By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens beat the Denver Broncos 23-7. Overall it was a good day for the purple and black and we’ll begin our recap with the good.
The Good for the Ravens:
The Baltimore Ravens faithful has less to complain about this week than they have in the past weeks. The Ravens held their opponent to one touchdown. The Ravens substantially outgained the Broncos. Once the Ravens took control, the game was never in any real jeopardy.
The Ravens took control when Lamar Jackson took over the game. A little bit of hitting Mark Andrews was all it took for the passing game to come alive. Jackson had 316 yards and a touchdown passing and had his first game of the season without a turnover. Jackson still chipped in as a ball-carrier with 28 yards, but the MVP quarterback won this game with his arm.
He got a more diverse set of weapons involved this week. James Proche and Mark Andrews both had five grabs. Marquise Brown caught four passes and the most beautiful touchdown of the Ravens’ season on a bomb down the field. Sammy Watkins had four receptions and Devin Duvernay got into the action with three. In a game where the run game was less effective than usual, Jackson and his receiving corps led the way. Duvernay had a huge punt return that set up a last-minute field goal before halftime.
Even with three sacks given up, the pass protection was much improved for the Ravens. When Andre Smith replaced Alejandro Villanueva things got dicey, but the pass protection was about as good as it’s been all season. The Ravens put up 406 total yards in the contest and ran one last play to keep their 100-yard rushing streak alive.
Now let’s talk the good from the defense:
Defensively, there were two main positives. First, the pass rush was outstanding. Secondly, the defensive backs played great football, it was a strong showing for a team missing the starting free safety, De’Shon Elliott. Tyus Bowser had two sacks while Odafe Oweh, Justin Madubuike, and Justin Houston all had one sack.
Chuck Clark may have had his best game with the Ravens and had one of the biggest hits of the season. Marlon Humphrey and Anthony Averett were outstanding. The defense had issues, but overall this was what you want to see. Giving only seven points and just 252 total yards is a good day at the office.
Denver couldn’t throw the ball down the field. It just wasn’t on the menu. It didn’t matter that Teddy Bridgewater left the game with a concussion, Drew Lock dealt with the same problem. The short passing game was the only thing working for the Broncos outside of their running game. Playing catch-up with the Ravens prevented the frustrating efficiency of Broncos running backs Melvin Gordon and Javontae Williams from mattering.
The Ravens had plenty of chances to finish this game. Possibly the most frustrating moment was when the Ravens had a touchdown pass to Mark Andrews taken off the board because of a facemask by Andre Smith. It could be argued that finding a true killer instinct is still a problem for Baltimore.
The Ravens got off to a what can only be described as a tortoise slow start. The Ravens got down 7-0. Baltimore didn’t score any points in the first quarter and their second-half scoring consisted of two Justin Tucker field goals in the fourth quarter. The Ravens had two more penalties than the Broncos and they were penalties that made this game harder than it had to be.
While Devin Duvernay had a strong showing overall he made a couple of questionable decisions as a punt returner. By letting the ball bounce the Ravens got pinned deep inside their territory. The slow start wasn’t helped by the Ravens losing the field position battle.
The Ravens defense has a profound tackling problem. On the Broncos’ one scoring drive a long run by Javontae Williams was aided by a missed tackle in the backfield and several missed tackles. Tackles not being made kept several plays alive for the Broncos well past their should have been expiration. Patrick Queen had another bad performance in this area.
I checked his Pro Football Focus score, and it’s a drastically low 37.1. Queen’s score is 62.4 in run defense and an even 30 in pass coverage. PFF scores aren’t everything but I checked it because the eye test wasn’t helping the 2020 first-round pick out. The Ravens need better play from Queen and his fellow inside linebackers. The middle of the defense is where the Broncos wanted to attack most of the game.
The Ravens struggled on third downs on offense. The play-calling was the main culprit. The Ravens kept going with an obvious dive play up the gut on third and short. This was problematic for three reasons. First, it took the ball out of Jackson’s hands during pivotal plays. Secondly, it was the most obvious call each time. Finally, the run blocking was problematic in this game, and the manageable third downs were mismanaged. It was as if Greg Roman was unaware of how the game was going.
The Ravens went seven for 17 on third-down conversions. At least a handful of those third down misses were a failing of the offensive coordinator. The Ravens had a lot of promising drives stall on third down.
Le’Veon Bell didn’t make a positive impression in his first game with the purple and black. It’s important to note that with the way the Ravens were run blocking that’s not entirely fair. The Ravens certainly were not enhanced by his activation from the practice squad. You have to wonder if the Ravens were missing the yards per pop impact of Ty’Son Williams, who wasn’t activated for this game.
Bell got four carries and had 11 yards. Latavius Murray led the team with rushing and he only had 59 yards and averaged 3.3 yards per attempt. It wasn’t a typical day for the Ravens rushing game and it’s almost miraculous that they kept their history-making streak of 100 yards on the ground alive. Blocking wasn’t great but let’s not pretend the Ravens have answers at the running back position.