Media Labels Victory A "Statement," But Ravens Downplay Commentary
The expectations were high for the Week 6 matchup between the Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers with both teams sitting atop their divisions at 4-1.
It was the kind of game the media would label a "statement win" to the victor, and they did after the Ravens won handily, 34-6.
"That wasn't the 2021 rollercoaster Ravens that dismantled the Chargers today. That looked more like the 2019 Ravens," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "Either way, it was a statement win for a team that dominated another division leader in all three phases."
NFL Network's Judy Batista wrote that the Ravens were "hanging on at the very fringes of the AFC playoff conversation" entering the game.
"A four-touchdown manhandling of an upstart league darling … figures to change the conversation and raise a few eyebrows," she wrote. "The NFL loves bellicosity, though, and this was the loudest of statements made so far this season."
The Associated Press' Noah Trister: "Lamar Jackson threw for 167 yards and a touchdown, and the Ravens frustrated Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers in a 34-6 win Sunday. Baltimore completely controlled this matchup of division leaders in a victory that should resonate throughout the AFC."
Baltimore Beatdown's Frank Platko: "The Ravens made the Chargers look incredibly pedestrian, which is a tall task that no other team has accomplished so far this season. To beat an AFC foe of their caliber is one thing, but to do so in dismantling fashion? That's quite a statement."
While the media saw this victory as significant, the teams' response downplayed the commentary. Head Coach John Harbaugh said "[the win] doesn't mean anything long term."
Ravens players followed suit.
Well, everybody except cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
Ravens Defense 'Confused' Justin Herbert
It was a tall order for the defense: slow down the Herbert-led Bolts, who entered M&T Bank Stadium as the No. 3 passing offense. But by game's end, the Chargers were held to 208 total yards and six points. Their longest drive was 38 yards.
As an entire unit, the Ravens gave the Chargers fits and media across the nation recognized their impressive performance, including NBC's Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison.
"Great pass rush, pressure from all over the place, and then this tight coverage. They did the best job on Justin Herbert I've seen all year" Dungy said.
"They were outstanding today in stopping one of the hottest quarterbacks in the National Football League," Harrison said. "They did a great job of coming up, disguising, dropping guys in coverage. It looked like Justin Herbert was confused. He didn't know what was going on."
Harrison's eyes weren't lying, as Herbert admitted he was caught off guard by the Ravens' defense.
"Yeah, it was a lot of looks that we didn't see on film and stuff they constructed for us," Herbert said. "They did a great job at disguising their looks, bringing pressure from one way and hiding from another. It was looks they hadn't shown all season and stuff that you know we have to be better at to adjust to during the game."
Along with Harrison and Dungy, both local and national media were impressed by the Ravens' strong defensive performance:
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer: "Sunday's 34-6 blowout of the Chargers seems like it was a good look into what the Ravens saw in preseason—a defense that could choke opponents out. This 6-point effort from L.A. came a week after the Chargers scored 47 on the Browns, and the same L.A. offense that cut through the Cleveland defense for 493 yards last week yet had 208 yards this week in Baltimore.
Zrebiec: "[The Ravens] defense is far better than it looked last Monday and they have to be considered one of the top teams in the AFC. This was a vintage Ravens performance. Jump on the Chargers early, control the tempo with the run game and dominate the game on defense and special teams. This was easily their most complete victory of the regular season and proof that even with their injuries, they are going to be a tough out in the AFC."
NFL.com's Nick Shook: "[The Ravens] limited a red-hot quarterback, shut down an offense that put up 47 points a week earlier, and blew out one of the NFL's darlings of the first month of the season. The Ravens executed a perfect game plan just six days after completing a frantic comeback on national television, received their best defensive performance of the season against a legitimate foe, and don't look to be slowing down any time soon."
The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer: "On defense, the Ravens put their disastrous 'Monday Night Football' performance behind them in a hurry. They allowed just two drives of longer than 30 yards, and none in the second or third quarters. Safety DeShon Elliott got his first career interception on a crucial second-quarter drive. Outside linebacker Justin Houston notched sack No. 99 ½ in his career. And the Ravens held the Chargers, one of the NFL's best late-down offenses, to just 3-for-12 on third down and 1-for-4 on fourth down."
Russell Street Report's Darin McCann: "This was really a tremendous effort against a top-flight opponent. The run game was pretty much eliminated by the Ravens front, and the corners and secondary put out a great performance."
Ravens' Special Teams Outclasses Chargers' On All Fronts
While this game featured mismatches on offense and defense, the most glaring may have been special teams, according to Shaffer.
"On special teams, the Chargers were no match for the Ravens' supremacy," Shaffer wrote. "Kicker Justin Tucker was 2-for-2, including a 52-yard field goal, and wide receiver Devin Duvernay averaged 35 yards per kick return. Chargers kicker Tristan Vizcaino, meanwhile, missed another extra-point attempt, and their kickoff returners rarely got far."
Prior to today, the Ravens were the No. 1 team in average punt return yards with 16.6 yards per return. They place No. 3 in kick returns, averaging 25.9 yards.
Duvernay's play against the Chargers will improve that number, as he added a 47-yard kick return to open the second half.
With Duvernay's big return on Sunday, some are recognizing his impact on not only yesterday's game, but the whole season, including Russell Street Report's Darin McCann, who thinks Duvernay "might be the best returner in football."