When the entire class puts in a lackluster performance on a test, a teacher often uses his or her own discretion to put the students on a curve. But then there’s that Justin Tucker kid in the class who breaks an NFL record to steal a win for a stumbling team, and that curve goes right out the window.
This was not a sterling win for the Ravens, but it was sterling in that it was a win in a game that very easily could have been a loss. It felt like if they didn’t have several opportunities go through their fingers in the first half, Detroit would have been forced out of that short pitch-and-run offense that destroyed the Ravens in the second half, and this game could have gotten out of hand very easily.
But those opportunities were blown. And the Lions did move up and down the field in the second half. Let’s take a look at some grades:
They put up 387 yards, which isn’t horrible. They had five scoring possessions — also not bleak. But they only generated one touchdown, and 19 total points, three of which came off an unprecedented feat off, well, an unprecedented foot.
It was just sloppy at big times, from dropped passes to penalties to a poor late interception. At times, it looked good. At times, not. It felt below average overall.
Lamar Jackson mostly threw the ball well, and drops and an effort to throw downfield often impacted his passing percentage in relationship to how he actually threw the ball. But that was not a good interception late in the fourth, and struggles to cash in some drives lowered his grade.
He did a nice job scrambling and throwing on the move, as well as getting yards for himself.
Running backs: C
There were only 15 carries by running backs during the game, for a pedestrian 58 yards. All three did a nice job running forward into gaps, but none seemed to do much in terms of creating yards after contact, or forcing missed tackles.
This was a hard group to grade. Mark Andrews had a nice game, putting up 109 yards on five catches, and seemingly getting open at will. Sammy Watkins went for 68 yards, some of which came off that memorable fourth-down pass from Jackson, and almost had a deep one early down the sideline. James Proche showed off his hands on a nice sideline pass from Jackson, and Devin Duvernay did a nice job working open for his touchdown and pulling in the pass.
Marquise Brown… well, his hands let him down far too much, as he potentially had three touchdowns go through his mitts. He did a nice job getting open, and had some nice RAC early, but those drops were rough.
Offensive Line: C-
They weren’t beaten like drums, but they weren’t doing the offense a whole lot of favors, either. The running gaps were few and far between at first glance of this game, and there were times when Jackson’s mobility saved the day. I felt like Ben Powers seemed to be out in front of a couple nice runs, as well as Kevin Zeitler. But not the performance overall this team would have liked.
They gave up less than 300 yards and only 17 points, but it didn’t feel like a tremendous performance, particularly in that second half. They do a nice job of chasing, but don’t do a good job at all with their tackling, and that was evident time after time in that second half. Tackling is important. That needs to be handled sooner than later.
Defensive Line: B
Depleted and shorthanded, I felt like there were some things to like on the defensive line, such as Calais Campbell and Justin Ellis. I’m going to include Pernell McPhee with this group, and he did some nice things, but also got squeezed inside a few times. There wasn’t much pass rush from the front, but I can die a happy man having watched Ellis chase Jared Goff on a “rush” up the middle.
When I talk about the defense missing tackles, yeah… I mean this unit. The Lions went with a short passing attack in the second half, and it worked because the Ravens couldn’t tackle anybody, especially D’Andre Swift. Patrick Queen, Tyus Bowser and Chris Board all missed Swift at different times and it made a difference. This group is fast and athletic. It also has a hard time tackling people. Odafe Oweh didn’t make his splash plays this week, but I did see him stretch out a few runs for short gains.
Defensive Backs: B
I felt like the unit did a nice job in coverage, and Chuck Clark flashed the entire game. He almost forced a turnover early in the game when he crushed Swift on a throw that Bowser should have intercepted. He also ended the Lions’ second possession with a sack of Goff, and tackled Goff on a scramble later on a third-down play. He made two late run stops, as well. It was nice seeing Jimmy Smith back, especially on his jarring hit to force an incompletion. He did get whistled for PI in the fourth quarter, but the Ravens are better with Smith out there.
Special Teams: A
DDuvernay fumbled a punt return, got a reprieve on replay and had a nice return on his do-over. He averaged 21 yards on two returns. Sam Koch averaged 45.7 yards on three punts, and Tucker made four out of five field goals. Nice performance.
Oh, wait. IT WAS A 66-YARD, NFL-RECORD-LEGACY-CEMENTING-SCARED-MY-DOG-SILLY-WHEN-I-SCREAMED kick. Well done by him.
I liked the Ravens going downfield against this Lions secondary, and it should have been enough to get out to a giant first-half lead if the team didn’t keep killing itself. I thought Greg Roman had a nice game plan, overall. I thought the defense did, as well. You can’t tackle or catch for the players. You can only put them in position. I didn’t like the challenge by John Harbaugh late because I didn’t want to lose the timeout, but I did read The Athletic Jeff Zrebiec say that the Ravens had 13 guys on the field when Harbaugh threw the flag. That could change my mind on it.
Hard to grade this group. It felt like most of the problems today were on the players.