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Ravens Secondary Was Primary

Ravens Secondary, DeShon Elliott
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Defense, Secondary Throttle The Chargers

The Ravens beat the LA Chargers in convincing fashion by the score of 34-6. The game was never in doubt and completely controlled by Baltimore after the Ravens forced a punt on the Chargers first possession. The defense, particularly the Ravens secondary, won the day. The win keeps the (5-1) Ravens atop the AFC North, one game ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals who visit The Bank this coming Sunday at 1PM. The Ravens are currently listed as a 6 ½ point favorite.

The Ravens (5-1) start is the fourth such start in team history (2020, 2012, 2000). The win also makes Lamar Jackson the youngest quarterback in NFL history to register 35 wins, eclipsing Dan Marino’ long-standing mark. Lamar is 35-8 as a starter.

Heading into this game against the Chargers, I thought the Ravens would have their hands full with an explosive Chargers offense featuring elite skill position talent, particularly when taking on a leaky Wink Martindale defense. But that’s why they play the games. Let’s get to the Good, Bad & Ugly.

THE GOOD

Lamar was hot and cold but let’s first revisit the things he did well. His quick release and high velocity darts that cut through zone coverage are things of beauty. His ability to buy time in the pocket gives his receivers time to create separation or find holes in the zones to sit down in and present good targets. Lamar did a nice job of holding the safety to the left with his head movements long enough to load up and deliver a TD pass to Mark Andrews. His pump fakes have become quite impressive and his ball skills in play action are outstanding…The Ravens got their run game going on Sunday with 187 yards on 38 carries (4.9 YPA). A lot of their success came on runs to the right – towards Joey Bosa. Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell each had rushing TD’s. The Bell score was a very well-designed play that featured both Patrick Ricard and Mark Andrews leading the way. Bell scored untouched. Ricard also was critical to the success of Freeman’s TD scamper. Freeman showed patience, determination and strength on the power sweeps.

Andrews had another productive game and if not for a misfire from Lamar, he would have scored twice. Nevertheless, Andrews added 68 yards receiving to move his seasonal total to 468 yards. That number projects to an eye-popping seasonal total of 1,326…Devin Duvernay is a purposeful runner and it would behoove Greg Roman to put Duv in position to run after the catch…Rashod Bateman was effective keeping drives alive. All four of his catches went for first downs…Greg Roman’s play calling was very good and he avoided the temptation to try to force the ball downfield to Marquise Brown who was given plenty of attention by the Chargers defense…the Ravens possessed the ball for 38:07 in large part due to the defense’s ability to get off the field. The Ravens D held the formidable Chargers 3rd down offense to just 3 of 12 third down attempts and 14 first downs…Chargers had just 26 net yards rushing and 208 total yards. The Chargers entered the game with the 4th-best 3rd down offense (48.5% conversion rate) while averaging 411 total yards of offense and 108 on the ground…A game ball goes to Wink who did a masterful job of disguising looks and creating confusion for the Chargers young signal-caller. Herbert’s regular hesitancy and the staring down of receivers were the direct result Wink’s intended confusion.

Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and Justin Madubuike were all vital to the D’s ability to throttle down the Chargers rushing attack. It’s a weekly occurrence to see Campbell knife through an offensive line to drop a back for a loss. His play this season is that of a man 10 years younger. Really looking forward to see how this unit performs once Derek Wolfe returns…Josh Bynes was very good filling in mostly for a nicked up Patrick Queen. Bynes attacked ball carriers from his ILB spot with confidence and authority. Queen did show that he’s capable of shedding blocks and attacking runners…Justin Houston was disruptive to Herbert’s comfort level regularly during the afternoon. He’s now a ½ sack away from 100 on his career. Watch out Joe Burrow…As a defensive unit the Ravens tackled very well, something that they’ve struggled with.

Photo Credit: Shawn Hubbard, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens special teams units were outstanding. Kick coverage allowed just 16.4 yards per return while Duvernay averaged 35 yards on two returns. Duv was also solid as a punt returner, averaging 14.7 yards per punt return. He now has a league-leading 233 punt return yards and an NFL best 16.6 YPR…Some of that return success has to be attributed to Ravens secondary member Brandon Stephens who has developed a knack for running interference on the coverage unit’s blind side without committing illegal blocks in the back, a regular risk whenever a return specialist reverses his field.

THE BAD

Lamar had a couple of bad throws that could have produced big plays. He missed Mark Andrews on a right to left crosser for a TD. In his defense the throw was hurried but it’s a play that Lamar normally makes. He also missed a wide open James Proche on a potential chunk play down the right side along the numbers…Marquise Brown let a TD slip through his hands. It was a tough catch but one that he’s capable of…Bateman let a pass get to his body and it caromed off his chest leading to an interception. Looked like Rashod had his mind set on running after the catch before he possessed the ball…Pass protection was suspect but that’s always in play with a superior edge rusher like Joey Bosa.

THE UGLY

Lamar’s interception immediately following that of DeShon Elliott was an unfortunate example of what can happen when you lock in on a player. Trying to deliver a ball to Bateman on a crosser and not even seeing Chargers LB Kyzir White sitting squarely in his zone, showed a lack of awareness at that particular point-in-time. It temporarily changed the game’s momentum and set the Chargers up for their only score of the game. White was the best player to take the field for LA on Sunday…Josh Oliver had a rough game. He looked confused before one play which ultimately ended in a sack of Lamar. He fumbled after a short catch in the second quarter and he was called for holding that negated a nice run by Bell.

Ravens secondary

THE MEGAN FOX AWARD

It’s tough to find a single player who was THE standout of the game. The defense controlled throughout, particularly the Ravens secondary and it was that unit that is this week’s recipient of TMFA. Marlon Humphrey draped Chargers’ receivers like a cape hangs on Batman. Chuck Clark’s intelligence and recognition skills are on display each week. This week he quickly diagnosed a bubble screen and nearly did something you never see – a safety intercepting a quick throw outside the numbers, at or near the line of scrimmage. Anthony Averett responded after an awful Monday Night performance against the Colts. He played well in coverage and in support of the run. Jimmy Smith broke up a long pass on the Chargers first possession intended for the dangerous Mike Williams. Stephens played well in substitution packages and tackled with bad intent. And DeShon Elliott made an outstanding interception, undercutting a Herbert pass intended for Jared Cook and then later added a sack. He also had another PD.

THEY SAID IT

“Yeah, it was a lot of looks that we didn’t see on film and stuff they constructed for us. They did a great job at disguising their looks; bringing pressure from one way and hiding from another. It was looks they hadn’t shown all season and stuff that you know we have to be better at to adjust to during the game. But, you know, they played a great game.” ~ Justin Herbert on whether the Ravens surprised the Chargers’ offense

“We were in our regular zone coverage. So, nothing special there, but I have to be aware. I’ve got to know where he is. He is a really dynamic player.” ~ Derwin James on his coverage on Mark Andrews’ touchdown reception

QUICK HITS

Since 2019, Baltimore is 9-0 in the month of October, marking the league’s best such record during that span…The Ravens are now 14-1 on a short week (1-5 days of rest) since 2016 and they’ve won their last nine such games. In the John Harbaugh Era (since 2008), the Ravens are 25-9 in such games…With a 14-yard TD run to cap the Ravens’ 12-play, 90-yard opening drive, RB Latavius Murray notched his fourth TD run of the season. His 4 rushing TDs are the most he’s tallied through six games during any season of his eight-year career…Justin Tucker nailed a 53-yard FG in the second quarter, giving Baltimore a 17-0 lead. With that kick, Tucker improved to a perfect 3-for-3 from 50-plus yards this season, and he’s now 13-of-14 (92.9%) overall in 2021.

According to TeamRankings.com:

• After beating LA Chargers 34-6 yesterday, Baltimore is now projected to finish the regular season 12-5.
• The odds that the Ravens make the playoffs are up to 95%, an increase of 8% since yesterday.
• We currently rank the Ravens as the #4 team in the NFL.
• Next game: Sun, Oct 24 vs. #19 Cincinnati. Our power ratings give the Ravens a 73% chance to win.

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