By Chris Schisler
On paper, the Baltimore Ravens should feel comfortable with where they are at. They sit on top of the AFC at the moment. They essentially control their destiny in the AFC North with an 8-3 record. On paper, things are pretty. In the games though, things haven’t been pretty. The Ravens just scraped out a win in which Lamar Jackson had four passes picked off by the Cleveland Browns.
The Ravens haven’t been the buzzsaw that they were in the 2019 season and they have far less star power than they did in the 2020 season with a healthy Marcus Peters, J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards. Baltimore has needed amazing comebacks, a 66-yard field goal, and last-minute miracles to get the majority of their eight wins.
Ravens fans who are a little shaky right now have reason to feel like things aren’t going right. Fans have a reason to suspect that this isn’t sustainable, that the number of injuries this team has endured will eventually cripple their chances. The standings don’t mesh with the general feeling about the games. The Ravens are more flawed than an 8-3 team usually is.
What if I told you that horribly ugly game against the Browns convinced me more than ever in the viability of the 2021 Baltimore Ravens? It’s true. The Ravens won this game in spite of their quarterback. Lamar Jackson gave the Cleveland Browns four golden chances to mess with the Ravens’ plans of winning that game. The team lifted Lamar Jackson up in a role reversal from most of the season.
If the Baltimore Ravens can start winning on defense, they are a much more dangerous team. Lamar Jackson has had some rough games but this game was an outlier. He’s played at an MVP level most of the 2021 season and is still on pace to reach his career highs across the board. If Jackson gets back on track and the rest of the team plays as they did on Sunday Night Football against the Browns, the NFL is in trouble.
Even with four picks, the Ravens still ran 77 plays and controlled most of the game. The amount of good that the Ravens did was washed out by their quarterback having a case of boneheaded interceptions. The Ravens had 148 rushing yards and picked up almost half of their third-down conversions. Their opponent went four out of 13 on third down tries. This game got closer and tighter with each interception, however, the Ravens led wire to wire.
Let’s not forget that the Ravens imposed their will on the Browns. They had the football for about 15 more minutes of the game clock. If you keep everything the same for the next matchup but you eliminate the turnovers, the Ravens will win in a very convincing fashion. Four turnovers from your quarterback should equal a loss. The fact is the Ravens got away with their quarterback’s worst day. That was something this team wasn’t supposed to be able to do. When you’re watching the Ravens you aren’t watching a one-man play. You’re watching the most resilient team in the NFL.
The Ravens don’t have to be juggernauts. In fact, they can’t possibly make it look easy. Injuries have made this team have to go well beyond their blueprints for the season.
This game doesn’t shake my confidence in Lamar Jackson. Don’t get me wrong, Jackson had an awful game and there’s no defending his performance. It was awful. You also have to remember that he’s the hardest worker on the team and he’s going to get back on track. The Ravens may not be dominating teams. They have however shown they can find a way to win tough games.
The Ravens beat the Bears without Lamar Jackson. Baltimore beat the Browns even when Jackson made it very difficult. If they can win tight games without Jackson playing well, just imagine what they can do when he’s on top of his game.
Things may be coming together for this team. Winning a game or two on defense is fine. This win gave me confidence in the team outside of their star quarterback. Put my chips all in. I finally have bought into this team. At the very least they have a shot, a viable path towards a Super Bowl.