So…where to even begin? How do you possibly sum up into words what we saw take place at M&T Bank Stadium yesterday? I think most of us are still processing it 20+ hours later, and it may even take longer than that to fully come to terms with it not being a bad dream. The Baltimore Ravens were well on their way to a cruise control victory in the 4th quarter against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, and then in the blink of an eye they just weren’t.
In the history of home losses the Ravens have seen over the years, especially in September, it’s not hyperbolic to say that this one might sit atop the list. For context, the last 711 teams to be in the position the Ravens were in during the 4th quarter on Sunday all emerged victorious. Seven hundred…and eleven. Twenty-eight 4th quarter points were given up in absolutely excruciating fashion, and as Jonas Schaffer said in his post-game column, after a certain point it just felt inevitable.
There isn’t a more fitting title to Sunday’s performance than “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” so let’s get into it and then put this game to bed.
LAMARKABLE PERFORMANCE OVERSHADOWED
Boy, did Lamar Jackson have himself a day on Sunday or what? Practically from the word go it was clear that he intended on righting the wrong that took place on a warm Thursday night last year in South Beach.
Despite the loss, Lamar Jackson had a ridiculous game:
◦ 1st player w/ 300 pass yds, 3 pass TD, 100 rush yds and a rush TD in the same game
◦ 1st player w/ a pass TD and a rush TD of 75+ yards in the same game pic.twitter.com/HoAlalgiBY
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 18, 2022
LAMAR JACKSON 79-YARD TD 🔥
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 18, 2022
He was truly remarkable, save for the first half goal line fumble that may or may not have been his fault in execution. With this performance, Jackson now holds the record for most 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback ever, and also currently has the same amount of touchdowns as the rest of the AFC North combined (7).
Perhaps most inspiring was his poise in the pocket, a continuation of what we saw last week where he looked far more content to pass than run on almost every play. During his post-game press conference, he even alluded to the passing game being more effective than the ground game these days, something we never thought we’d say again in Baltimore.
Lamar when I asked him about the lack of running game “It’s not the Ravens of the past no more. This is the NFL; it’s a new era. We’ve got to play ball. We’ve got to know that if the passing is working, we’ve got to keep passing it – if we’re doing it.“ #RavensFlock
— Cordell Woodland (@CordellWoodland) September 18, 2022
Quick shoutout to Rashod Bateman too, who potentially had his most complete day as a pro and did it against one of the league’s best corners. Xavien Howard was visibly frustrated on numerous occasions while trying to cover him, and through two weeks we’re already seeing much more of a comfort level being built between him and Jackson. He’s becoming to Lamar what Anquan Boldin was to Joe Flacco on the outside, only Boldin was never torching people quite like this.
That speed rating has to go ⬆️
— Madden NFL 23 (@EAMaddenNFL) September 18, 2022
We should be talking today about this explosive offensive performance and nothing else, except how high up the list Jackson is in current MVP odds. Almost everything about this effort was masterful, but unfortunately it was overshadowed by what we’re going to talk about next.
CAN WE EVEN CALL THEM RUNNING BACKS?
In our first iteration of this topic last week, we touched on the lack of production from the running back room and how it was severely hindering other aspects of the offense as a result. This week it somehow got even worse, but it was masked by the superhero-like performance of Jackson all afternoon.
Rushing stats of Ravens' running backs through two games of 2022 season
Kenyan Drake: 17 carries, 39 yards (2.3 yards per carry)
Mike Davis: 7 carries, 15 yards (2.1 yards per carry)
Justice Hill: 5 carries, 20 yards (4.0 yards per carry)
— Kevin Oestreicher (@koestreicher34) September 18, 2022
Perhaps most frustrating is that it’s an entire group effort of underperformance. Kenyan Drake and Mike Davis at this point in their careers appear to have the burst of a standard ‘84 Thunderbird that hasn’t been turned on since the Bush administration…the first one. The offensive line, which was supposed to be improved after bringing in guys like Tyler Linderbaum and Morgan Moses among others, gets less of a push than a 75-year-old who ran out of Miralax over a day ago. It’s bad, like, really bad.
At this point the only hope is that JK Dobbins, Nick Boyle, Gus Edwards and Ronnie Stanley can somehow get back and improve things. It’s clear that Ben Powers isn’t the answer at left guard; just take one look at his PFF grade and it’s painfully obvious that he’s a sieve along the line right now (PFF of course isn’t gospel, but is at least a good indication of play level). Ben Cleveland hasn’t inspired a whole lot of confidence that he can step in and be an immediate difference-maker either. Maybe Stanley returns and allows Pat Mekari to take that spot, but right now it’s just a lot of TBD in the running game and that’s highly concerning.
TIRED AND CONFUSED
There really isn’t any other way to describe the 4th quarter performance from the Ravens defense on Sunday. It was clear that they came into the game with a “bend, don’t break” approach towards the Dolphins’ explosive wide receivers. Up to that point, Jaylen Waddle had a bunch of empty calorie receptions and Tyreek Hill had been all but contained. They were keeping plays in front of them and were seemingly content with letting Miami nickel and dime their way down the field while burning clock. Then, it all flipped.
The lack of depth at key positions was on clear display as players were visibly tired during the final frame, most notably the pass rushers who were forced to play even more snaps after Steven Means was carted off earlier in the game. Justin Houston was incredible in the first half, but you simply can’t put that much responsibility on an aging player and expect them to have the same level of energy throughout.
Also, where was Odafe Oweh? Sure, we can make the argument that maybe he’s seeing extra attention, but a player who looked poised to break out after a promising rookie year has done anything but through two weeks.
The fatigue may have also affected the secondary in a major way, as several miscommunications led to Miami receivers getting behind the defense for big plays. It’s the one thing you can’t allow that offense to do, and they did it.
TYREEK HILL GETS LOOSE ‼️
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 18, 2022
Now in fairness, there was also a lot of youth playing late into the game on Sunday. You can’t expect rookies like Kyle Hamilton and Jalyn Armour-Davis to completely shut down All-Pro caliber pass catchers all day, but the way it happened is what’s most frustrating. You can almost live with them just getting worked by a more talented player if that were the case, but it wasn’t. It was things that could’ve been much more easily prevented with better preparation. The young players and young defensive coordinator will have to figure out a way to be better, because bringing that kind of effort into games like Buffalo and Cincinnati in the coming weeks will be equally as disastrous.
THE MARGOT ROBBIE
FORMER SAINT CONTINUES SUNDAY SERVICE
The addition of Marcus Williams into the Ravens secondary is quickly looking like the best free agent signing of any team this past off-season.
Marcus Williams is a ball magnet 🧲 pic.twitter.com/56kQtmptKz
— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) September 18, 2022
His three interceptions through two games is a first for the Ravens, which is insane when you think about the number of all-time talented players they’ve had manning the secondary over the years. The range and instincts for the ball that we were so excited to see translate in purple has done so in a major way, and he was perhaps the biggest reason the Dolphins were held to 14 points through the first three quarters.
Now, he did drop what would’ve been a third (and likely game sealing) interception late, but it was a bang-bang play off the hands of Waddle. Even the best safeties of all time let one slip through their fingers sometimes, it just so happened that this one was at the most inconvenient juncture.
Nonetheless, he’s been nothing short of superb through two weeks, and will look to continue his formal introduction to AFC quarterbacks over what promises to be an immensely important stretch of games for the Ravens coming up.
This is one of those games you just hate having to conduct a post-mortem on. It still stings, especially knowing that Miami is almost surely going to be one of the teams competing with the Ravens for a playoff spot come January (unless they somehow put a vice grip on the divisional race before it matters, which feels unlikely). Those tiebreaker loss situations can be killers at the end of the year, so hopefully it doesn’t come down to that. Can’t dwell on the past too much though, so to coin a phrase from the man we’ll be seeing on the opposite sideline this week, “We’re on to New England.”