The weather was ugly and so was the first half but Sunday ended well for the Ravens as they picked up a much needed win at home over the Buccaneers. The bounce back victory keeps the Ravens in line for a playoff spot as they move to 8-6 on the year. Here are three thoughts from the 20-12 win.
1 – Mighty Marlon & the Ravens defense
The Ravens defense turned in another great performance on Sunday by holding the top passing offense to just 156 yards through the air. Tampa Bay came out with a surprisingly balanced offensive attack but was quickly turned one dimensional as the Ravens defensive line tightened up and stopped allowing chunk yardage on the ground.
If the Buccaneers were going to win, they would have to do it through the air. At times that looked like it might happen, particularly when Jameis Winston connected with Mike Evans. The Bucs top receiver hauled in four catches for 121 yards, 87 of which came on two deep passes in the first half. Both times Winston was able to catch Jimmy Smith slipping and connect with Evans for the big play. That would change in the second half when the Ravens put Marlon Humphrey on Evans.
Baltimore’s second year corner continued his strong 2018 season by coming up with two huge plays late in the game. The first was an interception early in the fourth quarter. On the previous possession the Ravens had scored a field goal to take an eight point lead but the game was still very much in reach for Tampa Bay. Humphrey’s interception gave the Ravens offense the ball around mid-field with only a field goal needed to make it a two possession game.
Unfortunately that didn’t happen and the defense had to go out and get the job done one more time. After a huge run stuff by Brandon Williams on third and one the Bucs decided to go for it on fourth and four. Once again Humphrey was responsible for the big play as he broke up what would have been a first down completion by Winston.
Sunday ended up being one of the best games in Humphrey’s career, which is somewhat surprising considering he has been dealing with a lingering groin injury the past few weeks. Humphrey suffered the injury two weeks ago and ended up leaving the Kansas City game early after aggravating it. His health will be a huge factor moving forward as the Ravens continue to play some must win games.
2 – Sticking to the offensive game plan
“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Myself and many other fans have used this cliche phrase over the past few weeks in reference to the Ravens offense and it was more true than ever in week 15. With Lamar Jackson under center the point totals haven’t been the highest and there have been a handful of ugly turnovers, but the run heavy formula has led to success and that was the case once again this week.
On a wet and slippery afternoon, the Ravens continued to grind it out on the ground. Gus Edwards led the way with 104 yards on 19 carries while Kenneth Dixon provided an additional 48 on 11 touches off the bench. As usual Jackson was heavily involved in the run game thanks to both his designed plays and scrambles. Jackson would end up running the ball 18 times, which is the most since his first start in which he carried the ball a historic 26 times.
The media will continue to hound Jackson for his inconsistency throwing the ball. However, there was no need for him to pass this week with the rainy weather. It became clear early on that Jackson was going to struggle throwing a clean ball in the rain so seeing him take off for positive yardage rather than force a throw down field is always going to be a plus in my eyes. Jackson ended up rushing for 95 yards to give the Ravens 242 as a team. This marks the fourth time in the last five weeks that the Ravens have rushed for over 200 yards, with last weeks loss to Kansas City being the only difference. They were very close to reaching the 200 yard threshold in that game too, finishing with 194 yards on the afternoon.
The Ravens also got back to dominating the time of possession in this win. Holding on to the ball was absolutely essential down the stretch when the Ravens were trying to hold on to an eight point lead. Even after a special teams turnover, Baltimore still managed to eat up almost 11 minutes of the third quarter and then over ten minutes of the fourth quarter. The win was sealed with a seven minute drive in which the Ravens ran the ball 12 times and dared the exhausted Buccaneers defense to stop them.
3 – Turnovers and penalties
The weather wasn’t the only thing that was sloppy on Sunday. The Ravens edged out a 20-12 win thanks to the defense and rushing attack but there was plenty of mistakes along the way that could have been avoided to make the win much easier. Right off the bat, you have to mention the two turnovers. Jackson’s fumbling issues are nothing new but I expect much better from Cyrus Jones on his special teams blunder. Jones has been known to fumble punts in the past but this is completely different since he initially avoided the ball and allowed it to hit the turf. I have no idea why he would try to scoop it up when there was five white jerseys around him ready to down the ball.
The Ravens defense should be credited for holding the Buccaneers to just nine points off of these two turnovers. Both set Tampa Bay’s offense up with a short field but they did not end up being game breakers.
The Ravens also finished the game with eight penalties totaling 70 yards. Last week was the perfect example of penalties being a difference maker in a close game and there were times where it seemed like the Ravens would suffer a similar fate again against the Bucs.
A defensive holding call in the endzone set Tampa Bay up with first and goal and eventually led to their only touchdown of the afternoon. Later on the offense shot themselves in the foot while trying to close things out. Despite sitting at mid field after Humphrey’s interception, the Ravens offense quickly put themselves in a fourth and 41 situation with three very avoidable penalties. It goes without saying but these things need to be cleaned up if the Ravens want to win on the road next week against a good Chargers team.
Image credit: Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun