For the Ravens' defense, Calais Campbell set the tone, while Matthew Judon and L.J. Fort saved the day.
Judon and Fort snuffed out a potential game-tying two-point conversion with one minute, 55 seconds left Sunday, preserving a 30-28 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles that moved Baltimore to 5-1.
Judon diagnosed the two-point conversion attempt perfectly. He was waiting in the backfield as Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz stuck the ball into running back Boston Scott's belly. Then, when Wentz elected to keep the ball on a read option, Judon and Fort engulfed him.
The clutch play was especially meaningful for Fort, who earned a game ball. The veteran inside linebacker was released by the Eagles last September, but has found a home in Baltimore.
"I was thinking 'read zone,' because they had run it multiple times earlier," Fort said. "Me and Judon were able to make the stop. You always want to make big plays, especially coming from a team that let you go. So, that was a great feeling, and to be able to get the closer was the cherry on top."
Judon's quick reaction was crucial to blowing up the play, but he gave credit to Fort.
"L.J. made a great play," Judon said. "I was just there to assist on the tackle, he initiated contact. We knew they were going to try to run it in. They'd been running it well, so we had to come up with a big stop right there."
At halftime, it didn't look like Baltimore's defense would need a game-saving play. Instead, it looked like the Eagles needed saving. The Ravens were dominant while building a 17-0 halftime lead and made the Eagles' offense look futile.
Campbell set the tone by sacking Wentz on the game's first play, and the assault against Philadelphia's offense was on. On the Eagles' first six drives, they were held to 12 total yards and one turnover. It took Philadelphia 25 minutes and backup quarterback Jalen Hurts to get its initial first down.
Even without starting defensive linemen Brandon Williams (Reserve/COVID-19 list) and Derek Wolfe (neck/concussion), Baltimore's defensive front dominated the line of scrimmage against a Philadelphia offensive line that has been hit by injuries. Campbell had his best game as a Raven with four quarterback hits and three sacks, barging into the backfield on a regular basis.
"My mindset every time is, 'Alright, beat the guy in front of me, get to the quarterback and get a sack,'" Campbell said. " I know with the DBs that we have, that's a task where if we just keep rushing (and) stay alive, then good things are going to happen. So, I have to tip my hat off to the secondary. As a D-lineman, you love playing with a secondary like this one."
It looked like the Ravens might pitch a shutout, coming off another impressive performance in Week 5 when they allowed just a meaningless last-minute field goal during a 27-3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. However, the Eagles didn't stop battling, and a 74-yard run by running back Miles Sanders provided the spark Philadelphia needed.
Even after Baltimore built a 30-14 lead with 7:12 left to play, Philadelphia didn't concede. Wentz kept making plays with his arm and his legs. The Eagles put up 22 points in the fourth quarter, and if not for the two-point conversion play by Judon and Fort, Baltimore may not have escaped with a win.
"Second half was way too many big plays," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We've got to figure that out. The big plays are what got us. The quarterback ran for a bunch of yards. We've got to get that taken care of. We've got to do a better job at those things and we will."
At 5-1, the Ravens enter their bye week riding a three-game winning streak, knowing they have a defense that can take over games. The Ravens have forced at least one turnover in 19 consecutive games, the NFL's longest active streak. DeShon Elliott ripped the ball away from Wentz in the first quarter. It's the kind of play that Ravens All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey makes on a regular basis, and Baltimore's defensive players are constantly hunting for takeaways. Humphrey had another "Fruit Punch" but the ball bounced out of bounds before the Ravens could recover.
"Last night, I watched like an hour-and-a-half of just Marlon tape from the last two years – trying to see how he was getting the ball out, and it showed today," Elliott said. "But I also had a couple of mistakes. I dropped an interception that I should have caught (that) probably would have sealed the game. But I'm growing, I'm getting better."
That's how the Ravens feel about their defense. It's already very good. But Sunday's second half provided the Ravens fuel to keep working as they head into their bye week.
"A lot of teams in the league would be excited if they were 5-1 going into the bye week, but we're not," Elliott said. "We expect excellence, we expect greatness, and right now, we're not being great."