With the Ravens winning their third straight game to improve to 6-3 and remain atop the AFC North after the 27-13 victory at New Orleans on Monday night, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. After averaging a modest 3.5 yards per carry in the first half, Baltimore ran for 132 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per rush after intermission even with the Saints knowing it was coming. That’s the definition of imposing your will, something this offense is doing more frequently by the week.
2. The passing game will need to be better for the Ravens to get where they want to go in January, but it did perfectly fine without Mark Andrews. Lamar Jackson’s completion percentage has been well below expectation in three of the last four games, reflecting opportunities being there.
3. Jackson has been smart with the football the last couple weeks when it would have been easy for him to try to do too much. The touchdown pass to Isaiah Likely was a work of art with Greg Roman deserving credit for the design. Jackson sold the run very well.
4. Not only did Kenyan Drake rush for a game-high 93 yards and two touchdowns, but he caught a pair of passes out of the backfield, one to convert a third down and another to set up first-and-goal from the 1. His end-of-summer addition has been a major plus.
5. While his heated on-field interaction with Jackson drew the attention, Ronnie Stanley played every offensive snap for the first time all season. With Pro Football Focus grading Stanley first among all qualified offensive tackles in pass blocking, the Ravens couldn’t have asked for more out of his return.
6. His accidental forced fumble of Jackson aside, Morgan Moses had another outstanding game and has played his best football of the season over the last few weeks. Beyond the superstar quarterback, the best thing the Ravens have going for them right now is their offensive line.
7. Baltimore can’t feel great about its cornerback depth behind Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, but the emergence of Kyle Hamilton eases some of that concern for now. The Ravens are using him more and more as a big nickel, and the first-round safety is getting the job done.
8. DeSean Jackson might be able to help this passing game over the second half of the season, but hamstring tightness after only 11 snaps wasn’t a great sign despite John Harbaugh and wide receivers coach Tee Martin downplaying his exit as precautionary. Availability is paramount.
9. With Andrews inactive and Rashod Bateman on injured reserve, Devin Duvernay caught one pass for five yards on his only target of the night despite leading all Baltimore wide receivers in snaps and routes run. Even in an impressive victory, that’s difficult to believe.
10. You have to wonder about Josh Bynes’ role with him being inactive Monday, but I suspect he played a big part in getting Roquan Smith ready for his Ravens debut. I’ve said this before, but the 33-year-old will make a good coach if he elects to pursue that one day.
11. Mike Davis hasn’t contributed as much as he hoped, but his block on Saints defensive end Payton Turner before a catch and run to set up a more manageable third down on the Ravens’ second touchdown drive deserved a mention. That’ll rattle your teeth.
12. Baltimore is the ninth team in league history to hold a double-digit lead in each of its first nine games. The first eight were 8-1 or better, but six advancing to the NFL or AFL championship game feels more relevant from a predictive standpoint. The Ravens are in strong shape.