It’s never easy to be a Ravens fan. Though, tonight, it’s a little bit easier than being a Vikings fan. So, there’s that.
The 34-31 overtime win over Minnesota was not always pretty, but the 2021 team continues to show the kind of determination and courage that leads you to believe they could be a playoff problem if they can get a couple guys back and solidify some of the things that have not been, well, solid.
Let’s get to the grades in a very difficult game to give grades.
They ran for 247 yards, threw for 253 yards, generated 34 points and executed an 18-play drive that consumed more than 10 minutes of clock and took the wind out of the Vikings’ sails. Yes, it was choppy out there at times, and the Ravens had two turnovers, but they did do some very good things overall.
So, 27-for-41 for 266 yards for Lamar Jackson, with two picks doesn’t look great. But three touchdown passes, 120 rushing yards and seemingly willing his team to another thrilling win does look pretty great.
This is why Jackson is a special talent: he doesn’t need everything to be on schedule. He doesn’t need to be razor sharp. He just needs the ball in his hands and he can take this team to wins.
But he was erratic at times, holding onto the ball too long and missing easy short throws here and there. We’d be remiss to not mention those.
Running Backs: B
Devonta Freeman earned 79 yards rushing by being quick through the holes and running hard, and Le’Veon Bell added 48 on his own, twisting and powering through tackles. This was a good effort by the oft-maligned backs.
But the star out of the backfield on this day, at least for one possession, was Patrick Ricard, grabbing three balls for 35 yards of step-in-your-face violence, and posting a touchdown.
Wide Receivers: B+
Marquise Brown is an all-new player this season, fighting for extra yards after the catch and providing a true weapon for Jackson. Brown hauled in nine balls for 116 yards and earned every yard he got. Rashod Bateman certainly looks the part of a first-rounder, and is already developing a role as a playmaker. Mark Andrews caught half his 10 targets for 44 yards, but made some big plays at big moments. Devin Duvernay had one of the best catches of the year for a touchdown.
This unit is no longer a weakness.
Offensive Line: C
Ben Powers did not have a resumé-kind-of-day, at least not for a job he’d want. He got whipped badly off the line more than once. The unit did some nice things opening up some running lanes, and wore down the Vikings defense in the second half. There is just way too much immediate pressure that causes the offense to stall all too often. Gutsy effort today, though.
They got torched on some big plays — Dalvin Cook runs, the Justin Jefferson touchdown in the first quarter. The crazy deep pass at the end of the fourth quarter to C.J. Ham. Giving up that final touchdown that forced overtime.
But, other than those, if you look at it in totality, they only gave up 318 total yards in an overtime game to a good offense. They forced no turnovers, and got no sacks, but they tackled well and did a nice job clogging the line on most runs. They were good 90 percent of the game. They were Orioles-type-awful that other 10 percent.
Defensive Line: C
Justin Ellis stood out on a few plays, and Calais Campbell had his standard handful of plays this game that really impressed. They weren’t bad, but some of those holes Cook ran through were large, to be kind. I always place a lot of that on the line.
Josh Bynes has been a revelation since coming back for another Baltimore stay, and Patrick Queen had another nice performance on the weak side. His eight-yard run stop on a pitch late in the game was tremendous, and showed off his natural skills. Tyus Bowser had a nice game in coverage, and had a big run stuff in overtime.
Defensive Backs: B-
The Jefferson touchdown was ugly, but I don’t think it was Marlon Humphrey or Chuck Clark really getting abused. I think it was a handoff by Humphrey, and Clark bit inside and got fooled. OK, I guess Clark did get toasted now that I read that again.
DeShon Elliott had some nice tackles in this game, but his season-ending injury is sure to hurt down the road. Tavon Young was solid, once again. This unit needs to start turning the ball over to help out this team.
Special Teams: D-
They gave up a touchdown on the second-half-opening kickoff and a fake punt that picked up a first down. Justin Tucker drilled the game-winner, which salvaged anything of note for this group in this game.
I thought Greg Roman did a nice job scheming up runs, and basically letting Lamar Jackson be Lamar Jackson whenever they needed a play. That’s smart coaching.
The defense got fooled a couple times, especially early, but it’s hard to know if that was play-calling or execution on the field. I thought John Harbaugh made a foolish challenge early in the game to turn a 3rd-and-3 into a 3rd-and-8, but he did turn out to be correct and the Ravens got the reversal. Unfortunately, Jefferson’s catch on the next play would have been a TD on 3rd-and-70, so it was moot.