Ravens "Survived" Fourth Quarter in Gritty Win
A familiar situation presented itself on Sunday as the Ravens took a 10-point lead over the Cleveland Browns with 11:24 remaining in the fourth quarter.
However, an offensive pass interference penalty on Browns wide receiver Amari Cooper, a false start penalty on the Browns' kicking unit and a blocked field goal by linebacker Malik Harrison denied the comeback as the Ravens won, 23-20.
Though the Ravens were complimented on the hard-earned win, many believe this doesn't quell the worries of the fourth quarter just yet.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "The Ravens' 23-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns felt more like survival than an actual triumph. …The Ravens eventually got the stop they needed, but it took a Browns offensive pass interference and a blocked field goal. Baltimore didn't so much finish as much as it survived. That was good enough to win a critical game Sunday, but it's certainly not the recipe the Ravens are seeking."
Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones: "The Ravens didn't finish as much as they survived the 23-20 win over Cleveland on Sunday."
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "The Ravens still have fourth-quarter issues but finally got some good fortune at the end. It looked like Baltimore was about to give away another double-digit lead after running back Justice Hill fumbled with 3:12 left in the game. But Malik Harrison blocked a potential game-tying 61-yard field goal."
The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer: "How many games this season have the Ravens played like the better team, only to emerge with a loss? Sunday's result might've been the universe finding some cosmic balance. The Ravens' offense was far from great. The defense had its moments but was shaky late. The Browns had a comfortable margin in yardage. But when the game ended, the Ravens had more points and first place in the AFC North."
The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker: "[The Ravens] escaped by the skin of their teeth when linebacker Malik Harrison blocked a 60-yard field-goal attempt, but man, this team lives dangerously."
Pundits Credit Special Teams for 'Saving the Day'
It was an unconventional offensive outing for the Ravens, as tight end Mark Andrews was held without a catch and Lamar Jackson completed fewer than 10 passes for the second time in his career as a starter. With the passing offense not quite clicking and defensive inconsistencies allowing the Browns to hang around, Shaffer saw the Ravens lean on their special teams unit to make a few plays.
"The Ravens know they can always count on their special teams, even on days when their offense is far outgained (336-254), even on days when their defense weakens late against running back Nick Chubb (16 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown)," Shaffer wrote. "They had, by almost every imaginable metric, the NFL's best special teams last season, and they are well on their way to finishing with the top spot this year."
Jones believed special teams contributions were the difference-maker.
"But the special teams saved the day after the offense and defense remained too willing to work off that same late-game script that's become so maddening," Jones wrote.
National media gave credit for the Ravens' ability to win a tough game and not require heroics from Jackson, including CBS Sports’ John Breech.
"Although the offense sputtered for part of the day, Justin Tucker didn't," Breech wrote. "Mr. Automatic came through with three huge field goals, including a 55-yarder in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference in the game. If the Ravens proved one thing on Sunday, it's that they can still beat you even if their offense has a slight off-day."
Fourth Down Decisions Not Questioned When Successful
The Ravens went for it on fourth down twice Sunday, something that has been heavily critiqued and questioned when unsuccessful. But against the Browns, the Ravens converted on their first fourth-down attempt with running back Gus Edwards scoring a 1-yard touchdown. ESPN's Mina Kimes was quick to call out the absence of questioning when the Ravens converted.
There was a complete lack of "take the points" commentary on social media after Edwards rumbled into the end zone, but there was the analytics stating the Ravens made the correct call.
If that wasn't enough, the Ravens went for it a second time at midfield. Rather than punt it away, the Ravens stayed aggressive and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman dialed up a pitch-toss from Andrews to Jackson that gained 11 yards on the ground, wowing media.
Once more, no debate was had between the two sides arguing in favor or against the calls. Instead, the Ravens went 2-for-2 in their fourth-down plays, and all appears well for a week.