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A Step in The Right Direction

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By: Tony Lombardi

Ravens Take Down The Bengals 27-24

Any season for any team in the NFL is a journey. And like most journeys, it the NFL variety is littered with challenges and setbacks. Things might not go exactly as planned but the best teams turn difficulties into learning experiences, the intent of which is to improve along the way.

The Baltimore Ravens didn’t excite anyone with their 25-9 victory over the Texans in the season opener. The highly touted, new look offense appeared to be as challenged as that of former Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman. But excellence is a process. It is the culmination of building blocks and as the engineered construction unfolds, the goal is to improve upon the foundation – to shape it into a launching pad for better things to come.

Sunday’s win in Cincinnati was a building block. The Ravens knocked off the AFC North favorite on their turf. Two games into the season, the Ravens are two games up on said favorite and while the win wasn’t a beauty, it certainly fortified the team’s bedrock to pave the way for better days to come.

That said, Sunday was a very good day for the Ravens. It was an outstanding day for sports fans in Baltimore.


The Ravens had a balanced attack, rushing for 178 yards (4.8 YPC) while passing for another 237. Lamar Jackson was not sacked and the offense developed a nice rhythm and for the most part played on time while regularly setting up at the LOS with play clock time to spare (save a few exceptions)…Gus Edwards ran hard, breaking off a couple of chunk plays while being the steady, north/south runner that he’s always been, particularly in crunch time when everyone in the building knew the Ravens would run. Still, The Bus delivered (10 carries, 62 yards, 1 TD)…Justice Hill was also solid in relief, picking up some tough yards when there appeared to be none to be had (11/41/3.7 YPC).

Odell Beckham looked sharp early but was limited by a tweaked ankle and was largely a bystander for more than half the game…That gave Nelson Agholor an opportunity to shine and he did, with 5 catches for 63 yards and a big score on a nicely designed fade to the front-right pylon…Zay Flowers had a big catch for 52 yards that completed the all-important momentum shift following Geno Stone’s clutch INT in the red zone. Surprisingly, given his relative diminutive stature, Zay is a willing and capable blocker in the run game.

Good to see Mark Andrews back on the field as Lamar’s security blanket. He had 4 grabs for 45 yards and a nice TD connection, marked by an outstanding effort to break the plane of the goal line. He was a little less sure-handed than desired during the Ravens botched drive to end the first half…The offensive line, despite the huge absences of Ronnie Stanley and Tyler Linderbaum, held up remarkably well, particularly in a very hostile environment. They weren’t flawless but they got the job done in adverse conditions…The Ravens were 9 of 14 on 3rd down conversions and 3 of 4 in the red zone.

Jadeveon Clowney was the best among the edge setters. When the Ravens forced Joe Burrow to hold the ball beyond 2 seconds, Clowney’s relentless effort proved to be disruptive. He had the game’s only sack and had 2 other hits on Burrow…Just as it was against the Texans, tackling for the most part was on-point. Patrick Queen was explosive and Kyle Hamilton, with a shoe-string tackle of Irv Smith, Jr. saved a potentially outcome-altering score in the fourth quarter.

Ar’Darius Washington was active, playing beyond his weight class. He had 5 tackles, a PD and a solid hit on Burrow that left the Pro Bowl signal caller a bit bewildered…Brandon Stephens contributed heavily to limiting Ja’Marr Chase to a pedestrian 5 catches for 31 yards. Rock Ya-Sin chipped in with a lockdown on Chase featuring textbook coverage on the dangerous receiver during a back-shoulder throw deep in the red zone. Very clutch play!…Geno Stone had the game-altering play of the game. With the Ravens leading 13-10 with under 11 minutes to go in the 3rd, the Bengals faced a second-and-8 from the Ravens 17. In a style reminiscent of Hall of Famer Ed Reed, Stone broke on the ball and picked off Burrow at the 2, returning it to the Ravens 38. This pivotal INT coupled with the next play, a 52-yard connection from Lamar to Flowers, completely took the air out of Paycor Stadium. I’m am however a bit puzzled over Stone’s decision to run out of bounds. He had blockers and Burrow to beat for a Pick-Six.



Perhaps it will develop over time, but I just don’t get Devin Duvernay’s role on the team. He’s used to run jet-sweeps and given his stiff hips, they aren’t all that effective (3 carries, 15 yards). He didn’t make a catch during the afternoon, and he had 1 punt return for 2 yards. All this for a $4.5M cap number? Hopefully his role develops over time in Todd Monken’s offense…Rashod Bateman unleashed his inner Hines Ward on the comeback block on the perimeter to spring Justice Hill. Trouble is, that block has been outlawed for what, 10 years?

His coaches and teammates sing his praises. But so far, it hasn’t translated into much production. After 2 games Justin Madubuike has 4 tackles and 3 personal fouls. Against the Bengals he committed a totally unnecessary roughing the passer which really looked like an act of frustration. How long before the staff grows frustrated with him?…Overall the pass rush was a disappointment, particularly facing a Bengals offensive front that was skull-dragged the week before…Jordan Stout punted twice averaging 58.5 yards. He has a big leg. But I must admit, I missed Sam Koch and his ability to deaden the ball inside the 10. Stout sent a missile into the end zone from 63 yards out, netting 43. Not an awful outcome but do better.


The Bengals were pressing. They hadn’t scored a touchdown in 5 quarters. And then the Ravens resuscitated them with awful punt coverage that allowed Charlie Jones to go untouched for 81 yards to knot the game at 7. Stout, while attempting to tackle Jones, moved like a stunt double for Frankenstein…During the second quarter the Ravens faced a first-and-10 at the Bengals 13 with 30 seconds to go in the half. Thirteen seconds later it was third-and-29 at the Bengals 32…The officiating sucked! They missed calls on both sides of the ball, but the most egregious failures were at the Ravens expense. Ticky-tacky holding calls; they missed an obvious DPI against Mark Andrews for a key first-down and picking up the flag on the obvious block in the back on the 81-yard punt return were all criminal.

Injuries continue to mount. This week the Ravens added OBJ and Odafe Oweh to the list. John Harbaugh doesn’t think the injuries are serious. But there’s nothing trustworthy that ever comes from John’s mouth when discussing injuries.


Leading 7-0 at the 3:27 mark of the first, the Ravens faced a 3rd-and-10 from the Bengals 41. Lamar took a shot downfield to Flowers that was overthrown – a play that should have gone for six. Then, the Ravens opted to send Justin Tucker out to try from 59 yards. Why risk giving a struggling offense the ball at their own 49? Bad idea, Justin Tucker or not, 59-yard field goals on foreign turf aren’t exactly layups. C’mon John! That said, give Harbaugh props for having his team ready to play – a team that is already decimated by injuries. And the Ravens beat a team that is the divisional favorite, one that had 7 consecutive home wins and had been to the AFC Championship game two consecutive years. That’s resiliency. That’s a John Harbaugh team.

Todd Monken had a very nice game plan, mixing in runs along with a solid blend of short, intermediate, and deep throws. That first drive was a masterpiece and Monken helped his O-line get in rhythm early by setting up favorable 2nd-down situations by using the pass to set up the run. Todd got everyone into the flow and that really helps keep the entire roster focused…Mike Macdonald is a Joe Burrow nemesis. Without a full arsenal of weapons on the edge given Oweh’s injury, without Marcus Williams, without Marlon Humphrey, the Ravens controlled the dangerous pitch-catch tandem of Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase and forced the Bengals to matriculate the ball down the field. More plays add up to more opportunities to force mistakes. MacDonald is very good at disguising coverages and blitzes.


Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson has been a menacing presence for the Ravens for a few seasons. Without Ronnie Stanley, the prevailing thought was that Hendrickson would be disruptive if not dominant. Instead, he was more like dormant, with a quiet two tackles and rarely in the same zip code as Lamar Jackson. Credit for that goes to Patrick Mekari, offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris’ Swiss Army Knife.


During the game’s opening drive, Lamar Jackson was 5 of 6 for 38 yards. He looked comfortable in the pocket and delivered darts. He did have a stretch during which he missed a couple of deep balls, one to Agholor and another to Flowers, both of which could have gone for touchdowns. He was also saved a turnover (a fumble) deep in Ravens territory thanks to a hands-to-the-face penalty against the Bengals. But eventually, he settled down with a beautiful strike to Flowers for 52 yards and a nice touch pass to Agholor for a score on a flag route, dropping a dime over the defender. Lamar also was more decisive when running the ball in the second half. All told, he threw for 237 yards and ran for another 54. That’s quite an afternoon!

With all the injuries that hampered the Ravens coming into the game, Lamar needed a big game. He needed to play to the level of his contract. He needed to put the team on his back and find a way to win. He did exactly that. Maybe the rust is off and the shine we grew accustomed to in 2019 is on its way back.

We can only hope.

We’re on to the Colts…

[Ravens Report Card]

The post A Step in The Right Direction appeared first on Russell Street Report.

Originally posted on Russell Street Report

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