Back to back division victories give the Ravens a 2 game lead in the North. On the stat sheet, you’ll see that this was a 6 point game, but it certainly didn’t feel that way. The Ravens just about doubled the Bengals’ yardage (and would’ve if it weren’t for 3 kneel-downs to end the game) 250-497 and held them to 33 rushing yards as a team. After a return touchdown on the opening kickoff, the defense held Cincy to a field goal until late in the 4th quarter, and even that was set up by a bone-headed fumble from Mark Andrews. By the time Andy Dalton did anything noteworthy it was already too late, and the Ravens cruised to a somewhat relaxing victory; a truly rare occurrence for the team.
The big, broken plays downfield were eliminated, and the defense looked solid against a team that, quite frankly, they should look solid against. But the story of the game was the performance of #8. Lamar Jackson became the 1st quarterback to run for 150+ yards and pass for 200+ in the same game in the Superbowl era. He was within striking distance of the single-game rushing record for a QB, and looked like he could break off chunk plays at will all game long. The Bengals entered the game as the league’s 2nd worst run defense, and the Ravens were smart to capitalize on that. This one felt like a blowout, but this team likes to keep it close just about every week. There were play designs that simply didn’t work, and drives that stalled after showing potential, but it’s hard to come away from this win with many negatives.
Maybe momentum could’ve swung in the 4th quarter, but the Bengals didn’t have time to get anything going at all. With 13:32 left in the game, the Ravens fielded a punt and started a drive from their 15-yard line. The Bengals wouldn’t touch the ball for another 9 minutes and 46 seconds of game time. In a drive that felt reminiscent of last year’s offense, the Ravens ate up the clock with an 18 play, 98-yard drive. The only way it could’ve gone better is if it ended in the endzone, which would’ve put them up 3 scores and ended the game completely. Either way, this drive ensured Andy Dalton wouldn’t have enough time to complete a comeback and steal a win in our house.
But that almost wasn’t the case. The drive very nearly stalled once again. With 8:36 left to play, the offense faced a 3rd and 14 near the midfield logo after a penalty and miscommunication on a pass that could’ve been a TD. Anything less than a conversion gives the ball back with plenty of time left on the clock. It’s no guarantee the Bengals would make a comeback in that scenario, but I’ve seen enough heartbreaks against that team to be appreciative of them not even getting the opportunity.
Lamar Jackson does everything right on this play. After giving up a sack where he held the ball too long earlier in the game, Jackson feels the pocket much better this time around. As a whole, the offensive line looked pretty good in pass protection today; that was not the case on this play. Rushing only 4, they’re able to crash the pocket almost immediately, giving the receivers no time to work their routes and giving Lamar minimal time to make his reads. He steps up in the pocket perfectly, still looking downfield to find a receiver, but with no one open and heavy pursuit coming his way he decides to make a play with his legs. He runs straight for the first down line, gives a hesitation fake to Clayton Fejedelem (42) to gain a step on him, and gets to the ground to keep the clock running once he has the yardage he needs. Lamar has unreal speed and elite footwork as a runner, and he may be the only QB in the league capable of picking up the full 14 yards here (potentially add Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray to that list). He doesn’t do anything overly flashy, and he doesn’t do anything dumb to extend the play. This is great situational football that sets the offense back up with a 1st in 10 in field goal range.
Simply put, this play gave the Ravens 3 more points and the opportunity to bleed an extra 5 minutes off the game clock. Andy Dalton would go on to score on his next drive, so who knows what he could’ve done with the extra time in a 1 score game?
Throughout the season Lamar has been masterful in picking up easy yards on the ground and has been smart about avoiding contact. On Sunday, he stayed mostly true to that playstyle, but took a few more risks that paid off big time. He showed great football IQ in knowing when to invite contact, like on his diving touchdown, and when to get down, like on the play above. This game was his best on the ground, which is even more impressive when you factor in his 236 passing yards as well. When Lamar is on he’s on, and he showed that through most of the game while racking up just under 400 total yards.
From here, the schedule gets harder. The Ravens go up against the 5-1 Seahawks followed by the 6-0 Patriots with a bye week sandwiched in between. They will be underdogs in both contests, making the 2 game lead in the division even more important. That said, this was a complete team win that flashes the potential of what we could be. With Jimmy Smith and Hollywood Brown both likely to return soon the team will only get stronger, and at our best, we’re as good as any team in football. These next 2 games should be a good indication of if the Ravens have any true chance at a Superbowl in the 19′-20′ season.