It's dangerous to throw at Marcus Peters. It's dangerous to throw at Marlon Humphrey. Which leaves quarterbacks facing the Ravens in a quandary.
Peters and Humphrey were at the top of their game Sunday during the Ravens' 33-16 victory over the Houston Texans. Humphrey stripped the ball from Texans receiver Keke Coutee in the second quarter, leading to a fumble that L.J. Fort scooped and returned for a 22-yard touchdown.
Later in the second quarter, Marcus Peters corraled his 28th career interception, reading and reacting to Deshaun Watson's eyes as only Peters can do. Anticipating where Watson would throw, Peters broke quickly to his left and went airborne to make a remarkable diving interception that put Peters' athletic ability on full display.
"It's the kind of interception that only he can make," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "You can't coach what he saw there and how he handled that play. That was pretty remarkable."
Any cornerback can gamble, but when Peters gambles he usually wins. After the game, Watson was so impressed that he asked Peters what he saw on the interception.
"I was asking him about it, if he knew what was coming or if he read my eyes," Watson said. "He just kind of said…he'd rather give up the checkdown play. He made a hell of a play."
Harbaugh said both Humphrey and Peters received game balls, and it's obvious why many believe they are the NFL's best cornerback tandem. They aren't just superb in coverage. They are playmaking corners with a flair for the dramatic, and in a passing league where elite corners are coveted, Baltimore has an advantage in having two of the best.
Making game changing plays is nothing new for Humphrey or Peters. Humphrey made one of the biggest plays of the 2019 season when he punched the ball away from Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in overtime. After forcing Smith-Schuster to fumble, Humphrey recovered the football with catlike quickness to set up Justin Tucker's game-winning field goal. That victory in Pittsburgh last year started a 12-game winning streak, and the Ravens have won an NFL best 14 straight regular season games. Along the way, Humphrey has become the cornerback master of the punch-out move.
Now that nickel corner Tavon Young may be lost for the season due to a knee injury suffered Sunday, Humphrey may play extensively at nickel corner like he did last year when Young was out with a neck injury. It should not be taken for granted that Humphrey is versatile enough to excel playing both outside and inside. He has the size and physicality to defend big receivers and the quickness to defend smaller slot receivers.
Making his first Pro Bowl last season has done nothing to diminish Humphrey's desire to be great. He spent many hours this offseason toiling in his hometown of Hoover, Ala., working out at his former high school to perfect the skills that have made him a top corner. If he got bored training, Humphrey got creative.
Peters is also a gifted athlete, and he has more interceptions than any NFL cornerback since entering the league in 2015. The midseason trade that brought Peters to the Ravens last year changed the DNA of Baltimore's defense. Peters had a pick-six in Seattle in his first game with the Ravens, and his mentality to consistently look for takeaways has rubbed off on the entire secondary.
The Ravens' next game is a Monday night showdown in Baltimore against the Kansas City Chiefs, a clash of two AFC heavyweights. Having a pair of corners like Humphreys and Peters gives the Ravens a better chance than most teams have of matching up with the Chiefs' arsenal of playmakers.
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes is adept at picking apart defenses with his passing and mobility, and he is always probing for mismatches. But as Watson found out Sunday, beware if you are throwing in the direction of Peters or Humphrey. They Ravens' Pro Bowl cornerback tandem is making it very tough on opposing quarterbacks.