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The Drive that Slammed the Door on New England

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Earlier iterations of the Lamar Jackson-led Ravens consistently closed out games without a problem, but holding onto leads has become an issue more recently for Baltimore. It showed up in 2021 and stuck around into 2022 with the Week 3 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Previously, the Ravens could literally run the clock out with their uber-efficient rushing attack, but injuries and defensive preparedness have limited that aspect of Baltimore’s offense. Instead, Greg Roman is embracing his offense’s new pass-first identity, even in late-game, clock-chewing situations.

Let’s start with the play that put them in the position to close out the game in the first place: Kyle Hamilton’s chase-down forced fumble with 5:35 left to go in the game.

The Ravens run Cover 1 man with five pass-rushers. At this point in the game, Baltimore’s defensive front is exhausted, and Mac Jones stands comfortably in the pocket to complete this pass to Nelson Agholor, over the objection of the fully outstretched Pepe Williams.

That’s where the fun starts. The uber-athletic Hamilton takes off in hot pursuit of Agholor, choosing an angle that gives him the opening to punch the ball out.

I’m sure Marlon Humphrey was proud of his rookie teammate for the perfect punch-out, and Marcus Peters does a great job to recover the ball before it bounces out of bounds.

I also want to point out Hamilton’s situational awareness on 3rd-and-6. Even though the Patriots running back is his assignment, Hamilton still maintains his depth in coverage closer to the first down marker which keeps him in position to prevent a big play (and force a turnover) behind him. 

The Ravens take over on their own 27-yard line and immediately call a play action shot play on 1st down. Up five points with 5:28 to play, defenses will expect Baltimore to run out the clock, so I appreciate the aggressiveness from Greg Roman.

The route spacing between Mark Andrews and Josh Oliver isn’t ideal, but that’s partially because Andrews is significantly hindered from running his route by Jonathan Jones. Jackson still puts the ball in a spot only Andrews can get to it, and the clip ends with both John Harbaugh and his All-Pro tight end looking for a penalty flag. Oh well. At least Daniel Faalele has comfortably settled into playing left tackle by this point.

On 2nd down, the Ravens again look downfield, with three receivers running routes at least 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Bill Belichick worked to bracket Rashod Bateman throughout this game, but he easily found the soft spot in this Cover 3 look from New England. The throw is inches-perfect from Jackson, and Bateman is ready to launch downfield as soon as he catches the ball. It’s easy to forget, but everything that helps Bateman get open – his speed, agility and diverse release package – also help him make defenders miss after the catch. He’s quickly becoming a YAC specialist in Baltimore.

A few other notes: look at Tyler Linderbaum and Ben Powers flawlessly pass off a twist from the Patriots pass rush. Linderbaum is really proving to be worth the 1st-round pick the Ravens spent on him with his utter command of the center position as a rookie. Kevin Zeitler is all clamps, as usual, but check out J.K. Dobbins making life very easy for Faalele by handling the edge rusher all on his own. I think he’s back!

Sometimes, plays are well-defended. Sure, running the ball is a little obvious in this situation, but I can’t necessarily fault it either. Powers can’t seal his block, and Jabrill Peppers makes a nice play for no gain.

I think the NFL made a mistake when it gave Greg Roman a center that can block on the move the way that Linderbaum can. Watch him lay the boom on this center/tackle pull, leaving the also-pulling Morgan Moses with almost nothing to do.

Faalele and Powers easily seal off their end and Jackson, as usual, is faster than the defense. Look at where the defenders are when he crosses the line of scrimmage. He beats everyone to the 30-yard line, and beyond!

The Patriots key on Jackson on the ensuing 1st down, which opens room for a completion but not much more on this RPO. Jackson takes the safe completion and sure yards to Andrews, as he should in this late-game situation with a lead. Again, well-defended by the Patriots but the clock keeps rolling.

Next play, 2nd down: Lamar Jackson to Mark Andrews on a speed-out. Yawn.

Adrian Phillips has no chance to keep up with Andrews’ sudden out-breaker, and Jackson can make that pass to his favorite target blindfolded. Easy peasy.

This is just really good blocking from the Ravens’ offensive line. Moses and Zeitler perfectly double-team Carl Davis, Linderbaum holds his ground, and Powers and Faalele both find work as pullers. Jonathan Jones especially has no chance against Faalele, who is quite literally twice his weight.

Defenses simply can’t give Jackson this much room to work with. The entire Patriots front surges towards Dobbins’ outside run and Jackson easily finds pay dirt to close out this game, as he’s done so many times.

Of course, Justin Tucker misses the extra point, because why not?

I’m not sure if it’s the hold or the kick, but either way, I’m not worried. I guarantee that no one is more upset about that than Tucker himself. He makes up for it right away with a booming kickoff that sails for a touchback. Sometimes I wonder why they don’t just do that every time.

To me, this was masterful end-of-game play calling and execution from the Ravens offense. After beating up on the Patriots defense all day, Lamar Jackson and Greg Roman didn’t take their foot off the gas, and instead pressed down even harder on New England’s neck, staying aggressive with chunk gains.

The ball went to their best players  – Jackson, Andrews and Bateman – and a solid diversity of play call and blocking combinations kept New England off-balance. This was a must-stop drive for the Patriots, and the Ravens never even gave them a chance to get a foothold on the field. It’s that kind of aggressiveness that the Ravens need to maintain in these scenarios to close out games on their own terms, rather than putting the onus on their defense to hold long enough.

This offense has an insane amount of potential. Even on their fourth string left tackle against one of the best defensive minds of all-time, Jackson and the Ravens offense never seemed bothered or slowed by anything the Patriots were doing, and that shows up especially on this close-out drive.

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