Twelve Ravens Thoughts following Week 16 win at San Francisco

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With the Ravens winning in decisive fashion to emerge as the NFL’s best team in a 33-19 final at San Francisco on Monday night, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The attacking Baltimore defense was the heavyweight fighter who absorbed some punches — surrendering season highs in total yards and yards allowed per play — to deliver the most impactful blows for a decisive knockout. As Patrick Queen said, “We play a brand of football that people don’t want to play.” 

2. John Harbaugh’s team weathered the early storm that could have been worse than a 5-0 deficit as the offense got off to a sleepy start. Interceptions repeatedly reversed the momentum as the Ravens picked off five passes, tying the franchise record set against St. Louis in 2007.

3. The statistics don’t match 2019, but what’s made Lamar Jackson the current MVP favorite has been a consistently high dual-threat floor accompanying his most spectacular moments. While other candidates have had face-plant performances, Jackson looks calmer than ever in the pocket and has one fumble over the last six games. 

4. You never know how interviews could go, but Mike Macdonald’s stock is soaring after a brilliant game plan to make Brock Purdy look like an overwhelmed seventh-round pick. The Ravens have special players at every level of this defense, but Macdonald’s use of those chess pieces continues to be masterful. 

5. I’m not sure what else there is to say about Kyle Hamilton, who continues to play tremendous football. The effort he showed on his second interception that came off a deflection was a teaching video to remind young players never to give up on a play. 

6. Marlon Humphrey saw his first extensive action of the season playing the slot, which was another wrinkle I’d really like to see the rest of the way. You often see an undersized corner playing the nickel, but Hamilton and Humphrey offer so much more versatility at that position.  

7. Drops aside, that was the version of Zay Flowers Baltimore needs the rest of the way. Especially with Odell Beckham Jr. coming back to earth, Flowers has to be the go-to guy for this passing game and I’d still like to see the Ravens push it downfield to him more. 

8. After a relatively quiet night in Jacksonville, the pass rush was ferocious against San Francisco with Pro Football Focus crediting Jadeveon Clowney with eight pressures and Travis Jones, Patrick Queen, Justin Madubuike, and Kyle Van Noy with four each. Macdonald will need a similar effort against Miami’s passing attack.  

9. The running game was inconsequential to the outcome, but Gus Edwards and Justice Hill finishing with 57 yards on 19 carries even as the Ravens held a sizable second-half lead wasn’t the most encouraging development. Melvin Gordon didn’t play a single snap. 

10. Harbaugh said he was “fairly optimistic about everybody” coming out of Monday’s game with injury concerns, but the Ravens must find the right balance between getting healthy and preparing for a critical showdown with the Dolphins on a short week. Nearly everyone’s tired and hurt entering Week 17.

11. Baltimore is 20-1 against NFC opponents in games started by Jackson. I’ve said repeatedly he’s like the generational pitcher with electric stuff a hitter really has to experience for himself before gaining any real chance for success. Seeing him once every four years is both a blessing and a curse.

12. The Ravens have lost once since the Orioles were eliminated from the postseason. They haven’t trailed by more than seven points all year and haven’t trailed by more than seven with Jackson playing since Week 14 of the 2021 season. No need to look at power rankings this week.

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