Under the lights and wearing all black, the Ravens got their mojo back on Thursday Night Football.
Needing a bounce-back win, the Ravens (8-3) knocked off the Cincinnati Bengals (5-5) in primetime with a 34-20 victory and can spend the weekend relaxing in first place in the rugged AFC North.
It was the perfect medicine for the Ravens, after a disappointing loss against Cleveland in Week 10 left a bad taste in their mouths. Four days later, Baltimore got back on track.
Here are my thoughts on an important victory for the Ravens, who will have a happy Thanksgiving before they visit the Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 26:
This Win Feels Bigger Than Most
The Ravens will enter Week 12 leading the AFC North and will be the No. 1 seed in the AFC if the Chiefs (7-2) lose to the Eagles on Monday Night Football.
Losing a second straight home game against a division rival would have been deflating for the Ravens, and this game had a playoff-type atmosphere. The blackout crowd at M&T Bank Stadium responded with thunderous noise, and the Ravens fed off the energy.
"Our fans were loud," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "They (the Bengals) had to take delay of games, they had a tough time communicating out there, they couldn't get lined up numerous times as a result. Our fans were there, it was fun, it was a great environment to be in. It was really just an amazing night."
This win re-established the Ravens as the team to beat in the division, after Baltimore looked vulnerable Sunday losing a 14-point fourth quarter lead against the Browns. Meanwhile, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow didn't return after leaving the game in the second quarter with a wrist injury and seemed to be in serious pain. There are key turning points in every season, and this felt like one. Baltimore's playoff and division title chances are trending up.
Mark Andrews' Injury Leaves a Huge Void
Mark Andrews has never missed more than three games in any season, but Harbaugh said the Pro Bowl tight end's ankle injury suffered in the first quarter will likely be season ending.
Lamar Jackson sensed the injury was bad right away when Andrews didn't get up immediately after making a 9-yard reception.
"I pretty much seen it," Jackson said. "I was hoping he was going to get up. He was just laying there, with that confused look on his face. Damn. That's my boy."
It's going to take many players to fill the void left by Andrews, who has been Jackson's favorite target since they entered the league together in 2018. Not only is Andrews a playmaker, but the attention he draws creates opportunities for others.
Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar will take on bigger roles at tight end, but Jackson may target his wide receivers even more, and this game may have been the start of that. Odell Beckham Jr. had his best game of the season with four catches for 116 yards, Rashod Bateman had his first touchdown catch of the year, and Nelson Agholor also had a touchdown catch that turned the game.
"Everybody's going to have to fill that hole," Harbaugh said. "He's going to be missed as a leader. He's a fiery, emotional guy. He's an energy bringer, every single day. We're all going to have to make up for that."
Jackson Loves Beating the Bengals
This victory moved Jackson to 8-1 as a starter against the Bengals, and it was another example of his all-around ability.
Jackson (16 for 26, 264 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) was forced out of the pocket on many occasions, and the crowd went silent in the second quarter when he went to the medical tent after hurting his ankle while being tackled on the sideline.
Fortunately for the Ravens, Jackson stayed in the game and didn't appear hampered. He kept buying extra time in the pocket and finding ways to make plays. His 10-yard touchdown pass to Bateman in the second quarter that gave Baltimore an 11-point lead was a perfect example.
Baltimore's Pass Rush is Relentless
Burrow was sacked twice and hit often before he left the game, and backup Jake Browning was sacked three times.
Give Browning credit for hanging tough in a difficult situation, but Baltimore leads the NFL with 44 sacks and can generate pressure against any quarterback. That's a key ingredient that the Ravens can hang their hat on. The Ravens' run defense still isn't as solid as they'd like it to be, but the NFL is a passing league, and when you throw the football against Baltimore, you always risk getting your quarterback hit.
The Ravens got a sack from five different players – Justin Madubuike, Odafe Oweh, Kyle Van Noy, Jadeveon Clowney, and Tavius Robinson with his first career sack.
It's been a group sack attack for the Ravens all season. Madubuike leads them 9.5 sacks and is having a monster year, but opponents can't just key on him, or any other pass rusher. Baltimore's pass rush comes at opponents in waves, and from many directions, and this was another game when it helped set the tone.
- With 10 rushing touchdowns this season, including two on Thursday night, Gus Edwards is second in the league, one behind Raheem Mostert of the Dolphins and one ahead of Christian McCaffrey of the 49ers. Edwards has been automatic around the goal line.
- Evan McPherson's missed 53-yard attempt in the second quarter was the first miss by a Ravens' opposing field goal kicker all season.
- Ravens cornerback Brandon Stephens had another outstanding game, matched up against Ja'Marr Chase (two catches, 12 yards, one touchdown) most of the game. Losing Burrow hurt Cincinnati's passing attack, but the Ravens' pass defense was excellent even without Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey (hamstring) in the lineup.
- Oweh has a sack in four of his last five games and has barely missed several opportunities for more. He spent a considerable amount of time in the Bengals' backfield, going against former Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
- The Ravens have 10 days off before their next game, but their remaining schedule is difficult. Their remaining six opponents have a combined record of 31-23, and they will face three teams that currently lead their division – the Jaguars, 49ers, and Dolphins.