With the Ravens improving to 8-5 in a thrilling 47-42 win in Cleveland on Monday night, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. There’s nothing profound left to say about the man on track to be the best kicker in NFL history, so was there any doubt Justin Tucker was going to make the 55-yard field goal despite the windy conditions? In a game full of nervous moments, that just wasn’t one.
2. In a year in which merely having sports has felt tenuous, watching an instant classic that featured two young quarterbacks in the same division and included nine rushing touchdowns in an NFL game for the first time since 1922 helps make up for such an imperfect 2020. What terrific theater.
3. Lamar Jackson deserves high praise for his brilliance in the clutch, but back-to-back misses on open deep shots late in the third quarter still make you doubt the Ravens’ Super Bowl chances. Run, run, and run some more, but not capitalizing on such aerial opportunities will cost them in January.
4. Marquise Brown has caught a touchdown in three straight games, but that 44-yard touchdown can’t hide the truth that he’s not getting the job done for a passing game that really needs him. His third drop of the night on Trace McSorley’s third-down pass in the fourth quarter was brutal.
5. While most attention is on pending free agents Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, Tyus Bowser continued a strong contract year with a spectacular interception — his third in four games — and good edge-setting. What will the market be for a former second-round pick looking more and more like a late bloomer?
6. Tyre Phillips was benched after surrendering a sack on the first play of a drive that started with just over four minutes left in the second quarter. You’d like to see the rookie solidify the right tackle spot, but Baltimore keeps going back to D.J. Fluker. That position remains concerning.
7. The Ravens surrendered a total of 23 second-half points in their first five games. In the last eight, they’ve given up 121 total after intermission and at least 20 four different times. Yes, there have been some injuries, but the defense’s inability to finish is becoming a greater concern.
8. A shoulder injury is the latest ailment to plague Jimmy Smith, who’s missed a sizable portion of four of the last five games. With Smith and Marcus Peters missing time, Anthony Levine was pressed into nickel duty, a spot he hasn’t played regularly since 2014. What’s Rashaan Melvin up to?
9. Mark Ingram took the initial handoff on the flea flicker that went nowhere on the first offensive play and didn’t play again as even Justice Hill saw more snaps. It’s an awkward situation for a respected veteran, but activating a fourth running back who doesn’t play special teams feels untenable.
10. Depending on your favorite site, the Ravens currently have a 74 percent, 83.9 percent, or 86 percent chance of making the playoffs. They’re not guaranteed to qualify simply by winning out, but that probability is so high that John Harbaugh shouldn’t lose much sleep if his team handles its business.
11. I don’t quite get why so many remain convinced that Jackson’s cramping was code for something else with even some teammates joining in the fun, but kudos to him for being a good sport between his Paul Pierce zinger and the following tweet in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
12. After compiling my top 25 regular-season moments earlier this year, I’d have to rate Jackson’s fourth-down touchdown very high on excitement alone. What happens from here will shape its legacy, but the game itself was right there with any regular-season Ravens contest other than maybe the 2000 Jacksonville home win.