With the 8-3 Ravens sitting atop the AFC with their 16-10 victory over Cleveland on Sunday night, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. John Harbaugh summed it up best by saying, “I don’t know exactly what that was; I don’t know how to describe it exactly.” I couldn’t have said it better about a kind of slog straight from the Kyle Boller era. It was a historical win you never want to duplicate.
2. Smothering the NFL’s top-ranked rushing attack is impressive enough, but limiting Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to 36 yards on 15 carries without six-time Pro Bowl selection Calais Campbell in the trenches was remarkable. It’s the latest example of nobody really knowing what they’re talking about in this weird 2021.
3. Whether rushing the passer, setting the edge against the run, or playing in coverage, Tyus Bowser was the best player on the field for Baltimore and made the final defensive play of the game for a second straight week. He epitomizes the “positionless” defense Wink Martindale wants to play.
4. It doesn’t get worse than throwing interceptions on back-to-back snaps and three picks in six plays, but Lamar Jackson has tossed nine over his last five games, more than his 2019 season total and equaling last year’s. Though not getting much help, Jackson must take better care of the football.
5. The reason you don’t panic is Jackson’s relentless ability to make big plays even when he’s having one of the worst games of his career. It doesn’t get wilder than scrambling more than 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage to heave a 13-yard touchdown.
6. It helps when you can seemingly throw it up for grabs in the general vicinity of Mark Andrews and feel confident that he’s going to make the play. He’s only four catches and 91 yards shy of his career highs set two years ago. The one-handed catch was just ridiculous.
7. We joked two years ago that the Ravens didn’t really need Justin Tucker anymore, but making field goals from 52 and 49 yards while the opponent is wide left from 46 and nearly misses another reiterates how that edge helps overcome your flaws in such tight games.
8. Since their 2019-like blowout win against the Chargers in Week 6, the Ravens have registered 17 or fewer points four times and scored only two first-half touchdowns over their last five games. These types of offensive performances may get you to January, but you won’t make much noise upon arriving.
9. With Harrison Bryant having just made a 41-yard catch, Kevin Stefanski called a Jarvis Landry Wildcat pass that resulted in a strip-sack for Odafe Oweh. Was the goal drawing up a play to remind observers that you’re still the Browns? Baker Mayfield reinforced that notion a couple drives later.
10. Since their season-opening loss in Las Vegas, the Ravens are 6-0 in games decided by a single possession. Prior to 2021, Baltimore was 10-6 in one-score games since Jackson became the starter three years ago. You keep bracing for a market correction, but each win softens the landing for one.
11. Despite the heated debate over David Njoku’s touchdown catch, I honestly felt more conviction about the ball hitting the ground on Ronnie Harrison’s interception with 21 seconds left in the first half. How that wasn’t reviewed reflected how problematic the officiating was from an administrative standpoint all night.
12. The best comment I read about this game was that the Ravens did everything they could to lose, but the Browns just wanted it more. Week 12 seemed to serve as a separator Sunday in the AFC North — we think? — with Baltimore again finding a way and Cincinnati walloping Pittsburgh.