The story of the game is QB2, who found out he would be making his first career start early Sunday morning after getting a text from QB1 telling him to “go do your thing.” Tyler Huntley didn’t light up the scoreboard or fill up the stat sheet — his 219 yards and no touchdowns won’t stand out in a box score — but he did enough to win the game which is really all you can ask of your backup signal caller, especially with this top receiver Marquise Brown out with injury. I thought he sometimes held on to the ball for too long, ran into some sacks and was inaccurate at times, but now’s not the time to nitpick. He wasn’t scared to take shots downfield, he ran well, and he showed big time poise leading the game-winning drive.
Huntley’s solid game comes after a few really nice showings in the preseason. Back then, he played like one of the best backup QBs in the NFL, albeit facing other backups. He backed that up on Sunday playing against starters this time. Having a backup that can win you a tough road game is invaluable, and the Ravens have one.
Tyus Bowser was the MVP of either side of the ball on Sunday. He’s now strung together multiple weeks of elite play recently, finishing this game with a forced fumble, two sacks — his third sack was negated by a Marlon Humphrey penalty — and a bunch of tackles in space. That was probably the weakest part of Bowser’s game up until this season and it’s become one of his best.
Bowser’s play has been phenomenal over the last month or so, and he’s beginning to play with an attitude and an energy that’s been missing from the Ravens defense for some time. He’s becoming a leader on the defense, and his contract is looking like a bargain.
Sticking with the linebackers, Patrick Queen has played like a madman in recent weeks. How he’s turned around his season cannot be understated of how impactful it’s been for the defense as a whole.
Taking some responsibility off Queen’s shoulders has allowed him to play more freely, doing rather than thinking. His play speed is beginning to catch up to his literal speed and he’s playing more physically, defending the run, attacking run lanes rather than letting the call carrier come to him. A couple weeks ago against Minnesota, he burst through the line to bring Dalvin Cook down for a big loss. He did it again on Sunday on a third down in the red zone that led to a missed field goal. In hindsight, those three points proved to be all it took.
A common theme from Sunday was players playing well while filling in for starters ahead of them. Justin Ellis, the 30-year-old nose tackle, played almost 50 percent of the snaps on defense and played the role well for Brandon Williams, stuffing run lanes and rushing the passer as well as a 330-pounder can.
Looking big picture, Ellis is the perfect example of why going cheap at nose tackle is a valuable team building strategy and shows why Williams’ contract is as bad as it is. It’s not that he’s a bad player; he’s been great for most of his career. But, nose is just not the position to commit over $10 million annually while going cheap elsewhere and letting big free agents walk, and we’ve now seen Ellis — who makes just over $1 million — play just as well as Williams for a lot less.
Filling in with Anthony Averett and Jimmy Smith out, Chris Westry made some nice plays but for the most part struggled in coverage. The most glaring and impactful play was when he bit on a Marquise Goodwin double move to give up the go-ahead touchdown late in the game. With no over the top help, it shows the trust the coaches have in Westry…or should I say, “had.” We’ll see how his role shapes up in the coming weeks.