Just another day at the office.
On the heels of a victory against the undefeated Patriots, the Ravens strolled into Cincinnati and came out with a sheerly dominant victory. Offensively and defensively, the Ravens fired on all cylinders and improved to 7-2, widening their lead in the AFC North and giving themselves a better chance at earning a top playoff seed.
Takeaways are in order:
1) Don’t give Baltimore the ball to begin the game
The Bengals won the coin toss prior to kickoff and opted to defer, a decision that likely had many scratching their heads. Why?
Because the Ravens are money on their opening drives.
It only took Lamar Jackson and company THREE plays and they already found themselves at the goal line. Jackson delivered three consecutive completions of 49, 19 and 6 yards to Marquise Brown, Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst, respectively, Then, Jackson rolled out and found Andrews in the end zone for a touchdown. 5 plays, 75 yards and just under three minutes off the clock.
The Ravens have scored on eight, yes eight, of their nine opening drives this year - six of which were touchdowns. Baltimore’s offense is lethal in the beginning of games and needs no time to settle into a groove. Opposing teams should take notice that if you win the coin toss against the Ravens, it’s probably best to elect to receive.
2) So much for that “trap game” . . .
Leading up to this week’s game, some national pundits and fans expressed concern that this matchup against the Bengals was a “trap game” - meaning the Ravens could suffer a letdown after an emotional victory over the Patriots. To be fair, we have seen the Ravens suffer these performances in the past and the Bengals, who almost always give Baltimore a good fight, were coming a bye week.
But, uh . . . that “trap game” narrative didn’t last long.
The Ravens not only came out firing on all cylinders but sustained absolute dominance from start to finish. While they’re clearly more talented than the Bengals, John Harbaugh deserves credit for getting the best out of his team. Attempting to prepare for and enter a matchup with the same mindset against an 8-0 team versus an 0-8 can be difficult, but the Ravens picked up right where they left off and did not miss a beat.
3) Lamar Jackson is not from this planet
If you thought Jackson wasn’t going to take advantage of a juicy matchup against the Bengals bottom-ranked defense, you thought wrong. And boy, did he ever take advantage.
Jackson’s performance on Sunday was eery similar to that what he did against the Dolphins in Week 1. From start to finish, Jackson was nothing short of unstoppable. Every time the Ravens offense took the field, it felt as though the Bengals were helpless - and they were.
Jackson began the game on fire, going 4/4 for 76 passing yards and a touchdown to Andrews on the opening drive. From there, it was more of the same. He delivered two more touchdown passes, a 17-yard strike to Andrews in the second quarter and a 20-yard completion to Marquise Brown in the third quarter.
He was pulled from the game for Robert Griffin III in the fourth quarter, but not before completing 15/17 attempts for 223 yards. Six of Jackson’s throws went for 17 yards or more and one his incompletions came on a spiked ball just before halftime. His day could have even better if Andrews had hauled in a would-be touchdown in the third quarter or if he played into the fourth quarter.
Jackson also finished with a perfect passer rating for the second time this year, the coming in Miami. He’s the second quarterback in NFL history to do so twice in the same season.
Oh yeah, he also did this:
4) “Burnt toast” never tasted so good
It can’t be said enough. In just a three-game sample size, Marcus Peters has had a profound impact for the Ravens defense. But let’s back track for a second.
Peters was playing well for the Rams earlier this season but after seeing him allow a few big plays, social media went in on him and individuals began labeling him “burnt toast” . . .
Well, if this is what burnt toast looks like, I’ll have some more.
Peters recorded his THIRD pick-six of the season on Sunday, jumping an underneath pass from Ryan Finley and returning it 89 yards to the house. Just a few weeks ago in Seattle, Peters did the exact same thing in his Ravens debut (who can forget?).
The dude is just a playmaker, plain and simple. When somebody is intercepting passes and scoring touchdowns with ease, you take the good with the bad. Since joining the Ravens, however, it’s been all good, no bad. The former All-Pro cornerback has helped change the complexion of this Ravens defense.
Never forget that Eric DeCosta was able to land him for Kenny Young and a fifth-round draft pick in 2020. That’s called highway robbery.
5) This Ravens team is just fun to watch
In today’s NFL world, it’s easy to overanalyze every aspect of the game and nitpick small details. With the Ravens, just take a step back and enjoy the show that’s unfolding.
They’re talented, explosive and play together as a team. This Ravens team is as fun to watch as any in recent memory and frankly are more entertaining than the product we had been accustomed to seeing since the super bowl victory: methodical, lethargic and uninspiring.
Against the Bengals, the Ravens scored five offensive touchdowns: two of which were passes of 17+ yards and one coming off a 47-yard highlight run from Jackson. Defensively, they forced three turnovers and turned two into touchdowns on the same play.
Who cares who they’re playing? Good football is good football, and good football is often entertaining football. Right now, the Ravens are checking off all the boxes.