Ravens Considered Super Bowl Contenders After Win Over Saints
The Ravens delivered a decisive victory over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night, 27-13. The victory moves the Ravens to 6-3 and keeps them in first place in the AFC North.
Beyond that, it was the manner in which the Ravens won that impressed pundits. The Ravens got style points for this one.
"The Ravens looked like a Super Bowl contender Monday night," The Baltimore Sun’s Tim Schwartz wrote.
"Without Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews, quarterback Lamar Jackson completed passes to 10 receivers and the defense put a beating on Andy Dalton and the Saints. Even in limited action, linebacker Roquan Smith looked to be worth the high price they paid to acquire him, and Justin Houston is exactly who Ravens fans though Odafe Oweh would be this year. For him to be this dominant at age 33 is incredible."
Schwartz wasn't alone, with CBS Sports’ John Breech writing the same.
"The offense wasn't perfect and the Ravens still won by two touchdowns, which tells you how good this team can be going forward," Breech wrote. "They're already at the top of the AFC North, and now, this team feels like a legitimate Super Bowl contender."
This was, according to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, a "blueprint game for the Ravens."
"Offensive coordinator Greg Roman relied heavily on the run game. Defensively, the Ravens played extremely fast, made the Saints one dimensional and got after Dalton on third down," Zrebiec wrote. "They looked much like the 2019 Ravens who won their final 12 regular-season games to finish 14-2."
Though most offered glowing reviews, there were others not so ready to crown the Ravens, noting missed opportunities.
"They could have put the game away even earlier if not for a few sloppy possessions in the Saints' half of the field, but they have put themselves in excellent position to earn a high playoff seed come January," The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker wrote.
Jackson after the game sounded like he would agree with Walker, noting his missed connections with wide receiver Demarcus Robinson.
"I'm still mad about those two to 'D-Rob,' but just like 'J-Houston' said, we left a lot of plays out there, but I see our record going up right now, so we're doing good," Jackson said.
Jackson Stuns Peyton Manning: 'I Don't Think I've Ever Seen That'
Midway through the second quarter, Jackson stunned Peyton and Eli Manning with a throw that left Peyton amazed on the "Manningcast."
No, it wasn't the zany escape from a sack where Jackson recovered a fumble to nearly complete a pass to wide receiver DeSean Jackson. It was his 12-yard completion to wide receiver James Proche where Jackson steps only a few inches into his throw yet zips it to the wideout.
"I mean, I don't think I've ever seen that. I've never seen that," Peyton said. "A: I couldn't do that. But young quarterbacks, don't watch that. That is not normal. That is not easy to do. Get your feet set. Lamar Jackson is different. He's special. He can make those kinds of throws. You can't."
It's always stated that Jackson is must-see TV. Peyton is only the latest in a long list left blown away after seeing what he can do on the gridiron.
Media Gives Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald His Flowers
It was an uphill battle for the Saints offense all game long as Ravens defenders kept to their assignments and forced Andy Dalton and company off the field. Many credited Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald for a great gameplan.
NFL.com’s Nick Shook: "Mike Macdonald deserves some credit for getting this defense together in recent weeks. After blowing multiple double-digit leads early in the season, the Ravens have figured out how to close games, allowing 18.3 points per contest in each of the last three weeks… Houston played a big part in their success, of course, but so did Macdonald's timely blitz calls, which shut down multiple touchdown-scoring chances for New Orleans, forcing the Saints to settle for field goals."
Russell Street Report’s Darin McCann: "Mike Macdonald appears to be growing into his position more and more each week, and he looks to be doing a great job mixing in and out his players and having a solid plan each game… I loved the scheme to shake loose Bowser for a free run at Dalton on third down to hurry him into a drive-ending incompletion."
Russell Street Report’s Tony Lombardi: "Mike Macdonald put together a great game plan with a variety of fire zone blitzes that were at times well disguised, including stunts that took blockers out of the play to enable teammates to loop around or rush unabated to the quarterback. The Ravens defense could be dangerous down the stretch."
Blessings Recounted by Media as Ravens Hit Their Bye Week
As triple-zeroes on the scoreboard finalized Monday's matchup, the Ravens officially began their bye week. As the Ravens enjoy a game-free week, media members chimed in with what the Ravens may be thankful for.
Zrebiec: "Add in the fact that the Ravens should have key offensive pieces like Gus Edwards and Mark Andrews, plus a potential key defensive piece in rookie edge rusher David Ojabo, ready after the bye and John Harbaugh's team has plenty to feel good about."
The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Schaffer: "On Monday, with their depleted offense and quarterback Lamar Jackson running hot-and-cold, they needed all the help they could get from coordinator Mike Macdonald's unit. The group delivered, led by the ageless Justin Houston. A three-game winning streak will feel good back in Baltimore. A three-game winning streak heading into a bye? Even better."
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "Silver lining: Jackson was spreading the ball around. Without his top two targets -- Andrews and Bateman -- Jackson became more unpredictable in distributing the ball. He hit eight different players on his first eight passes and finished with throws to 10 players, tying a career high. Andrews and Bateman accounted for 39% of the Ravens' receptions in the first eight games, and while Baltimore is more dangerous with them, the Ravens appeared to be more balanced without them."
Baltimore Beatdown’s Dustin Cox: "The Ravens enter their bye on a three-game winning streak after a comfortable victory over the Saints. It wasn't always pretty, but Baltimore was in control of the game for the better part of 60 minutes on Monday night. The defense continues to improve every week as they get healthier. The offense has some stuff to clean up over the bye, but the arrow is firmly pointing up for this team as they face a seemingly soft schedule going forward."
Touchdown Breakdown Leaves Former Players Confused
With just over four minutes remaining and a 21-point lead, a head-scratching play occurred when safety Chuck Clark opted not to tackle or knock Saints tight end Juwan Johnson out of bounds.
Johnson was hit and pushed toward the boundary by cornerback Marcus Peters, but the official did not call him out. As Johnson kept running, Clark didn't finish the play, instead pointing to where Johnson's foot was presuming him to be out of bounds. Johnson managed to keep in bounds and scored a 41-yard touchdown, leaving media and former NFL players confused.
After the game, Harbaugh came to the defense of Clark.
"I feel kind of bad for Chuck [Clark] on that play because we've seen guys who you think are in, they're out, run down the sideline like they got the ball, and you hit them, and you get flagged for a 15-yard penalty," Harbaugh said.
"So, Chuck thought he was out of bounds, that's why he didn't tackle him. It's one of those gray things between player safety and actually making sure a guy is out of bounds. It's easy to say, 'Hit him,' but if he's out of bounds, he's going to get flagged for it. So, Chuck was sure he was out of bounds."