Skip to main content
Presented by

The Breakdown: Brown's Five Thoughts on Win in Arizona

NT Michael Pierce
NT Michael Pierce

When the Ravens needed a spark Sunday, their defense provided it.

Interceptions by Brandon Stephens and Geno Stone set up touchdown drives that gave the Ravens a 14-point lead, and they held on to escape Arizona with a 31-24 victory at State Farm Stadium.

Here are my five takeaways on Baltimore's third straight victory, which moved the Ravens to 6-2 and increased their lead in the AFC North:

It Wasn't Smooth, But The Ravens Avoided a Mishap

This wasn't a masterclass like Baltimore's domination of the Lions in Week 7, but it was an important victory that kept the Ravens trending in the right direction.

Losing to the Cardinals (1-7) would have been an upset, but they're capable of pulling off a surprise like they did against Dallas in Week 3. However, the Ravens made sure they weren't victimized, although it wasn't easy. Arizona scored on its opening drive to take a 7-0 lead, and it was still 7-7 late in the second quarter with the Ravens struggling offensively.

However, the interceptions by Stephens and Stone were big, and Baltimore's running attack came up big in the second half, led by Gus Edwards (19 carries, 80 yards, three touchdowns).

The Ravens know they can play better, but still found a way to win.

"We weren't great, we weren't nearly as crisp or as sharp as we wanted to be," Harbaugh said. "But we kept grinding, kept fighting. You're not going to be hitting on every cylinder every single week. You have to find a way to win those games. I think the best teams over time prove that they'll win games even when they're not at their best. They'll find a way to win games late."

With this victory, there's plenty to like about the Ravens' position at this point in the season, tied with the Chiefs, Jaguars and Dolphins for the best record in the AFC. The Ravens lead the AFC North and are 3-1 in the division. They have one of NFL's best defenses that can create turnovers and sack quarterbacks, which should serve them well heading into the second part of the season.

Michael Pierce Was a Wrecking Ball

There were several defensive standouts for the Ravens, but Michael Pierce played a huge game on the defensive line. The nose tackle stopped one Arizona drive in the second quarter by batting down Joshua Dobbs' pass on fourth down. Pierce ended the Cardinals' next drive when he stopped running back Emari Demercado in his tracks on fourth-and-1.

Then in the third quarter, Pierce made back-to-back plays that put the Cardinals in reverse. After dropping Demercado again for a 1-yard loss, Pierce bull rushed on the next play to sack Dobbs and strip the ball away.

When Baltimore stretched its lead from 14-7 at halftime to 24-7 in the fourth quarter, Pierce was the most dominant defensive player on the field, throwing offensive linemen out of his way like a bouncer.

Head Coach John Harbaugh described Pierce's play succinctly.

"Michael Pierce was dominant," Harbaugh said. "He just took over the game inside."

Pierce was relieved to finally get his first sack of the year after playing well all year.

"Today was a good day for me obviously," Pierce said. "I've been getting to the quarterback, not getting him down."

Geno Stone, Brandon Stephens Are Having Themselves Seasons

Any quarterback who throws in Stone's direction this season is doing so at great risk. He leads the NFL with five interceptions, and his instincts are leading to game-changing plays.

Stone read Dobbs like a book in the third quarter when he stepped in front of tight end Trey McBride for an interception with Baltimore holding a 14-7 lead. That gave Baltimore's offense a short field and Edwards ended a 23-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown run.

Stephens' earlier interception in the second quarter was one of the game's biggest plays, giving the Ravens a short field when they were struggling offensively and locked in a 7-7 tie.

When training camp began, Stephens was playing safety and nobody expected him to be a starting cornerback, one who teammates believe is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Stephens is covering well, tackling well and making huge plays. Stephens and Stone are both feel-good stories.

Running the Football Remains Key for the Ravens

The Ravens went back to their running game in the second half, particularly during their final touchdown drive where the milked the clock and wore down the Cardinals' defense.

As much as first-year Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken is putting his stamp on the passing attack, he ran a balanced attack at Georgia and running the ball effectively continues to a crucial part of Baltimore's identity.

"We were getting great push, guys were holding onto their blocks and the holes were huge," Edwards said. "I'm glad we were getting back to that."

The Ravens were unbalanced in the first half, throwing on 70% of their plays. In the second half, Monken and the offense put an emphasis on running the ball and it helped stabilize the offense.

Extra Points

  • While Odell Beckham Jr. didn't have a catch, he drew three pass interference penalties on Sunday that put the Ravens in position to score. Beckham showed frustration after he was interfered with in the end zone that ruined a potential touchdown, and Jackson understood. "It's great (pass interference penalties), but we're trying to get him a touchdown," Jackson said.
  • With Sunday's victory, starting right guard Kevin Zeitler has beaten all 32 NFL teams in his career, one of only 17 players to accomplish that.
  • Mark Andrews caught his 40th career touchdown pass in the first quarter, moving him one shy of Todd Heap's franchise record of for most career touchdown receptions. "We're close man," Andrews said smiling. It felt especially good for Andrews to do it at home in Arizona for the first time in the NFL, playing in front of family.
  • Marlon Humphrey and Roquan Smith were not happy to give up 24 points to the Cardinals. "We didn't play up to our standards," Smith said. Humphrey said the Ravens had some mental errors and missed tackles that led to the Cardinals being able to pop some runs. "I know I missed some tackles," Humphrey added.
  • Marquise "Hollywood" Brown finished with six catches for 33 yards and a touchdown against his former team. Tight end Trey McBride led the Cardinals with 10 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.

Related Content