The Ravens walked into Week 7 with a 4-2 record and a two-game lead in the AFC North. Yet the discussion surrounding the team contained mostly doubts.
Everyone said that Baltimore had yet to defeat a good team while their close wins against the Steelers and Bengals were lackluster and signs of an overrated team. You can talk all you want, either positively or negatively, about this Ravens team. But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is results on the field. So in order to silence the critics the Ravens knew what had to be done this week.
Here are my five takeaways from the Ravens 30-16 win over Seattle:
1. Quarterback battle falls short of expectations
The biggest storyline coming into this matchup, besides Earl Thomas‘ return to Seattle, was the matchup between Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson. Both have been putting up spectacular numbers so far this season while leading their teams to some hard fought, narrow victories.
While Jackson is certainly worthy of being in that MVP discussion with his dynamic play-style, Wilson has been on a different level. The Seahawks veteran quarterback came into Week 7 with 1,704 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Those are undeniable numbers that Jackson cannot outshine.
Many thought we would be seeing an epic clash between two MVP candidates this week, but the results were lackluster to say the least. Both Jackson and Wilson had a tough day through the air but for different reasons.
Jackson completed a career-low nine passes while Wilson threw a pick-six for his first interception of the season. Both finished the day with completion percentages below 50% and only scored one touchdown apiece.
While Lamar had one of his worst games throwing the football, he made up for it on the ground with 116 yards on 14 carries. In crunch time Jackson’s duel threat capabilities gave the Ravens the edge they needed to pick up the win.
Some would say Jackson outplayed Wilson in this one but I’m not sure I would agree. Jackson certainly didn’t get many favors from his receivers, especially Mark Andrews, but he was still off target far too many times for my liking.
I am by no means holding this against Jackson. Fact is he led this team to a victory by lobbying to go for it on 4th-and-2 late in the third quarter, and then delivered with a touchdown to put the Ravens up by seven. In addition to that, his legs helped keep many drives alive, particularly in the fourth quarter while trying to close things out.
2. 4th & 2
While we are on the subject of Jackson, let’s talk about the play of the game. I have to be honest, I was not happy with the decision to go for it while I was watching the game. On top of that, I was not fond of the play call. What bothered me most was the fact that they sent the kicking unit out and then burned a timeout so they could get Jackson and the offense back out there.
However, I was not aware that Jackson was convincing Harbaugh to go for it on the sideline. The indecisiveness that we saw on TV did not sit well with me but once the offense came back on to the field I just wanted a good play call. There have been a handful of gutsy fourth down calls made by Harbaugh and Greg Roman this season and not all of them have worked so you can understand my frustration.
As we all know the play ended up working and the Ravens got a game-changing touchdown out of it. Once I learned what happened after the game I was much more happy with the decision. The fact that they were successful helps, but I really loved the way Harbaugh and Jackson both spoke about the decision in their press conferences.
As you can see in the video, Jackson wastes no time telling Harbaugh what he thinks and that is what makes this kid special. He could have walked back to the bench like most quarterbacks and started scheming for the next drive but that’s not who Jackson is. The red zone struggles clearly did not sit well with him and he wants any chance he can get to put points on the board.
Not only does he have the trust of Harbaugh, he has the full trust of his teammates. The camera doesn’t show it, but based on what was said in the post game press conference, i’m assuming that was Marshal Yanda who passionately agreed with Jackson off-screen from the video.
You can say whatever you want about this kid’s game but he is a natural leader and wherever he goes, his teammates will follow.
3. Defense comes up big
Jackson deserves a lot of credit for this win for all the reasons listed above, but for me, the defense was the driving force in this win. After giving up over 500 total yards in their two losses earlier this year, the Ravens defense looked beaten down and vulnerable. Since then, things have started to trend back up but not many expected a strong afternoon from them in Seattle.
The boost they have received from players like Josh Bynes, L.J. Fort, and Chuck Clark has been great, but without a pass rush there was no reason to believe they could stop an MVP front-runner like Wilson.
They proved a lot of people wrong by keeping Wilson in-check all afternoon and coming up with the big stop when needed. Wilson escaped the pocket and extended plays very often, but the Ravens avoided giving up the big chunk plays that have hurt them this year. If we are being honest, penalties committed by the Ravens defense helped keep the Seahawks drives alive longer than they should have been.
This was the perfect time for the Ravens defense to turn in their best game of the season, but the challenges will continue to come in the second half of the season. I would imagine Eric DeCosta is going to be on the phone again this week trying his hardest to get a pass rusher here in Baltimore.
This is just one win so there is no reason to call the Ravens Super Bowl contenders right now. But with a 2.5-game lead in the division I think the Ravens should be going all in on a postseason run.
4. Marcus Peters makes an immediate impact
After joining the Ravens via a trade earlier this week, I was unsure if Peters would be able to get acclimated with the defense in time for this week’s game.
While I’m sure there is still a lot for Peters to learn in the coming weeks, it certainly helps that the Ravens were facing a familiar foe for Peters. As a member of the Los Angeles Rams, Peters faced off against the Seahawks twice in 2018 and once earlier this season. Peters helped his teammates prepare for this game and could even be seen barking out commands on the field to help get other players in position.
His biggest play contribution was definitely his pick six. If you don’t know by now, this is exactly who Peters is as a defender. He takes risks and plays aggressive to generate turnovers. It has paid off for him in his career so far as he leads the league in interceptions since 2015.
The trade executed by DeCosta is already paying off big time, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves with Peters. That aggressive play style has hurt him just as much as it has helped him. While we didn’t see it much this week, you can be sure he will get burned a few times. The good news is he is surrounded by a lot of talent. With the return of Jimmy Smith hopefully on the horizon, he makes this one of the most feared secondary groups in the NFL.
5. A look ahead
There is no doubt in my mind that the Ravens will be enjoying every second of this upcoming bye week as the look to get a few key players back from injuries.
Jimmy Smith started practicing this past week, which is a great sign for his return. But the team has also been without some other key players like Marquise Brown and Patrick Onwuasor the past two weeks. Getting those two healthy again will be a huge boost for both sides of the ball as the Ravens enter the second half of their 2019 campaign.
Every day of this bye week is going to be important for the Ravens but I also know they are just as excited as the fans for what is on the horizon. In Week 9 the Ravens will host their first Sunday Night Football game since 2012 as they welcome the New England Patriots to town.
The Patriots could very likely be undefeated going into this meeting as well, making this one of the biggest games of the season and one of the biggest in recent Ravens history. I cannot remember being this excited for a regular season game in a long time and the last Sunday night meeting between these teams was an instant classic.
Hopefully we get a better-called game than what the replacement refs gave us in that 2012 matchup, but I expect this to be another exciting chapter in the Ravens & Patriots rivalry either way.
Image credit: Elaine Thompson / AP