Another week of football brought another uneven performance from the Baltimore Ravens.
Baltimore slipped away with a close win Nov. 28, defeating the Cleveland Browns, 16-10, in an uncharacteristic showing from Lamar Jackson and the offense. Yet the Ravens were able to overcome their troubles with a strong defensive performance to climb to the top of the AFC standings, one game ahead of the resurgent New England Patriots in the loss column.
The wins themselves are not as glistening as in past years, but the fact that Baltimore is off to an 8-3 start despite its heavy losses in the backfield and on the offensive line is worth noting.
“It’s puzzling because there are so many different things with this team that have me fascinated,” NBC Sports broadcaster Mike Tirico said on Glenn Clark Radio Nov. 30.
“The team has been in so many big holes during the year, able to get out of them with the great comebacks that everybody has seen,” added Tirico, who called the Ravens-Browns game for NBC. “That doesn’t give you the confidence to say, ‘This team is going to dominate.’ … Can this team get to a level where they can play some dominating football and control some of these games?”
Jackson turned in perhaps the rockiest performance of his career against the Browns, throwing for 165 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. He put up a quarterback rating of 25.0.
“If this is a team that’s going to win a championship,” Tirico said, “[Jackson] has got to play better. He has got to play better than he has in the last two full games.”
However, Jackson’s third-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Mark Andrews proved to be pivotal. Aside from providing the ultimate difference in the game, Jackson’s scoring drive occurred right after halftime, giving his team the lead and setting the tone for the second half after a demoralizing showing in the first. He also ran for 68 yards on the night.
“Lamar’s runs won the game for the Ravens,” Tirico said. “When they needed a big run, he came up with it, and the threat of his running sustained that.”
After Jackson buoyed the Ravens to wins during the first half of the season, that trend may have been flipped on its head. Baltimore hasn’t scored more than 16 points in any of its last three games and hasn’t scored 20 points in four of its last five. It’s been the Ravens’ defense that has stepped up to pick up the slack in those games.
The Ravens will need their defense to continue to play well going forward. After their Dec. 5 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens face the Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams down the stretch before facing Pittsburgh again to close out the season.
While not as strong as some of the Baltimore defenses of old, this year’s unit has the benefit of some budding young talent. In particular, the play of rookie linebacker Odafe Oweh (Penn State) has stood out as the Ravens hold it down defensively.
“Boy, he’s coming,” Tirico said. “These are the things you talk about when you find out how culture gets passed down. Justin Houston’s been around in the league for a while. Justin’s there, he’s able to take Odafe under his wing, teach him pass rush moves on the side at the complex in August, September and October after practice, the veteran intelligence and experience of Calais Campbell that he can share with Odafe.
“This is going to give this player the opportunity to be one of those terrific Ravens pieces for a long time to come if he continues to play well and stay healthy.”
For more from Tirico, listen to the full interview here:
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