LANDOVER, MD. — Coming off a “Monday Night Football” beatdown at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Ravens did precisely what was needed against an inferior opponent, getting the lead and pulling away to a 31-17 win against the Washington Football Team at FedEx Field on Oct. 4.
It wasn’t always pretty, although the Ravens (3-1) never were truly threatened after jumping to a 14-0 lead against Washington, now 1-3.
Lamar Jackson was not at his best but again showed that he can make magic happen on every single snap as he kept on a third-down run, found a lane inside and accelerated for a 50-yard touchdown, with a textbook stiff-arm of safety Landon Collins along the way. Otherwise, the Ravens’ run game, minus starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who missed the game with a shoulder injury, got little traction for the first three quarters.
The Ravens’ defense gave up chunks of yards but had an answer most of the time, including stopping Washington on fourth-and-goal from the 13-yard line when Washington, trailing 28-10, curiously played for the touchdown and passed up a field-goal try that could have cut the Ravens’ lead to two scores.
Here are five other observations of the win, which extends the Ravens’ league-best road winning streak to eight:
1. Lamar Jackson’s deep ball is still a work in progress.
The Ravens had a chance to put some distance between them and Washington in the second quarter, but Lamar Jackson missed on a few deep throws when his receiver had gained separation. During one sequence, Jackson had all the time he needed but he overthrew an open Marquise Brown down the middle, andoverthrew an open Miles Boykin down the right sideline on the next play.
To Jackson’s credit, he later scrambled out of trouble and, rolling to his left, threw a gorgeous 25-yard touchdown pass to Mark Andrews into a tight window along the left sideline. Jackson finished with 14 completions in 21 attempts for 193 yards and two touchdowns, and also threw his first interception of the season.
Jackson has stressed that this offseason he focused on his deep throws and throws outside the numbers. But he hasn’t looked particularly sharp in that area of the game yet this season, save for a 45-yard bomb to Marquise Brown in the season opener.
Jackson said of a couple of his missed deep shots today, “We should be coming off the field with touchdowns.”
The Ravens need to keep taking those shots, because until he hits those, defenses won’t be hesitant to jam the box and try to contain the Ravens running game.
Brown, who led the Ravens with four catches for 86 yards, said, “We’ve just got to keep working on it, keep working on it. Eventually, it’s going to start to hit.”
2. Marlon Humphrey showed again why he earned that big extension.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who signed a five-year, $98 million extension last week, showed once again why the Ravens view him as a long-term cornerstone of their defense. Humphrey set up the Ravens’ first score as he ripped the ball out of the hands of Washington running back J.D. McKissic after a catch, and Marcus Peters recovered for yet another Humphrey-involved turnover.
Humphrey has caused a turnover in all three Ravens wins this season. He intercepted a pass in the Week 1 victory against Cleveland, and then in Week 2, he forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by linebacker L.J. Fort.
In this game, the Ravens quickly converted Humphrey’s turnover. Lamar Jackson hit Marquise Brown on a 33-yard pass play to the 1-yard line, and the Mark Ingram barreled into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Humphrey and the Ravens gave up some yardage to Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins (32-for-45, 314 yards), who had a lot of success on bubble screens. Terry McLaurin also had a strong day with 10 catches for 118 yards, though his biggest pass play came late against practice-squad callup Khalil Dorsey.
Humphrey recorded a career-high nine tackles, andwas active all over the field. With an interception and two forced fumbles already this year, Humphrey continues to burnish his reputation as a game-changing defender.
3. Matthew Judon led a Ravens pass rush that still has room to improve.
Through three games this season, Matthew Judon, who is playing under the $16.8 million franchise tag, had yet to record a sack. Granted, Judon has at times been asked to drop in coverage and had excelled in some other ways, but the Ravens’ pass rush through three weeks had not been as disruptive as they had hoped. They totaled six sacks in three games and didn’t sack Patrick Mahomes at all in their 34-20 loss to the Chiefs.
Teammate Marlon Humphrey said Judon had been critical of his own play after that loss.
Against Washington, Judon recorded a pair of sacks and had five quarterback hits on Haskins, and Humphrey said, “It was no surprise to see [Judon] come look like his typical self. I think he’s been playing decent all year, but this game, he took it up a notch, and he kind of told himself, ‘This is how I have to pay every game to get back to who I am.’ “
Head coach John Harbaugh said Judon had “a great game. … I thought the pass rush was really good. Whenever they tried to push the ball downfield, it was always a problem.”
Jaylon Ferguson also recorded his first sack of the season, tracking down Haskins for an 18-yard loss with Washington in the red zone. Credit the Ravens’ coverage on that play too, as Haskins had time and had to look off more than one receiver who just couldn’t get open.
This was a positive step forward for both Judon and Ferguson, and the Ravens will need them to be consistent impact players going forward.
4. The Ravens once again won the special teams phase of the game.
Maybe it’s because John Harbaugh’s background was as a special teams coach, and maybe it’s because they have the most accurate kicker in NFL history, but the Ravens frequently win the special teams phase of the game, and against Washington, they showed that they can do that in a variety of ways.
In this game, the Ravens picked the perfect time to perfectly execute a fake punt that led to a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
With the Ravens leading 14-7 in the second quarter, the Ravens faced fourth-and-9 at the Washington 43-yard line. Punter Sam Koch took the snap and then fired a completion to Miles Boykin, lined up as a gunner on the right, for a 15-yard gain. Three plays later, Jackson rolled out and found Mark Andrews for a 25-yard touchdown pass.
Koch is now 7-for-7 as a passer in his NFL career, prompting Harbaugh to say, “He’s just so good at it. He’s clutch as can be. And then Miles, he’s a young guy. To step in that situation and make that play was tremendous.”
Whether it’s the kicking operation of the “Wolfpack,” featuring long snapper Morgan Cox, holder Koch and kicker Justin Tucker, or the kick return game, which produced the first kick return touchdown in the league this year by Devin Duvernay last week, or punt coverage, the Ravens almost always have the edge in special teams play.
As for Koch’s perfect passing record, Jackson said, “That’s lit. I’m trying to get where he’s at.”
5. The AFC North is shaping up as one of the best divisions.
The Ravens ran away with the AFC North last season, winning by a whopping six games, with none of the other AFC North rivals posting a winning record. This year, the division is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in the league, with major improvement seen from all three of the Ravens’ divisional rivals.
Through Week 4, the top three teams in the AFC North are 9-2. The Pittsburgh Steelers are undefeated at 3-0 after their Week 4 game against the Tennessee Titans was postponed because of the Titans’ COVID outbreak. The Cleveland Browns (3-1) outslugged the Dallas Cowboys, 49-38, opening up a 41-14 lead at one point. And the Cincinnati Bengals (1-2-1) and No. 1 draft pick Joe Burrow recorded their first win with a 33-25 triumph against Jacksonville in Week 4.
The Ravens already have an important divisional win against Cleveland in Week 1, and Burrow and the Bengals come to M&T Bank Stadium next weekend. The Ravens then face Pittsburgh for the first time Nov. 1, a game that was moved from Oct. 25 as part of the rescheduling of this week’s Steelers game.
The Ravens-Steelers games — the second one will be in Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving night — again appear to be must-see TV in this division, and whoever wins this division this year will have earned it.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox