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Twelve Ravens Thoughts following Week 14 win over Rams

With the Ravens winning for the seventh time in eight games with the 37-31 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Tylan Wallace’s 76-yard punt return was Baltimore’s first “walk-off” return touchdown since Will Hill’s blocked field goal score at Cleveland in 2015. The rain kept some fans away, but more than a few mentioned being hoarse after a Ravens game for the first time in a while. What great fun. 

2. John Harbaugh broke down the return in great detail Monday, but it concluded with a tremendous individual effort by Wallace to break three tackles. “You talk about being strong and the balance it took to do that, that’s pretty remarkable.” Not bad for someone on the roster bubble in August.

3. Wallace never thought he’d be the hero after his second-quarter offside penalty negated a punt and led to a touchdown drive. The Rams entered Week 14 ranked last in the NFL in special teams DVOA. Football’s third phase isn’t as critical as offense or defense, but special teams still matter

4. Look no further than Sunday’s poor defensive performance to understand how valuable the versatile Kyle Hamilton is. I wrote a couple weeks ago that Hamilton might be the second-best player on this defense behind Roquan Smith, and Sunday supported that opinion. Fortunately, Hamilton isn’t expected to be out for long.

5. The defense got little pressure on Matthew Stafford and allowed season highs in yards, yards per play, passing touchdowns, and passing yards. The similarities between the Rams offense and those of upcoming opponents San Francisco and Miami are noteworthy, but Mike Macdonald’s defense is entitled to have one bad day. 

6. Though Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses account for nearly $30 million on the 2023 salary cap, rotating them out for Patrick Mekari (14 snaps for Stanley) and Daniel Faalele (eight snaps for Moses) coincided with strong performances from both. We’ll see if offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris continues this approach. 

— John Harbaugh on the decision to rotate offensive tackles in Week 14

7. Pro Football Focus credited Stanley and Moses with allowing one pressure each while the Ravens offensive line did a commendable job containing Aaron Donald, whose only official box score statistic came on a pass thrown off his helmet. He was credited with eight pressures — all of them hurries — by PFF

8. Zay Flowers wasn’t having his finest day with two drops, but he caught his final four targets, which didn’t even include the 2-point conversion that followed his 21-yard touchdown reception on third-and-17. The composure Lamar Jackson showed under pressure on that 2-point try was simply extraordinary.  

9. Odell Beckham Jr. ran the wrong route on his 46-yard touchdown, but Jackson did a good job putting plenty of air under a catchable ball. You don’t need to make a perfect throw when Beckham — or Isaiah Likely earlier — is that wide open. Beckham continues to be exceptional of late.

10. It was a forgettable return for Marlon Humphrey, but you’d rather the veteran get his legs under him now to be ready for the higher stakes of the next month or two. Humphrey also needed a couple weeks to start looking more like himself after returning from August foot surgery.

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11. Regardless of Harbaugh’s explanation for throwing the challenge flag on the Rams’ fourth-quarter touchdown to buy more time for the right defensive call, burning a timeout with 4:41 remaining after a goal-to-go score that was always prompting a 2-point try is suboptimal. You’d really like to be ready there. 

12. Thanks to a horrendous loss by Miami — whose .325 strength of victory is the AFC’s lowest — that made Baltimore’s recent late-game collapses seem mild, the Ravens stand alone atop the AFC. This is pretty clearly the best team in the conference. But the Super Bowl isn’t played in Week 15. 

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