There’s one singular reason why the Baltimore Ravens have won four of their first five games.
OK, there’s actually a few. Justin Tucker has been exceptional, Hollywood Brown has been tremendous in the “non-Detroit” department, Odafe Oweh has made massive plays and Mark Andrews has made huge catches.
But the one real reason is, of course, the gentleman who wears No. 8 on his shirt. Lamar Jackson has been purely spectacular. I honestly don’t know what else there really is to say about it. I can’t provide further context than what you’ve already seen and are aware of. This season is a masterpiece. We’re watching Jimi Hendrix on stage at Woodstock. We’re watching Lauryn Hill make “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” This is genius-level stuff.
The presence of Lamar Jackson makes the Ravens an extraordinarily viable Super Bowl contender. Green Bay Packers fans have felt like this since Aaron Rodgers took his first snap. Sure, they have just one title to show for it, but that’s because winning the Super Bowl is incredibly difficult and also Tom Brady hasn’t passed away. They have known at all times that they had a viable chance to win the next Super Bowl, and that’s a truly wondering feeling for a fan base to experience.
Lamar Jackson allows us to feel that way in Baltimore.
But this column isn’t actually about Lamar Jackson. Because while the story of the Ravens’ stunning Week 5 win against the Colts was largely about Lamar Jackson, it was also largely about something else.
Not the former Colts signal caller, of course. Actual, honest to God, had-not-a-single-damn-thing-to-do-with-you level luck. For all of Lamar Jackson’s greatness, had it not been for overwhelming luck, the Ravens don’t win that football game because Lamar Jackson doesn’t get the chance to carry them to the finish line.
Consider that the Ravens were able to rally from down 16 points in the final 12 minutes despite … not getting a single defensive stop!
We, of course, remember that after the Ravens got within a touchdown (eight points to be exact), the Colts gashed the Baltimore defense right back down the field, only to inexplicably STOP TRYING TO SCORE once they were in field goal range! They chose to simply run the ball three times, let the Ravens call a couple of timeouts and, despite the fact that they KNEW THEIR KICKER WAS HURT(!!!), they allowed the game to come down to a kick. They simply stopped trying to score at a time when the Ravens’ defense had made it abundantly clear that it was not likely to be able to prevent them from scoring!
On their next possession (after the Ravens had tied the game), the Colts were again not stopped by the Baltimore defense (although they might have been had it not been for a massive Tavon Young blunder). They merely had the clock run out on them as they, again, pinned their hopes on an injured kicker.
And then there was the incredibly good fortune of the overtime coin toss and NFL rules preventing both teams from being guaranteed to get the ball in overtime. Considering how the Ravens’ defense had played, that’s a level of good fortune so overwhelming that it should be an Everclear song.
(That reference works for like six people on the planet who know that the band Everclear once made a song called “Overwhelming.” And I’ll see all six of you at Baltimore Soundstage in December. We’ll know one another because we’ll be the only six people there.)
Someone could make the argument that LUCK was an even more significant factor than Lamar Jackson in winning the “Monday Night Football” showdown. But since I was just drawing parallels between Jackson and “Miseducation” (do you guys remember the track she did with D’Angelo?!?!?), I probably won’t be that guy.
The point is that while the Ravens might very well be able to continue winning football games in which they throw the ball 43 times and struggle to get a stop, these probably aren’t the very best ways for them to go about their Super Bowl quest. Winning through their struggles is incredible and a testament to the entire organization. But it should not provide shield for their issues.
They need to consider exploring a trade for a running back. While the run blocking is also a problem, not a single back they’ve trotted out both A) appears to be a player they’re willing to trust, and B) has any sort of necessary “burst.” This team isn’t going to produce a 2019 or 2020 Ravens-caliber rushing offense but they have to get, you know, SOMETHING from their run game. Trading for a running back doesn’t make typically make sense in the modern NFL, but these are unique circumstances and 10 draft picks will not be making the 2022 roster.
And then there’s the defense. Or the tackling, really. I … don’t know how to fix it. It seems simplistic to suggest that Josh Bynes needs to be on the field, but if we’re being fair, the last time the Ravens had an inside linebacker crisis (2019), Bynes helped solve it.
The answers aren’t necessarily obvious. The point is that they can’t allow the sheer results of the games or Jackson’s dazzling performances to distract from recognizing how incredibly fortunate they are to be in this position. Luck is a major part of the NFL in general and perhaps the Ravens will experience more of it as the year goes on. But it cannot be assumed, and they need to try to improve their odds of winning the Super Bowl should it not be on their side.
Of course, nothing helps that nearly as much as Jackson.
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