By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens spent the 2020 season hearing that they couldn’t mount a comeback. Then they overcame a 10 point deficit against the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs, showing that Lamar Jackson and company were capable of the feat. The offseason leading to the 2021 season was filled with questions. Could the Ravens be a more resilient team? Could they get the passing game going when they needed to? The question was simply can the Ravens beat you in multiple ways?
The 2021 Ravens have become the masters of the NFL comeback victory. They were down 35-24 against the Kansas City Chiefs and won 36-35. They trailed the Indianapolis Colts 25-9 and won 31-25 in overtime. This past Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens did it again. They came back from a 24-10 deficit to the Minnesota Vikings and won 34-31 in overtime. How did this happen?
Lamar Jackson is the start of every Baltimore Ravens comeback:
The Baltimore Ravens were forced to adapt this year. Losing their star running backs before the season even kicked off forced the Ravens to get more out of the passing game. Lamar Jackson already has 2,209 yards passing this season. In the entire 2020 season, Jackson had just 2,757 yards. He’s on pace to blow past his 2020 season, and even his MVP campaign in 2019.
Jackson has been the key to the comebacks. Against the Colts he had to light up the box score. He turned on the jets and threw for more passing yards in one game than any Ravens quarterback ever had. We’re talking 442 passing yards and 62 rushing yards. Jackson put the team on his back and put up over 500 yards of offense. How is that even possible?
Against the Chiefs, Jackson had 239 yards passing and 107 yards on the ground. Against the Vikings, Jackson had 266 yards passing and 120 on the ground. Jackson doesn’t panic, instead something kicks into his system and he turns things around. He does what ever it takes, he finds a new focus, he uses his legs to make things happen and he takes shots with his arm. This year when Jackson’s back is up against the wall he finds a higher level of play.
The entire team is sparked by Jackson. The reason Jackson should win the NFL MVP is because the Ravens have a chance to win every game and without him that wouldn’t be the case. The offense finds big plays the second Jackson wakes up and starts the comeback with a huge throw or an attack mode quarterback keeper. The defense finds it’s backbone and comes up with big stops when Jackson’s actions legitimize the Baltimore comeback attempt. You can feel it. When Jackson flips the switch, it’s a brand new team.
The emergence of a number one receiver:
One of the reasons the Baltimore passing game struggled in the past in these types of games is that there was a lack of reliability at the pass catching positions. Drops were a huge issue, espesically in the 2020 season. Outside of the one game (Vs. the Detroit Lions) the Baltimore receivers have been incredibly sure handed. Crazy touchdown grabs like Devin Duvernay‘s against the Vikings weren’t in the cards before.
Marquise Brown has become a number one receiver. It’s not an opinion, it’s a verifiable fact at this point. Brown already has 46 receptions for 682 yards. Should the Oklahoma product stay healthy, a 1,000 yard season is on the way.
Brown has had at least three receptions in every game and in the comeback missions he’s been unstoppable. Against the Chiefs he had six receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown. Indianapolis got rocked by his nine catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings let up another nine receptions for 116 yards. This is a Tyreek Hill or Devante Adams level of performance. Baltimore has a homegrown playmaker who has come into his own.
Sure hands and a newly potent passing game:
Mark Andrews has been just as big a part of it all. This is by far the best Andrews has played (and he was already a top-tier tight end. Andrews had 11 receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts. Andrews and Brown give the Ravens two big play threats at all times. Rashod Bateman has been back for three games and it’s clear that he has the big play potential as well.
When you add the sure hands of James Proche and Devin Duvernay, everything becomes possible when Lamar Jackson catches fire. You have a lot of secure places to go with the football, a lot of players for the defense to worry about, while they have to stop the best dual-threat at quarterback we may have ever seen in number eight.
It’s almost like it’s been the past few years with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, you don’t want the Ravens to have to be in attack mode. That’s where all that talent can turn things into overdrive. John Harbaugh isn’t shy about going for it on fourth down, and his aggressiveness can pay off when the Ravens are in these tough spots.
Turning on the lightswitch, flipping the script on defense:
The Ravens are very much a hit or miss team. They’re either hot or they’re cold and that applies on both sides of the football. The magic for the Ravens is that they seem to know how to flip the switch. Would it be nice for the Baltimore Ravens to be consistent? Yes. Would it be nice if they didn’t need a wake up call from time to time? Of course. That being said, the fact that they can be so resilient and can change the momentum of the game is encouraging.
Defense is a big part of achieving a come-from-behind victory. If you can’t get stops, you can’t catchup to the other team. Don Martindale has been at his best when he’s had to figure out how to clamp down on the opponent in the fourth quarter and at key spots. Against the Chiefs he found the wrinkle that forced Patrick Mahomes into turnovers. The defense tightened up against the Colts. Without a stop on a sudden change of possesion, the Baltimore defense would have been responsible for an overtime loss against the Vikings.
Calling the Ravens a good defense seems fairly irresponsible. The Ravens give up a ton of big plays. The one thing the Ravens defense has been is opportunistic. In the big moments they’ve either found a turnover or a stop they’ve needed. The loss to the Bengals was the excpetion to the rule, every other time the Ravens have been pushed this season, they’ve found a way to make things interesting.
The Bottom Line for the Baltimore Ravens:
The Baltimore Ravens are the best comeback team in the NFL this season. They’ve made it more difficult than it has to be. The thrilling victories are incredible. While the Ravens have to work on a more sustainable route to wins, they must be credited for being the cardiac birds. They can do in pressure moments. They’re never out of a game. This isn’t the same old Ravens’ team. They can find a way to win no almost no matter what.
The Baltimore Ravens are in first place in the AFC North. If they take care of buisness in the games they should win, Baltimore should be in the playoffs. That’s an exciting prospect for a team you can’t count out with a quarterback who has been remarkable when the odds are against him.