In the grand scheme of things, this was a big win for the Baltimore Ravens. They held on to a double-digit lead for the second straight game, albeit with a few palpitations along the way. Their offense moved the ball consistently from the end of the second quarter through the end. Some guys who needed to step up in adverse conditions did just that.
And a team fighting through some newer injuries, and still waiting for some other reinforcements to come back, got a big win going into a stretch that sees them having their “mini-bye” followed by their actual one.
Oh, and Isaiah Likely. Welcome, sir.
The grade for the second half was significantly higher than the first. They opened with 30 passes in the first half, followed by eight in the second. They ran for 27 yards in the first half, followed by 204 in the second. They scored three points in the first half, followed by 24 in the second. See the trend? This was a great performance, overall, considering the injuries to top weapons Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman. The team posted 453 yards, Lamar Jackson did his thing on a big stage, and… have I mentioned Isaiah Likely? We’ll get to him.
Jackson made the most of those aforementioned eight second-half passes, going 8-8 for 94 yards and two touchdowns. His 25-yard run in the third quarter on that first touchdown drive helped turn the tide of the game, and he put up a clean stat sheet, going 27-38 for 238 yards and two touchdowns, with no turnovers. There were a few throws early to Mark Andrews that felt forced into tight coverage, and he short-armed a toss to Demarcus Robinson on that late second-quarter drive that resulted in no points on a failed fourth-down conversion. That’s nitpicking a really fine, and clutch, performance.
Running Back: A-
Gus Edwards had his second-straight big game since returning from injury, but there is obviously concern over his health again after he left in the fourth quarter following a big 22-yard run. He had an earlier 11-yard run that might have been more impressive, as he spun out of a certain loss in the shadows of the Ravens’ goalpost. Kenyan Drake had 62 yards on seven carries, and caught four passes, including a touchdown. Justice Hill looked fast again, with 28 yards on his four totes. Pat Ricard had a holding penalty on a late Jackson run that was unnecessary.
With Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman both severely limited with injuries before being ruled out completely, other players needed to step up and perform. They NEEDED to step up and perform. Here’s where we get to Isaiah Likely. The rookie tight end showed his promise from this summer, with six catches for 77 yards and his first touchdown — on a really nifty catch from Jackson at the back of the end zone in tight coverage. He also had a great downfield block on Edwards’ 22-yarder, and showed good awareness in zones. He topped it off with a recovery of an onside kick to close it out. Likely is good after the catch, and he showed that tonight.
Demarcus Robinson also shined, registering 64 yards on six catches, and stood out with two catch-and-runs down the sideline for YAC. Devin Duvernay was let loose in the second half, and finished with four catches and 33 rushing yards including a touchdown scamper. He also had a 33-yard kickoff return.
James Proche contributed with three catches, but had a questionable offensive pass interference in the second quarter.
Offensive Line: A-
Notice a trend with these grades? The line was a major improvement it the second half, as well. Rookie Tyler Linderbaum got beat a few times early, including on a sack to end the first quarter and a run that got blown up by his man. But he sprung Edwards for his 22-yard-run at the line and played a cleaner second half. Ronnie Stanley was out for a while in the first half, and appeared to mistakenly pull on one play, leaving Shaquil Barrett free for a sack, but looked good again in the second when he flashed to me. Morgan Moses showed up on a 13-yard run by Hill in the third quarter.
They wore down the Tampa Bay defense in the second half.
They gave up a 75-yard drive at the end of the game for six points to give the Bucs a slim chance of coming back, and they gave up 10 points on Tampa’s first two drives. Outside of that? Six points. They posted three sacks, five tackles for loss and knocked down seven passes — against Tom Brady. It was a good showing by a defense that seems to be jelling together as the season goes. They also look better when Justin Houston is around.
Defensive Line: B
I was a little concerned with how they’d do with an ailing Calais Campbell out. They stood up well, and got a really nice showing out of developing lineman Broderick Washington. He was credited with two passes defensed (but I marked him with three), and had three tackles. Justin Madubuike had a sack, a tackle for loss and chased down Brady for a short gain on third down that forced Tampa to kick a field goal. He also had a bad penalty with a hit on Brady that gave them a first down. Brent Urban had a couple nice run stops. It didn’t look great at the start of the game as Leonard Fournette ran pretty freely on that opening drive, but they stiffened, and limited him to 24 yards on nine carries.
Patrick Queen wasn’t the standout he has been the past few weeks, but he also didn’t miss many tackles that I noticed, and provided good coverage on Chris Godwin on a third down to end a second-quarter drive. Malik Harrison didn’t get good depth on two early completions, and only had three tackles. AJ Klein was active, getting four tackles, one for a loss, but missed a tackle on Rachaad White that resulted in a 20-yard play. Odafe Oweh was quiet again, but did get a hit on Brady on a third-down pass to kill the Bucs’ opening drive of the second half. Justin Houston continued to shine, registering sacks on back-to-back plays in the second quarter to destroy a Tampa drive, and he had two hits on Brady.
Defensive Backs: B
Oh, this could have been a really high grade had Chuck Clark and Marcus Peters brought in end-zone interceptions they both would like to have back. And Marlon Humphrey dropped a pick on the first throw of the game by Brady. Of course, it could have been worse, as Brady and Mike Evans just missed a few opportunities to have a monster game. And there were rough penalties on Brandon Stephens and Peters that hurt.
But there was a lot of good. Kyle Hamilton gave a scare with an injury on the play when Clark dropped his pick, but came back and had a beautiful pass breakup at the goalline in the fourth quarter. He got beat by Cade Otton in coverage once, but had good coverage on Otten in the second quarter to end the Bucs’ second drive and hold them to a field goal. Geno Stone had six tackles and closed on a pass to Godwin in the second quarter to end a drive. Humphrey had a breakup on a pass to Evans in the first half after he closed on the receiver, who appeared to have a step, but Evans got some revenge on a 51-yarder in the fourth quarter. Humphrey was in tight coverage, however.
They stepped up with big plays.
Special Teams: B
Kevon Seymour had a recovery of a muffed punt in the first quarter, and that was the unit’s major highlight. Duvernay had that nice 33-yard return, but also had a short one in the fourth quarter where it looked like there were some yards to take. Justin Tucker had a 61-yarder blocked, and one has to wonder how long he will keep his job. You guys still reading? Cool. Tucker also calmly drilled a 30-yarder with about two minutes left that gave the Ravens an important 11-point lead. Jordan Stout averaged 52.5 yards on four punts and landed two inside the 20. He continues to look like the punter we all saw in the summer these past few games.
If the offensive plan the rest of the season is going to be throw it around with short passes in the first half and then beat the feathers out of opponents’ pillows with the run game in the second half, I’m here for it. On one hand, I was questioning why the Ravens were not utilizing Duvernay in the first half, particularly with the Andrews and Bateman absences. On the other, I was relieved to see him used creatively in the second half.
I thought both the offensive and defensive coaches showed good adjustments during this game — something I have dinged them for not doing in the past. I didn’t love the decision to go for it on 4th-and-3 from the Tampa 10 with about 2:00 left in the first half, even before it didn’t work. The field goal could have made it 10-6, with the defense looking much better, and the offense showing some life. Just take the points.
They were creative on both sides of the ball, and they had to be. The defense was getting dog-walked those first two drives, and the offense was sluggish and missing major components.
Big picture, there have also been a ton of distractions around this team as of late, and playing on a short week on the road against a championship team that still has pride. You know what? Make it a B+.
This content was originally published here.