With the Ravens winning for the sixth time in seven games to go into the bye week with an AFC-leading 9-3 record following the 20-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. While other phases of the game tried to out-Charger the Chargers for much of the night, the Baltimore defense again played at a championship level against a talented quarterback and passing game. This isn’t the 2000 defense, but this group has a chance to be the Ravens’ best since 2006.
2. There’s certainly Pro Bowl-caliber talent, but what makes this defense great is its ensemble makeup. A prime example of that Sunday was Arthur Maulet, who registered an interception, a tackle, and the quarterback hit to force the fourth-quarter turnover on downs. He played all of seven defensive snaps.
3. Registering the strip-sack to torpedo the Chargers’ 19-play, eight-minute drive in the fourth quarter, Jadeveon Clowney has garnered high praise for his renaissance season, but defensive assistant Chuck Smith noted that Lamar Jackson is the only current Raven to face more scrutiny than Clowney for his career. What a story.
4. Entering Sunday as one of the best quarterbacks facing pressure in the pocket this season, Jackson fared poorly under duress as the left side of the offensive line struggled in pass protection. Baltimore needs better from Ronnie Stanley for this passing game to take the next step down the stretch.
5. Whether talking about the failed direct snap to Gus Edwards on fourth down, a first-down handoff to Devin Duvernay for no gain, or curious running back usage, Todd Monken never developed a good feel facing a bad defense. The ground game is strong, but more passing efficiency will be vital.
6. Roquan Smith remains the force multiplier, but I’m not so sure Kyle Hamilton isn’t already becoming the second-best player on this defense. Like Mike Macdonald said, “He’s a special player; he can do just about anything on the football field.” His impact near the line of scrimmage is dynamic.
7. Given the poor success rate of spot challenges, I agree with John Harbaugh that the second-quarter sideline spot was unlikely to be overturned. However, I’d have to take a long look at my replay review process when no one picked up on the awful spot on Nelson Agholor’s third-quarter catch.
8. This will irk the “always take the points” crowd, but I had more of a disagreement with Harbaugh’s decision to try the field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 26 with three minutes remaining rather than going for it. Even if Justin Tucker makes the kick, a touchdown still beats you.
9. Monken said Keaton Mitchell remains a work in progress with other aspects of the running back position such as route running and blitz pickup, but the rookie playing more snaps than Edwards or Justice Hill felt like a harbinger of the post-bye schedule. He’s averaging 9.3 yards per carry.
10. No one was remotely concerned, but the dual performance of Smith and Patrick Queen was as dominant as they’ve looked together in a few weeks. Watching them converge on the screen to Austin Ekeler in the red zone early in the fourth quarter was a thing of violent beauty.
11. Jackson did a good job getting the ball to Isaiah Likely in open space on a few occasions, but it was tough to watch the Ravens go 4-for-13 on third down and have only modest throwing success against a poor pass defense without wondering about the Mark Andrews effect.
12. Between Jackson’s description of his first touchdown celebration and teammates noting how he should have gone down after picking up the first down rather than scoring late in the game, Zay Flowers won’t get a big head from his terrific night. To be clear, the teasing was in good fun.