Led by a nearly perfect Lamar Jackson, the Ravens began their season with a record-breaking, 59-10 rout of a Miami Dolphins team playing for a future that seems a long way off.
Jackson, whose accuracy and consistency as a passer were topics No. 1 and 1A in Ravens training camp all summer, delivered a virtuoso performance, going 17-for-20 for 324 yards and five touchdowns. Jackson finished with a passer rating of 158.3, a Ravens record and the highest possible rating using the NFL’s formula.
Other records set by the Ravens, who scored touchdowns on their first four possessions, included: most points in a game (59); most points in a first half (42); most total yards of offense (643); most touchdown passes (6; Lamar Jackson 5, Robert Griffin III 1)
Here are five other observations of the win, the Ravens’ ninth in 12 season openers under coach John Harbaugh:
1. The Ravens offense wasn’t exactly revolutionary, but Lamar Jackson was spectacular.
The Ravens spoke all offseason about unveiling a “revolutionary” offense led by Jackson, the dynamic quarterback that Harbaugh suggested would break the mold at the position. Instead, Jackson and the Ravens offense looked somewhat traditional — and completely spectacular.
There were a few wrinkles with formations, including a direct snap to running back Mark Ingram early in the game, but whether it was Ingram barreling off tackle or Jackson camping out in the pocket and tossing the ball downfield, the Ravens executed about as well as any traditional NFL offense could possibly hope to.
Most notable were Jackson’s touchdown passes of 83 yards to Marquise Brown and 33 yards to Willie Snead. Those were just two of his five touchdown throws — which tied a franchise record — and both were deep balls that perfectly hit the receiver in stride. Later, Jackson set up a 1-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Ricard by lofting a perfect 39-yard throw to tight end Mark Andrews, who finished with career highs of eight catches for 108 yards.
Jackson has stressed mechanics and accuracy all offseason, and those throws in particular demonstrated just how far Jackson has come since last season.
What was revolutionary was scoring 59 points, something no other team in franchise history had done.
2. This is why the Ravens drafted Marquise Brown.
Is it too early to say the Ravens run of first-round flops at wide receiver is over? Probably. It’s just one game, but in one remarkable quarter, rookie Marquise Brown showed exactly why the Ravens used the No. 25 overall pick on the Oklahoma speedster.
On his first regular-season catch, Brown took a slant from Lamar Jackson and shot up the middle 47 yards for a touchdown. On his second catch, Brown outran Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and ran under a gorgeous throw from Jackson for an 83-yard touchdown.
By the end of the first quarter, Brown had 144 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns, and he finished with four catches for 147 yards. The Ravens this offseason emphasized speed, and coach John Harbaugh more than once referenced the need for quick-strike, home-run ability on offense. Brown delivered immediately.
Credit to the Ravens for easing Brown along through training camp as he recovered from offseason Lisfranc (foot) surgery. Brown played offense in just one preseason game, and the Ravens stressed that his measured workload was all aimed toward having him ready for Week 1.
As the Dolphins quickly learned, he was ready.
3. When operating well, the Ravens run-pass balance will give teams fits.
On the Ravens first play from scrimmage, Mark Ingram rambled off right tackle for 49 yards. On their opening scoring drive, all three Ravens running backs — Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill — carried the ball, totaling six carries for 79 yards.
So later in the first quarter, it probably was understandable to see Dolphins safety Bobby McCain crash toward the line of scrimmage as Ingram, running in motion, appeared ready to take a handoff from Lamar Jackson. Except Jackson faked the handoff, and with McCain sucked toward the line, the deep middle was wide open. Jackson threaded a strike to Marquise Brown on a slant, and Brown raced 47 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Ingram finished with 107 yards on 14 carries, but it was that play when he didn’t carry that they truly showed how the Ravens run game can complement Jackson and the passing game. The improved, confident Jackson took full advantage.
4. Eric DeCosta deserves to smile.
On the Ravens first play of scrimmage, running back Mark Ingram barreled off right tackle for 49 yards, longer than any run by the Ravens last season, and he later scored the Ravens first touchdown. On the Ravens first defensive series, safety Earl Thomas intercepted Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, setting up another touchdown. Later in the first half, special teams ace Justin Bethel recovered a fumbled Dolphins punt return, setting up yet another score.
Ingram, Thomas and Bethel were all key offseason acquisitions made by general manager Eric DeCosta. On top of that, the two wide receivers DeCosta selected in the draft — first-rounder Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin, totaled three touchdown catches.
Meanwhile, in his first game with the New York Jets, former Ravens kicker Kaare Vedvik missed an extra-point kick and a field-goal try in a one-point Jets loss. Vedvik is on his second team since DeCosta dealt him to Minnesota earlier this summer for a fifth-round draft pick, a move that looks better by the day.
A general manager’s moves will always be scrutinized with 20-20 hindsight. Granted, it’s only one game against a badly overmatched Dolphins team, but DeCosta probably could not have imagined that this string of offseason moves would have such an immediate impact.
5. It had no bearing on this game, but another injury for Jimmy Smith is worrisome.
Lost in the Ravens lopsided win was yet another injury to starting cornerback Jimmy Smith, who injured his right knee when linebacker Patrick Onwuasor rolled into him trying to make a tackle. Smith left the game early and did not return, and his long-term prognosis will be known later this week.
It’s a tough start for Smith, who is one of the Ravens top defensive players when healthy but has played all 16 games just twice in his eight-year career. With Smith sidelined, second-year cornerback Anthony Averett took over as the outside cornerback opposite Marlon Humphrey, and the Dolphins predictably went after him.
The Ravens built a secondary that they think can be the best in the league, and earlier this summer, it appeared to be the deepest in the league. But depth is being tested early, with slot cornerback Tavon Young on injured reserve and now Smith potentially sidelined yet again.
If Smith is out for an extended period, the pressure will fall on the unproven Averett and slot cornerback Cyrus Jones to play more significant roles.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox