The Ravens scored an important win in New England in Week 3, pulling out a wild one in a 37-26 victory.
Here are five thoughts on the win:
Lamar Jackson and Greg Roman beat Bill Belichick.
Lamar Jackson's elite playmaking ability has never, and will never, be questioned. Once again, he proved he's the best athlete on the field. However, an early trend in the Ravens' 2022 season is how Jackson is outwitting his competition too. Jackson has always been a smart player, but Head Coach John Harbaugh pointed to improved pregame preparation making a difference.
Last week, Jackson managed the game at an "A-plus" level, negating the Miami Dolphins' Cover-0 blitz that gave Baltimore fits a year ago. This week, Jackson was going against one of the league's preeminent wizards in Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. Belichick can change up his defense every week, and he and the Patriots rush had Jackson on the run early in the game.
But in the game of chess, Jackson was the king who kept darting away from checks and throwing counter moves. The Ravens offensive line settled in, the ground game got going, and Jackson took over (he has a lot more moves than a king). Jackson said the Patriots used lots of man coverage and mixed in a fair amount of blitzing, trying to see if Jackson could handle the pressure in back-to-back weeks. Was Jackson expecting that? "I was."
Jackson responded with five touchdowns – four through the air and one on the ground. Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw three touchdowns and run for 100 yards in back-to-back games. After the game, Harbaugh gave Jackson a game ball for "taking the game on his shoulders." Jackson explained it with signature succinctness: "I just got to do what I do, play Lamar football."
It's also time to give Greg Roman his props. The Ravens' offensive coordinator had a fourth-round rookie who has never played left tackle out there and he kept dialing up play-calls to keep the Patriots defense on their heels.
Baltimore's defense gives and it takes.
The Ravens entered the fourth quarter with an 11-point lead and even the biggest believer probably had a tough time pushing down those "here we go again" feelings down the stretch. Baltimore's defense gave up 447 total yards on the day and Mac Jones threw for a career-high 321 yards.
But a defense that gets takeaways can mask some of the other issues. The Ravens closed out the Patriots' final three possessions all with takeaways – a Marlon Humphrey interception, Kyle Hamilton forced fumble and Marcus Peters pick. Baltimore was near the bottom of the pile in getting turnovers a year ago. Baltimore now has eight takeaways in three games this season, which will rank it among the league leaders.
The Ravens still have some things to clean up defensively. They need to get more pressure on quarterbacks (come on down, Jason Pierre-Paul). They need to be better against the run (Rhomandre Stevenson averaged 6.1 yards per carry). They still have to cut down on big passing plays (Davante Parker posted 156 yards on five catches). But Baltimore invested in playmakers this offseason with Marcus Williams and Hamilton, and in his second game back, we saw the Peters playmaking effect. Those additions are paying off. As Humphrey told Harbaugh after the game, the defense isn't there yet, but it's on its way.
As injuries continue to mount, Ravens don't buckle.
The Ravens took some gut punches early in this one. Baltimore lost left tackle Patrick Mekari, outside linebacker Justin Houston, and defensive tackle Michael Pierce to injuries in the first half. That left them down to their fourth-string rookie, Daniel Faalele, at left tackle, put more stress on an already thin outside linebacker corps, and meant more was needed from rookie Travis Jones in his NFL debut.
After what the Ravens went through last year with injuries, it seems like this team doesn't blink. Faalele had his hands full, and more, early on but settled in nicely. Roman helped take the pressure off with some creative play-calling and the ground game got going after a couple weeks of stubbing its toe.
There is, eventually, a breaking point when there are so many injuries that resiliency can't withstand. The Ravens aren't there yet, but they could sure use the return of Ronnie Stanley. For now, keep your fingers crossed that it's soon and tip your cap to Faalele and Baltimore's fight that is, once again, building within this year's squad.
J.K. Dobbins' return is key, but he has help in Justice Hill.
In his first game back from last year's brutal knee injury, J.K. Dobbins had seven carries for 23 yards and two catches for 17. He had a nifty spin move to get away from one Patriots defender on a 3-yard gain, showing some of that Dobbins magic from his rookie season. Overall, it wasn't the fairytale return that Dobbins probably imagined.
After the game, Dobbins said it was good to be back, but that he still has to get back to being himself. He acknowledged that, physically, he doesn't feel quite back to his pre-injury self. But the rust had to be knocked off at some point, and Dobbins can build on that moving forward.
An important development is the emergence of Justice Hill, who has come back spry from last year's Achilles tear. Hill had six carries for 60 yards, showing the burst that was evident from the start of offseason practices. Getting Dobbins back from injury was a major storyline all offseason and his progress remains important, but the return of another injured Ravens running back is key too.
Thank goodness the Patriots took a different "Devin" in the 2020 draft and Baltimore got Devin Duvernay with the next pick. Duvernay has shown he's a legit No. 2 wide receiver who has earned Jackson's trust and still the best returner in the game. He's showing a knack for these end zone contested catches. … The Ravens have been on the wrong side of NFL replays so far this year. Rashod Bateman's fourth quarter fumble could have easily been overturned for an incomplete pass, as he braced for the hit and the ball came out just after contact. … Rookie punter Jordan Stout has two shanks in the past two games. He has all the talent in the world, but he's got to get that straightened out. … The Ravens should have had five turnovers. With the Patriots on the goal line, Patrick Queen had an interception bounce right off his jersey number with nothing but green grass in front of him. Queen will take some ribbing for that one. … Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. had three sacks in the first half. No New England player had three sacks in a full game since Chandler Jones in 2015. Wise had zero sacks the rest of the way. … In his first game against the Ravens, Matthew Judon seemingly chased Jackson all over the place early in the game but finished with one tackle – the zero-yard sack on the Ravens' first play from scrimmage.