Mark Andrews is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the NFL, but for perhaps the first time in his career, Andrews' biggest highlight Sunday in Indianapolis was a block.
On his way to making the Pro Bowl in his second season, Andrews posted 64 catches, 852 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Halfway through this season, Andrews is not on the same pace in two of the three categories with 26 catches, 297 yards and five touchdowns. Over the past three games, Andrews has just eight catches for 75 yards and no touchdowns.
The Ravens have the same record (6-2) they had at the midpoint of last season, and the ultimate goal has not changed – to win a Super Bowl. Andrews is focusing on team goals and not worrying about his stats.
"There's no stress for me," Andrews said. "The most important thing for me is winning. I'm just trying to help this team win any way I can. I know my abilities. I know what's going on. If I get balls, I get balls. If I don't, it is what it is."
Trying to neutralize Andrews is a focal point for opposing defenses, especially after he started the season with two touchdown catches against the Cleveland Browns. But Andrews has a talent for finding different ways to get open, and he's looking forward to showing that during the final two months of the season.
"Teams and defenses have come at us every week with a different game plan," Andrews said. "A lot of guys in the middle of the field are eyeing me. I've been seeing that for the last two years. I've been getting double-teamed. I'm battle-hardened. I'm ready for that, ready for all the attention. That's going to help other guys get open.
"I feel like I'm always open. That's a mindset that I have. Even when you're covered, you're not covered; that's a tight end mindset, and so I just have to keep on going. Obviously, there's a lot of different guys, a lot of different pieces on this team that we're spreading the ball to, and that's only going to make this team better. I'm not worried about the catches."
Andrews is finding other ways to contribute. He focused on his blocking this offseason and that was never more evident than on Sunday, when Andrews put a crushing block on Indianapolis Colts defensive back George Odum during Lamar Jackson's touchdown run. Andrews manhandled Odum, driving him backward through the end zone.
"You're known as a tight end for your pass catching, but you're respected for your blocking, and Mark takes it very seriously," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "When we were talking to him in the draft, he said he was a blocker. We believed him, but that block he had for Lamar on the touchdown run was something that – it was a good as you're ever going to see."
Lamar Jackson Embraces Up-Tempo Pace
Speeding up the pace offensively in the second half against Indianapolis paid huge dividends for Baltimore. After being held to just 55 total yards in the first half, Baltimore had three long second-half drives and Jackson completed all 10 of his passes. Several players said that going up-tempo helped the offense find its rhythm.
"You saw the way we came out in the second half and it was just clicking," Andrews said. "Obviously, guys were making plays. People were flying around. The fast pace kept catching the defense a little off guard. I think it's a great changeup for us. We do a ton of great things and G-Ro (Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman) does a great job of scheming up defenses."
Jackson said going up-tempo makes it more difficult for defenses to get the matchups they want.
"When we're going warp situations, they can't sub in and out, they can't put the guys where they need to be," Jackson said. "It helps us out a lot."
Tramon Williams Brings Experience to Secondary
Harbaugh said veteran cornerback Tramon Williams was impressive during his workout before signing with the Ravens on Monday. Williams turned 37 years old in March and has not played this season, but Harbaugh said the veteran cornerback's conditioning was excellent.
"He was really in very good shape," Harbaugh said. "He moved well, which is what you look for with a veteran player like that. He's played a long time. We're very happy with the fact he's got so much experience. He's played all the coverages that you can play. He's done everything you can do defensively in this league, so we feel like he'll make a pretty smooth transition into our schemes the way we do it. Very smart guy, very motivated, very determined, wants to play. So we're excited about it."
The Ravens received good news Wednesday when Marlon Humphrey was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list, and Williams will join the cornerback rotation that also includes Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith and Terrell Bonds.
Harbaugh is Fully Aware of Newton's Talents
Cam Newton is coming off his best game since Week 1, completing 27 of 35 passes for 274 yards during the New England Patriots' 30-27 victory over the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. Newton also ran for two touchdowns during the game, showing the dual-threat ability that made him a star for many years with the Carolina Panthers.
The transition from Carolina to New England hasn't been the smoothest for Newton, who has struggled in some games. But when he last faced the Ravens in 2018, Newton had his way. During a 36-21 Panthers victory, Newton passed for 219 yards and one touchdown, and also ran for two touchdowns as Carolina dominated the second half.
"He had a very good game against us," Harbaugh said. "He's an excellent quarterback, very aware player, very talented, great arm. Can beat you with his legs as well. That's our challenge this week."
Ravens defensive end Derek Wolfe faced Newton on the game's biggest stage in Super Bowl 50 during the 2015 season when Newton was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player. Playing for the Broncos, Wolfe (five tackles, 0.5 sacks) was part of a dominant defensive performance that led Denver to a 24-10 Super Bowl win. Five years later, Wolfe still believes Newton can take over a game.
"He's a big-body guy that can move," Wolfe said. "You have to be aware of him at all times. People forget that he won the MVP not too long ago. He's still got it. He's still a good football player. I got a ton of respect for him."