Lamar Jackson dazzled, the defense sizzled and the Ravens (5-2) secured their biggest win of the season with a 30-16 decision at Seattle on Oct. 20.
Jackson was a one-man highlight film during a fourth-quarter drive that seemed to break the will of the Seahawks, while the defense scored a pair of touchdowns and frustrated Seahawks marvelous quarterback Russell Wilson at every turn, limiting him to his lowest passer rating of the season by a large margin.
Here are five quick impressions of the win, a victorious homecoming for safety Earl Thomas and the Ravens first-ever win in Seattle in three games there:
1. Lamar Jackson was at his talented, ferociously competitive best in the fourth quarter.
Jackson did not have a great game throwing the ball (9-for-20, 143 yards), and he certainly wasn’t helped by an uncharacteristically poor day from his favorite receiver, tight end Mark Andrews, who dropped four passes. But Jackson proved to be unstoppable as a runner, and his efforts during a fourth-quarter drive were practically video-game worthy.
Jackson finished with 14 carries for 116 yards and one touchdown, which came when coach John Harbaugh pulled the field-goal team off the field and went to Jackson on fourth-and-two from the 8-yard line. As was the case all day, the Seahawks couldn’t stop him. Jackson ran behind a wall of blocking set up by Bradley Bozeman, James Hurst and Nick Boyle for the 8-yard score and a 20-13 lead.
Still, his best work came in the fourth quarter, as Jackson engineered a 13-play, 86-yard scoring drive that chewed up 9:00. The dagger came when he faced third-and-eight from the Ravens 12-yard line. Jackson escaped pressure, cut upfield and gained 30 yards. He later scrambled 13 yards for another first down.
Harbaugh said this summer that the Jackson-led offense would be “revolutionary,” and Jackson indeed is on his way to doing things that no NFL quarterback has done before.
At his core, he is ferociously competitive and almost every news conference includes some variation of, “I just want to win.” With Jackson running wild, the Ravens will do a lot of that.
2. Eric DeCosta deserves credit for rebuilding this defense on the fly.
The Ravens defense took its share of lumps from fans and media as they gave up big play after big play early this season, and their No. 1 overall ranking of last year was a distant memory.
To his credit, general manager Eric DeCosta didn’t fool around in trying to make things better. He went out and signed inside linebackers Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort, who have become the starters with Patrick Onwuasor sidelined by an ankle injury. He released outside linebacker Tim Williams.
He brought in Jihad Ward to shore up the defensive line, and he traded for cornerback Marcus Peters, who had one of the biggest plays of the game as he intercepted Wilson and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown.
DeCosta deserves some scrutiny for badly overestimating their situation at inside linebacker this summer; Onwuasor struggled to replace Pro Bowl pick C.J. Mosley at middle linebacker and Kenny Young — who went to the Rams in the Peters trade — and Chris Board were not up to the task at weak-side linebacker.
But the players that DeCosta has added have changed the narrative of this defense, and they were difference makers in Seattle. Give credit, too, to defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale and his defensive staff, who have been able to seamlessly work these players into contributing roles immediately.
3. Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey scored, but defensive grunt work made a difference.
Peters and Humphrey had the highlight-reel plays, with Peters scoring on a 67-yard interception return and Humphrey scooping up a fumble and taking it 18 yards for a score and a 30-13 lead.
But a lot of credit goes to other Ravens defenders, who flustered and harassed Wilson and the Seahawks all day. Linebacker L.J. Fort had six tackles, two for loss, one sack and helped set the tone early with a couple of terrific tackles. Josh Bynes finished with a team-best eight tackles.
Brandon Williams had a season-high four tackles and blew up the pocket on Wilson more than once. He and Michael Pierce were destructive in the middle of the defense. Thomas, Chuck Clark and Brandon Carr played tough, physical defense in the secondary.
Other than a couple of breakdowns, Wilson and the Seahawks had to work for every yard, and in that way, this felt much more like last year’s Ravens defense. Forget the Dolphins’ laughter; this was easily this group’s most complete performance of the season.
4. Nine-minute, fourth-quarter drives will salt away a lot of games.
For the second straight week, the Ravens compiled a drive that sliced nine minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter. When playing with the lead, that’s going to be a winning formula almost every time.
After Jackson’s 8-yard touchdown run on Harbaugh’s bold fourth-and-two call, the Ravens got a third-down stop — thanks to pressure from rookie linebacker Jaylon Ferguson — and forced a punt, taking over at their 10-yard line with 12:47 left.
A few highlight-reel runs by Jackson sparked the drive, but the Ravens were methodical, with a steady dose of Mark Ingram (12 carries, 46 yards) and Gus Edwards (8-35) chewing up time while Wilson could only watch from the sideline.
Although the drive stalled at the Seahawks 4-yard line, the Ravens smartly and alertly even took their time getting ready for a chip-shot field goal, and Tucker’s third field goal of the game gave the Ravens a two-score edge at 23-13 with 3:47 left.
The Seahawks fumbled away the ball on the next play, which ended with Humphrey in the end zone, but the drive before was the backbreaker. With a fourth-quarter lead and this running game, the Ravens will be tough to beat.
5. The Ravens are back in the conversation as AFC contenders.
This was a signature win for a Ravens team that envisions itself in the top tier of AFC teams. Wins over the hapless Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals proved little and a home loss to the Cleveland Browns raised troubling concerns.
But the Ravens have now won three in a row, including a road win in one of the league’s toughest venues. They will get a litmus test coming off their bye when the undefeated New England Patriots visit M&T Bank Stadium Nov. 3 in a “Sunday Night Football” game that could draw massive ratings.
For now, though, the Ravens cruise into their bye week at 5-2, with time to get healthy and a lot of momentum, not to mention a healthy cushion in the AFC North. The schedule is harder over the second half of the season, but there won’t be many tougher tasks than going across the country to win at Seattle, and the Ravens proved they were up to that task.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox