Zay Flowers Makes More Ravens History, Draws Kudos From Tyreek Hill
High-flying rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers has been a vital component in the Ravens' offense in Year 1. He's generated the most receptions of any rookie receiver in franchise history, he's produced a first down on nearly 50% of his receptions and made what feels like a thousand tacklers whiff.
But fans, and teammate Lamar Jackson, have been waiting for him to find the end zone more often. On the primetime "Sunday Night Football" stage, Flowers had his breakout game.
In the Ravens' 20-10 victory over the Chargers in Los Angeles, Flowers scored both of the Ravens' touchdowns.
"After tallying one touchdown in his first 11 contests, the rookie first-round pick accounted for both of the Ravens' touchdowns," ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote. "He became the first Ravens wide receiver to score a rushing touchdown and a receiving TD in the same game."
By game's end, Flowers was complimented by arguably the best wide receiver in the game today, Miami Dolphins wideout Tyreek Hill.
Ravens Defense Comes Up Clutch
It wasn't expected to be a low-scoring defensive battle in Los Angeles. Two teams with star quarterbacks, big-name receivers and a penchant for big plays looked poised to produce a touchdown-scoring affair.
To stop the Chargers and stop the heartbreak of another double-digit fourth quarter blown lead. The defense answered, and pundits across America gave praise for their clutch performance.
**NFL.com’s** Coral Smith: "Baltimore defense shuts it down. In what was a low-scoring affair, it was the Baltimore defense's clutch performance that clinched the win. The Chargers offense entered Sunday night as the eighth-ranked scoring offense, and the Ravens held Justin Herbert and Co. to just 10 points, forcing four takeaways. The Chargers scored a field goal on their opening drive, but for their next seven possessions they were unable to get anything going, with six of the drives consisting of 22 of fewer yards gained before a punt or turnover, and the seventh ending with a red zone turnover on a strip sack by Jadeveon Clowney. And even though Los Angeles closed the gap with a late touchdown, Baltimore locked it down, forcing turnovers on downs on each of the Bolts' last two possessions to seal the victory. It was the fewest points scored by the Chargers since Week 3 of the 2022 season, and the Ravens defense cemented its status as one of the NFL's elite units."
The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer: "Against one of the NFL's most talented quarterbacks, without their most talented cornerback available, the Ravens held the Chargers to just 4.2 yards per play, forced four turnovers and hassled Justin Herbert throughout the night. Macdonald's most important play call might've been the night's boldest, though: sending cornerback Arthur Maulet on a slot blitz while dropping 300-plus-pound nose tackle Michael Pierce into zone coverage to give Herbert the slightest bit of pause."
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "The Ravens defense bailed out its offense Sunday. Baltimore forced three first-half turnovers and the Ravens only managed a field goal off those takeaways. Jadeveon Clowney then got a strip sack deep in Baltimore territory in the fourth quarter."
**CBS Sports’** John Breech: "The Ravens forced four turnovers with the biggest one being a strip-sack by Jadeveon Clowney that came in the fourth quarter after the Chargers had driven inside Baltimore's 20. The Ravens pass rush overwhelmed the Chargers offensive line on a night where Justin Herbert got sacked three times."
**CBS Sports’** Jared Dubin: "The Baltimore Ravens defense dominated the Los Angeles Chargers so thoroughly in their 20-10 Week 12 road win they put quarterback Justin Herbert in a time machine back to his second career start in Week 3 of the 2020 season. On Sunday night, Los Angeles committed four turnovers -- an interception and a lost fumble by Herbert as well as lost fumbles by Pro Bowl receiver Keenan Allen and running back Austin Ekeler. That gave the Chargers their first four-turnover game since Herbert's second start, a 21-16 home loss against the Carolina Panthers. The Ravens, now 9-3 entering their Week 13 bye, sit atop the AFC standings."
**Russell Street Report’s** Chris Schisler: "The Ravens defense deserves a steak dinner. Give them all the wine and dining they desire. Call it a bonus. They were magnificently incredible. … Justin Herbert had a frustrating day at the office. The Ravens held the Chargers to 10 points. This is the best defense the Ravens have had since 2006."
Offense "Disjointed" In Win Over Chargers
After scoring a touchdown on their second drive of the game, the Ravens defense struggled to crack the low-ranked Chargers defense, which held them two field goals on the next six possessions. It wasn't until the late heroics of Flowers' jet-sweep touchdown that the Ravens offense put away the Chargers, which has some asking what the issue could be.
**The Baltimore Sun’s** Childs Walker: "The Ravens again flirted with disaster thanks to disjointed offense and a shocking 44-yard miss from kicker Justin Tucker. … The Ravens moved the ball efficiently in the first half but did not build a substantial lead in part because of a misguided fourth-down call in the red zone — why take Lamar Jackson out of the play with a direct snap to Gus Edwards? — and in part because of suspect pass blocking on third down. Venerable Chargers pass rusher Khalil Mack was a nightmare for left tackle Ronnie Stanley and the rest of the offensive line. The Ravens got their running game going in the third quarter but did not stick with it enough, failing to capitalize on repeated chances served up by the defense."
**The Baltimore Sun’s** Brian Wacker: "There's no sugarcoating it: The Ravens offense was disjointed. That's going to happen sometimes, but it seems to happen in games the Ravens should win easily. … After struggling mightily to move the ball for most of the night against a Chargers defense that is one of the worst in the NFL, Baltimore relied on its defense to hold on to a game the Ravens were somehow in danger of losing until a fourth-down blitz from cornerback Arthur Maulet ended any chance of another blown lead."
The Baltimore Banner's Giana Han: "But it seems as though there's an identity crisis. Are the Ravens the team that shows out in the biggest challenges, or are they the one that struggles against lesser defenses? And then, of course, the Ravens pulled off an impressive play to put the game away — where was that the rest of the night?"
Pressbox’s Bo Smolka believes this was a game where the offense missed tight end Mark Andrews.
"Jackson spread the ball among receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman and Zay Flowers in the first half, relying on a lot of quick slants to negate the Chargers' pass rush. Tight end Isaiah Likely, who took over for Andrews as the starting tight end, had a team-high six targets in the first half, with four catches for 40 yards," Smolka wrote. "In the second half, though, Likely didn't have a catch. Neither did Beckham. Neither did Bateman. Jackson in the second half went 6-for-14 for 62 yards."
More specifically, Smolka sees Jackson missing Andrews on third downs, or when protection breaks down and it becomes a scramble drill.
"The Ravens finished 4-for-13 on third-down conversions, and it's not hard to see that's a spot where Jackson sorely misses his favorite target," Smolka wrote. "Ever since they came into the league together, Jackson and Andrews have had a kind of telepathy. When all else fails, when the pocket collapses and Jackson has to freelance, Andrews has shown the uncanny ability to freelance along with him, and countless times the duo has produced something out of nothing in a style that Jackson has dubbed 'streetball.'"
Expectations Are High; Not a Single Team Is Perfect
The Ravens are the lone nine-win team in the conference. They've taken care of business, even with their misgivings. For each blemish on their record, they've delivered three wins.
But that's not enough. The players expect more and so do the coaches. They're the No. 1 team in the more competitive conference, but something is lacking, Walker wrote.
"So why does full confidence remain elusive? Probably because this victory followed the same pattern as those previous defeats, with the Ravens struggling to find offensive coherence when it was time for them to press their advantage," Walker wrote. "Lamar Jackson was the Most Valuable Player candidate in the house, so why couldn't he find a meaningful connection with any of his receivers after halftime? Why did the Ravens go away from their obvious strengths on third and fourth down?"
But for the flaws, they're still atop the AFC. And Walker reminds us all that the Ravens' closest opponents in the conference or their NFC counterparts are also flawed.
"No team in the NFL of 2023 has inspired total belief. Not the Philadelphia Eagles with their bucketful of too-close-for-comfort wins," Walker wrote. "Not the Kansas City Chiefs with their dropped passes. Not the San Francisco 49ers with their wayward October. Not the Miami Dolphins with their road hiccups. Every member of the NFL's top tier is still striving to cohere. For all their uneasy fourth quarters, at least the Ravens are keeping the right company."