Pundits Concerned for Ravens if Lamar Jackson Injury Lasts Long
In the final minutes on Sunday, the Ravens led by backup quarterback Tyler Huntley marched 91 yards against a highly ranked Denver defense and scored a game-winning touchdown to claim their eighth victory this season, 10-9. But at the close of the game, pundits are focused not on the victory, but the injuries suffered in the contest. Namely, Lamar Jackson's.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "The Ravens are in full survival mode. After Lamar Jackson didn't play in the final three quarters due to a knee injury, backup quarterback Tyler Huntley led a 91-yard, game-winning drive, which was capped by his 2-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds remaining. It wasn't a statement game, but it was a much-needed victory for a banged-up team that is coming off an upset loss in Jacksonville."
The Athletic's Jeff Howe: "There should be a high level of concern. Jackson and the Ravens offense have been streaky for the past couple of months, so a knee injury of any magnitude won't help the cause. Tyler Huntley played well last season in relief of Jackson, but this is a better Ravens team that hopes to contend for an AFC championship. A limited Jackson would severely restrict their potential, especially within a loaded conference."
The Athletic's Kalyn Kahler: "Considering the strength of the AFC, this is a big problem for Baltimore… The reality, however, is that in a crowded and talented AFC, the Ravens need Jackson to get to the postseason. I'm also worried about how this injury will impact Jackson's contract negotiations with Baltimore, which have not been productive."
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "There is plenty to be concerned about for the division-leading Ravens, even beyond the health of Jackson, Queen and others. The Ravens' offense was a mess for much of the afternoon and appears to be regressing before our very eyes. Not having Jackson for three quarters was indeed a factor, but on the two drives the former MVP played, the Ravens managed 20 net yards, one first down and punted twice."
Baltimore Beatdown’s Dustin Cox: "The biggest concern exiting this game is the health of quarterback Lamar Jackson. Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley managed to put together an impressive drive to take the lead at the end of the game, but it's clear how limited this team is without their former MVP under center… Getting Stanley and running back J.K. Dobbins back soon will certainly help, but at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters for this team in the long run of the season is the health of No. 8."
The Baltimore Sun’s Ryan McFadden: "Even though the Ravens secured their eighth win of the season, questions remain about the health of quarterback Lamar Jackson and inside linebacker Patrick Queen. It's hard to imagine the Ravens making any kind of postseason run without two of their best players."
Ravens Defense Earns Back Their Swagger
Points were at a premium in Sunday's game due to both defenses forcing punts and denying entry to the red zone. The execution by the Ravens' defense has NFL.com's Bobby Kownack's giving them credit for keeping them in the game and closing it out.
"The team didn't hold a lead until 23 seconds remained in the game this Sunday, but the defense did close things out and was the main reason the Ravens were in position to sneak away with a victory in the first place," Kownack wrote. "The unit contained Denver through the air (189 passing yards) and on the ground (88 rushing yards) to force seven punts. Consider some of the swagger restored moving forward."
Russell Street Report’s Ronald Toothe notes just how solid the defense has been since October.
"The Ravens defense over the last five outings has given up a mere 15 points per game, and have essentially been the sole reason they've come away with victories in all but one of those games," Toothe wrote.
"However you want to slice it, the defense has been a brick wall since Halloween. Most indicative of that success has been their ability to get off the field on third downs, a trend that continued yet again today. Denver only managed to convert two of their twelve chances on the afternoon, which gave the offense a much-needed security net…"
In the end, the Ravens defense forced seven punts, didn't allow the Broncos inside their 20-yard line and all nine points were scored from 40+ yard field goals.
Where Was the Run Game vs. Broncos?
Expectations surrounding Sunday's game circled around the Ravens' rushing attack and how it could help get the ball moving against the Broncos' defense. But the results were middling as the Ravens running backs combined for 43 yards on 14 carries. Press Box Online’s Bo Smolka aired concern following the contest, stating "this game was perfectly suited for the running game, and it couldn't deliver."
"Once Jackson left the game, it seemed even more likely the Ravens would rely on running backs Gus Edwards, Kenyan Drake and Justice Hill to dictate the tempo, rather than subject backup quarterback Tyler Huntley to a Broncos pass defense ranked No. 3 overall," Smolka wrote. "The Ravens' running attack, though, got little traction throughout. The three running backs carried five times in the first half for a total of 13 yards, and overall they totaled 43 yards on 14 carries."
Smolka did note next week's opponent may be more challenging to run the ball against.
"The Ravens face a top-10 run defense in Pittsburgh next week, and regardless of who is playing quarterback, the pressure mounts on the Ravens running backs to step up and command a larger role of an offense built around the running game."