Lamar Jackson rushing touchdown to take final lead
There's only one @Lj_era8.
Now on NBC pic.twitter.com/NQMgKIwFm2
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 20, 2021
After Jackson scored on a play similar to this, the Ravens defense made a monumental stand against the Chiefs offense thanks to an Anthony Averett pass break-up on third down (on no less than Tyreek Hill). What followed was a drive that personified Ravens football to a T: Eight minutes, 14 plays, and an absolute master class in running the football.
The Ravens would bleed the clock down to 3:14, and on third and goal lined up in a heavy pistol look. Big bodies up front, Ricard and Williams in the backfield, and a game plan that Kansas City couldn’t stop from the opening whistle. The key block came from Mark Andrews, as it appears Hitchens was the player responsible for the quarterback on the play. Hitchens didn’t bite on Jackson’s play fake, but it didn’t matter as Andrews showed off textbook blocking form to put himself between the defender and the ball carrier. He may have gotten away with a hold on the play, but the Ravens found themselves on the wrong end of some questionable calls in their own right on Sunday; such is life in the NFL.
With the entire rest of the defense selling out to stop the run up the middle, Jackson had so much room to score that he blessed us with a front flip that will live on in photographs (and tee-shirts) for the rest of time. If the Ravens can continue to bring their brand of physicality all year like they did in this game, heaven help any defense that crosses their path. Speaking of that physicality…
Jackson 4th-&-1 scramble to seal the victory
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 22, 2021
Following Odafe Oweh‘s forced fumble and recovery that officially put him on track to becoming a household name, the Ravens were in the driver’s seat to run out the clock and seal themselves a major victory. After two subpar running plays though, a 3rd-and-7 completion to Sammy Watkins put the offense in decision mode. Do you give Patrick Mahomes the ball back with a minute left? Or do you trust your MVP quarterback to pick up the game-deciding yard with everything on the line? For Harbaugh and Jackson, the choice was easy.
In a moment that brought back memories of Seattle in 2019, Harbaugh asked Jackson if he wanted to go for it, who responded with a resounding “YES!” The Chiefs hadn’t stopped Baltimore consistently on the ground all day, and with the game hanging in the balance there’s no one you want with the ball in their hands more.
Yet again the Ravens came out in a heavy set and said, “stop us if you can.” Jackson took the snap and immediately powered behind his big guys up front. Zeitler rumbled down the line and put a massive shoulder into linebacker Nick Bolton who was crashing hard, capping off what was a tremendous day for him and the rest of the offensive line. Had Zeitler not gotten there in time, Bolton would’ve likely met Jackson in the backfield and stopped him for a loss before he could even take two steps forward. After a performance to be forgotten in Week 1, the road graders up front should be incredibly proud of how they responded in this game right from the opening whistle.
What more can you possibly say about this matchup that hasn’t been said already? It was truly one of the most electric Ravens games in the history of the franchise, and by God they earned this victory every step of the way. Nothing will cure the early season blues quite like a win against your personal kryptonite, and it appears as if the Ravens have reinserted themselves into that Super Bowl discussion along with the rest of the AFC elites.
Enjoy this victory flock nation, savor it, they don’t come around often (even for teams with such a rich history of success like the Ravens). Up next is a game that hopefully gives us a break in the drama department, as the purple birds travel north to take on the 0-2 Detroit Lions.
We’ll catch you back here next week to break down all of the Ravens most important offensive plays from the Motor City.