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Defensive Performance Saved by Turnovers

Mark Andrews scores a TD in New England
Phil Hoffmann/Baltimore Ravens
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The days of Ray Lewis and Tom Brady going toe to toe may be long gone, but Sunday’s game between the Ravens and the Patriots was still one of the more fun installments of this long time non-divisional rivalry. All in all it was a mixed bag sort of day for the purple birds, with more good than bad, and in the end they were able to shut the door on New England when the going got tough.

After what took place the week before against Miami, the Ravens weren’t going to allow their opponents to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat once again, and they made sure of that by making some key plays in crucial moments.

So, let’s once again dive into the good, bad, and the ugly from this exciting AFC matchup.

THE GOOD

THE MVP CONVERSATION

Lamar Jackson is completely and unequivocally the NFL’s most valuable player through the first three weeks. Sporting a 10 touchdown to two interception ratio, Jackson has been the driving force behind the Ravens offense returning to the level of dominance that we saw in 2019, the same year he won his first MVP award. He’s the league leader in touchdown passes and QBR, and oh by the way, he’s also fourth in rushing.

What he did on Sunday was masterful, gashing the Patriots through the air and on the ground for 325 total yards and five touchdowns. People have been waiting a long time to be able to break out the Jackson Five memes again, and they finally got their chance this week. So far this year, it’s quickly starting to look like maybe Eric DeCosta and Steve Bisciotti should’ve just given #8 whatever he was asking for this past off-season, because that price tag appears to be going up more by the day.

RAVENS = HAWKS

Confused by that subheading? Well don’t be, because the hawks I’m referring to are ballhawks, none other than Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey. Both men finally found themselves back in the turnover column with big interceptions late in the game on Sunday, which massively helped the defense overcome giving up almost 450 yards of total offense. More on that later.

In a recent edition of our podcast “Russell Street Replay” (which can be found right on the Russell Street Report YouTube page), we made mention of the Ravens defense needing to create those extra possessions for the offense while Lamar is so hot, and the need for someone else besides Marcus Williams to begin stepping up. Seeing both of those guys finally cash in on their opportunities to do so is incredibly promising going forward. If they can continue to rebuild that mojo as the season progresses, the secondary is going to win Baltimore a lot of games down the stretch.

Quick shoutout to Kyle Hamilton too, who popped the ball free from Nelson Agholor late in the game, leading to a Peters fumble recovery. Hamilton officially has his first game changing play in purple, in the form of a fruit punch that surely put a smile on Humphrey’s face. Here’s hoping it’s the first of many.

THE BACKFIELD IS BACK?

After two weeks of some utterly dreadful play from the running backs, they finally showed signs of life on Sunday. J.K. Dobbins’ return to the field surely added some inspiration, but it was Justice Hill who surprisingly led the pack. He finished the day with 60 yards on only six carries, a whopping 10 yards per touch. Dobbins notched 23 yards on seven carries to go along with two catches for 17 yards, and while the final stats may not have shown it, he definitely looked like it won’t be long before he’s having some much larger games.

We’ve talked until we were blue in the face about how important the threat of the backfield is for this offense, in terms of on-field success and in keeping Lamar healthy, and we saw that on full display Sunday. With the Patriots unable to just key in on just Lamar in the run game, he was able to run wild all afternoon. It was a major step in the right direction for the running backs, one that they’ll have to build on this week if the Ravens want to emerge victorious against Buffalo.

THE BAD

DEFENSE GETS THEIR CARDIO IN

As mentioned above, the Ravens gave up nearly 450 yards of total offense to the Patriots on Sunday, an offense that isn’t overly inspiring or loaded with any legit game breakers. In fact, the Patriots scored more points on Sunday than they had in their first two games combined. Not great, Bob!

The turnovers helped mask what was once again a bad performance from the defensive side of the ball, most notably (but not exclusively) on the ground. The Patriots went for 145 yards and three touchdowns, and Rhamondre Stevenson was looking like a Pro Bowler with how easily he was slicing through holes in the front seven. With Michael Pierce going down with what appears to be a major injury, those woes aren’t going away any time soon either. Calais Campbell should never be in a position where he has to play the whole game, so the Ravens are going to need another body along the line who can contribute and help stop the bleeding every week.

The secondary doesn’t get a pass here either (no pun intended), as they allowed Devante Parker to look as good as he did back at Louisville on Sunday. Any defense that allows Mac Jones to go for over 300 yards against them through the air (while also letting him become a running threat) has some serious issues to correct, but such is life when you have rookie corners who are forced to play a large portion of meaningful snaps.

Unfortunately, things are only getting substantially tougher from here with Josh Allen and Joe Burrow up next on the schedule.

THE UGLY

BATEMAN DISAPPEARS, GOTHAM DESTROYED

Ok maybe that was a little dramatic, but nonetheless it was far from the ideal Sunday for Rashod Bateman, who was coming off the game of his career against Miami. He only hauled in two of his four targets, for 57 yards and a fumble that admittedly, probably should’ve gone down as incomplete. Perhaps the Patriots were keying in on him after such a big game the week earlier, but regardless, we definitely wanted to see him build off that performance instead of taking a step backwards.

Now, all receivers in the NFL have these kinds of games. Tyreek Hill and Justin Jefferson were prime examples of that on Sunday. This is the good, bad, and ugly though, so Bateman being the duck this week is more just an indication of how many great things the Ravens did overall against New England. Nobody should be worried, Bateman still looks great and will surely bounce back in the coming weeks. Big time offenses are up next on the slate, and the Ravens will need him in a big way if they play on going punch for punch with them.

THE MARGOT ROBBIE

SUPERMAN(DREWS)

I’ll preface this by saying that Jackson should probably win this award every week, so for the sake of parity we’ll leave him in a category of his own. Mark Andrews was the clear star of the show besides #8, and with each passing performance it becomes more clear that not only is he the best tight end in the NFL, but he’s the best pass catcher in Ravens history. That’s a heavy statement, and I don’t say it hyperbolically.

He finished the day with eight catches for 89 yards and a pair of touchdowns, on 13 targets. The next highest targeted player on Sunday was Bateman, with four. He’s the biggest threat on the offense by far, and teams know that, yet it doesn’t matter. That was never more obvious than on his second touchdown of the game, where he ripped the ball away from the defender like it was light work.

The Ravens draft Hayden Hurst first and Andrews ends up becoming the star. They draft Charlie Kolar first and Isaiah Likely ends up being the star of the preseason. I think we’ve finally broken the formula folks, if you always draft two tight ends, the second one will be a guaranteed hit! CONFIRMED.

WRAP UP

That will just about put a bow on an exciting Sunday in Foxborough! Like I said, there was much more good than bad, but there’s undoubtedly still some major things to work on going forward. It all gets real from here, with Buffalo up next and two divisional games over the next three weeks after (Cincinnati, Cleveland).

Buckle up, because one way or another things are about to get quite interesting in Baltimore!

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