It’s not entirely genuine to refer to this as an “ugly win,” if, for no other reason, the defense was spectacular.
It is, however, completely fair to throw a few verbal jabs at the offense for their performance in a cold, windy, mostly putrid showing against an overmatched opponent.
Let’s just get to the grades. What do you say?
This is not for “Unsatisfactory.” No, this U is for “Ugly.” The Panthers have an OK defense, and a few really nice pieces. And it was cold and windy out there, and we saw a few other low-scoring affairs across the league today. So, yeah, it wouldn’t have been entirely shocking to see a defensive struggle.
But the Ravens continued to make back-breaking mistake after back-breaking mistake. They threw a pick to a 330-pound defensive tackle who seemed to appear from the fog deep inside Carolina territory. They had a gross three-and-out in the second half that featured back-to-back sacks. They had a facemask by their offensive tackle wipe out a first down and kill another drive. They had a delay of game basically kill another drive.
It was a comedy of errors that featured very few laughs.
Lamar Jackson was 24-for-33 with that aforementioned interception, for 209 yards, and ran for another 31 yards and a touchdown. He wasn’t bad, per say. Four drops and some penalties made his numbers look worse, but there were a few balls in the first half I’m sure he’d love to have back, including a touch pass just off Mark Andrews’ extended hand that could have been a big gainer.
The running was difficult, too, but he made some significant runs to pick up important yards.
Now, for the really good: he threw a couple gorgeous passes. The 23-yarder to Demarcus Robinson on first and 15, and a nice timing pass to him on third and 13 were huge. He also hit Andrews on a big third down pass for 14 in the third quarter.
I kept wondering if maybe he was still feeling the effects of his illness this week, as he retreated to that heavy coat during every break in the action.
Running Backs: B-
Kenyan Drake had maybe the biggest play of the game on offense with his 29-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter. He was strong int he second half, and finished with 46 yards on 10 carries.
Justice Hill continues to run aggressive and fast, and he added 30 yards on seven carries. These guys are better than what the Ravens were putting out last year, and they are both solid contributors. It will still be nice to see what Gus Edwards and JK Dobbins can bring to this mix when they return.
Pat Ricard picked up a short first down, but dropped another pass that would have been erased by penalty anyway. It was that kind of day all around on offense.
Demarcus Robinson elevates this group’s grade because he was, honestly, pretty amazing. He had nine catches for 128 yards, and basically carried this group on the day with good hands and nice work after the catch. Andrews returned and had six catches for 63 yards.
Other than that? Not a whole lot. Devin Duvernay had one catch on one target, and one run. He totaled seven yards on those two touches, and I’m beginning to wonder who in Owings Mills he has irritated.
Offensive Line: C
The Ronnie Stanley injury has to be the first thought here, but we were reminded again how valuable a chess piece Patrick Mekari is for this team as he took over the blind side. He looked to get beaten for a sack late, but it is nice to have a guy like that who can get you out of a game at multiple positions. Tyler Linderbaum nearly had a disastrous high snap, but Jackson was able to bring it in and get rid of the ball for an incompletion. Linderbaum also had a key block on Drake’s big run.
It felt like much of the pressure on Jackson throughout the game was due to good coverage, as it wasn’t immediate. Morgan Moses had one of his rougher starts of the year, getting a facemask call and seemingly allowing Brian Burns to get to Jackson with no resistance. It was hard to tell what happened there to allow Burns to run free.
The run blocking stepped up a bit in the second half. They felt rusty at the start, like at the beginning of the season.
They gave up only 205 yards on the day, and 52 of them came on two passes in garbage time in the fourth quarter. They ended that little drive with an interception. They forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter, held a good Panthers’ running attack to 36 yards on 17 carries and showed that this team can still win games when the offense is sputtering, and has a unit that can potentially slam the door shut on any future late-game meltdowns.
This group is playing ball right now.
Defensive Line: A-
The line did a good job of controlling scrimmage throughout, and allowed the linebackers to run and chase with little resistance.
Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen are looking like a dynamic duo right now. Queen was everywhere, with 12 tackles, a half sack, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit. He had a big rundown of Baker Mayfield when the quarterback tried to scramble for a first down on third, and had a good open-field tackle on a short pass in the fourth quarter.
Smith has changed the defense, not only allowing Queen to play free, but also getting to the ball in his own right. Smith had seven tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, and forced an incompletion with his pass rush late. Justin Houston shared that sack with Queen, and Pierre-Paul had a sack and that pick, along with another pass defended.
Tyus Bowser, by the way, is so valuable. He killed one Panthers drive by himself in the third quarter — a run stuff, a quarterback hurry and coverage for an incompletion on three straight plays ended a possession.
Odafe Oweh had one quarterback hit, and that was pretty much it.
Defensive Backs: A+
For a good chunk of the game, Kyle Hamilton was absolutely dominant. He had four tackles, one for a loss and got a hit on Mayfield. He made two great open-field tackles and looked like a star until he was injured in the third quarter. That is a concern.
Marlon Humphrey was terrific all game, with a pick, a fumble recovery, a pass defended, and he hurried Mayfield into the arms of JPP for his sack. Marcus Peters created that fumble by fighting for the ball, and Brandon Stephens had one of his better showings of the season. Chuck Clark had a rough one, getting a pass interference call and a facemask.
Special Teams: C
Rare game where special teams didn’t particularly stand out. Justin Tucker was himself, nailing two field goals. Jordan Stout was a little inconsistent, getting four of his punts inside the 20, including one at the Carolina 5, but also blowing a few other opportunities to pin them deep. Duvernay only had five yards on two punt returns. Hamilton just missed blocking a punt when he got called for running into the punter, and Malik Harrison stole Shi Smith’s soul with a hit on a punt return. Kevon Seymour made a terrific play to help down that ball from Stout at the 5.
Mixed grade here.
Let’s start with the good: Mike Macdonald is doing a great job growing with this defense. He is rotating players in, keeping his veterans fresh and providing different looks to opposing offenses, and I liked that he continued to rush with four today when playing conservative coverages late with a lead.
The offense was not great, and ultimately that falls on the coaching staff when the team is coming off a bye and had plenty of time to prepare. It was smart to go with a quick passing attack after routes did not appear to be developing in a positive way downfield early.
John Harbaugh challenged that play by Seymour on the punt, and I understood why he would do that in a tight game when 15 yards of field position were at stake, even though I thought he’d lose it. He won it, so what do I know?
The second one was confusing, and the refs basically decided they shouldn’t be looking at the play after they spent a long time — wait for it — looking at the play.