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Ravens Eye View: Inside the Halftime Adjustments & Run Defense's Flex vs. Texans

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) in action during the first half of an NFL football AFC divisional playoff game against the Houston Texans, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, in Baltimore.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) in action during the first half of an NFL football AFC divisional playoff game against the Houston Texans, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, in Baltimore.

Much was made of Lamar Jackson's halftime "speech" with the Ravens and Texans tied at 10 in Saturday's divisional round.

With a few choice words mixed in, Jackson told his teammates to step it up, that they were better than they were showing. Head Coach John Harbaugh was a little surprised by the reaction.

"I don't think it's a big story. The way he played is a big story," Harbaugh said.

Jackson and the Ravens' second-half domination in their 34-10 divisional round win was yet another example of how the Ravens made the right adjustments.

Baltimore did so in Arizona with its run defense. The Ravens pulled away in the second half in Jacksonville and San Francisco, and flipped the script on the Dolphins.

The ability of the Ravens' coaches and players to adjust makes Baltimore a tough out because their offense or defense won't be held down for long. And once they heat up, they can bury an opponent.

Lamar and the O-Line Handled the Blitz

Remember the Cover-0 blitz game the Miami Dolphins unleashed on Jackson in 2021? The Texans blitzed even more than that.

Per Next Gen Stats, Jackson was blitzed on a career-high 75% of his drop-backs and completed 13-of-18 attempts against the blitz for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

Another great sign for the Ravens is that their offensive tackles, Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses, had one of their best games yet.

That helped Jackson have a breakout playoff performance with four touchdowns. Jackson continues to show his overall growth in the passing game, while still being supremely dangerous with his legs.

As a reminder, Jackson became the first player in NFL history to throw two touchdowns, run for two touchdowns, run for 100 yards, and post a 100-passer rating in the same game.

Run Defense Flexes With Isiah Pacheco Up Next

If there was any weakness in the Ravens' defense, it was in the run game. Baltimore's run defense finished the regular season ranked No. 14 in the league, surrendering 109.4 yards per game.

The Ravens made a strong statement to start the postseason that teams won't have much success running the ball against it.

Baltimore held the Texans to just 38 yards on 14 carries. One of those runs went for 16 yards. Take that away, and Houston averaged just 1.7 yards per carry.

It's particularly noteworthy with Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco coming up next. Kansas City ran for 146 yards on 24 carries (6.1 yards per carry) versus the Bills last weekend. Versus Miami the weekend before, Pacheco rumbled for 89 yards and a touchdown.

"They're running the ball really well. They'll come out with three or four kinds of gameplan runs in certain ways. [It's] nothing that you haven't seen before, but they dial in on something that they try to exploit," Harbaugh said Monday.

"Then, No. 10 Pacheco, man, that guy is coming downhill. He's hitting it that way, all out. He's 225 pounds. His knees are up high. He's rolling, and it's going to be a big challenge for us to deal with him, because he's as physical as a runner as there is in the league. [He's] as determined as there is, and we're going to have to be a physical, determined defense to tackle him. I like our guys. I like our guys' chances. Our guys will be up for it, and we're going to have to be, because he's a good runner."

When the Chiefs look at the Texans film, they're going to have trouble finding something to exploit. And Roquan Smith will certainly be ready to meet Pacheco.

Chemistry Has Developed Between Lamar and Likely

The connection between Jackson and Mark Andrews is second to none, but Jackson and Isaiah Likely have built their own rapport.

That was on display on two throws in particular – one that was nearly intercepted and then another that Likely hauled in for a touchdown.

On the first, Jackson tried to drill a goal-line pass between two defenders and it was broken up. Afterwards, Likely motioned to Jackson to put it up higher. The second time, Jackson did just that and Likely plucked it over cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.'s head.

Andrews' return could come this week, but there's no doubt that Likely will still be a big part of the passing game. His catch and stiff-arm on the Ravens' first drive of the third quarter helped set the tone offensively.

Todd Monken Saves His Best for Key Moments

All four of the Ravens' touchdowns and a critical fourth-and-1 in the second half featured some crafty play calls. Let's go chronologically:

First, it was a goal-line pick play that freed up Nelson Agholor for his wide-open 3-yard touchdown.

In the third quarter, a Jackson 15-yard touchdown run came after the middle of the field was cleared wide open. Jackson sold that he was going to pass before running the QB draw up the middle.

On a critical fourth-and-1, the motion heavily sold a Gus Edwards run up the middle, but Jackson ran the bootleg after completely turning his back to the rush.

On the Jackson-Likely touchdown, Monken went back to a concept we saw against the Lions way back in Week 7, when Jackson tucked the ball as a runner before popping up to throw.

On the final Jackson running touchdown, Monken came back to a variation of the QB bootleg that he used on fourth-and-1, except with the tight end (Charlie Kolar) flipped to the other side. The Texans didn't bite as hard the second time, but Jackson's quickness still made it work.

Extra Points

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