Back at M&T Bank Stadium after a short trip down south in Week 4, the Ravens picked up their second divisional victory of the season and improved to 4-1 on the season. Baltimore’s defense carried the load against Cincinnati and allowed just three points.
To the takeaways machine we go.
1) Continued success against rookie quarterbacks
Heading into a Week 5 matchup against Joe Burrow, the Ravens held a 17-6 record against rookie quarterbacks in the John Harbaugh era. In convincing fashion, that number improved to 18-6 on Sunday — and it served as another reminder as to why Baltimore has been so successful in this department since 2008.
Having thrown for 300+ yards in three straight games and boasting a TD:INT ratio of 6:2 on the season, Burrow had settled into a groove heading into Sunday’s matchup. However, as they tend to do for first-year signal-callers, the Ravens made life extremely difficult on him.
Harbaugh and the Ravens coaching staff are rarely taken by surprise against rookie quarterbacks, which is a testament to their preparation and diligence. Cincinnati is no Kansas City, mind you, but they had scored a combined 91 points over the past three games.
And it goes without saying that pitching a near-shutout against any team is an impressive feat in its own right. More on how they did it below . . .
2) “Wink” bringing the heat
An experienced defensive coordinator up against a first-year quarterback and second-year head coach? Advantage to the former.
“Wink” Martindale dialed up pressure all afternoon against the Bengals and it worked wonders. The Ravens defensive front clearly had a decisive advantage over Cincinnati’s porous offensive line and they abused the Bengals in the trenches.
The Bengals had no answers for Martindale’s scheme and struggled mightily to win individual matchups along the offensive line. Burrow was sacked seven times, on the receiving end of 15 QB hits, and was seemingly pressured almost every possession.
All seven sacks were spread across seven different players, too, which speaks to a total team effort. Four sacks came from defensive backs as Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Chuck Clark, and DeShon Elliott each got in the action. Pernell McPhee had a standout performance with a team-high four QB hits and a tackle-for-loss.
Martindale’s exotic looks evidently had Burrow rattled early and forced him into multiple turnovers and several other turnover-worthy plays.
3) Clamping down against the run
Since ceding a few big runs to Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the first half of Week 1 against the Browns, Baltimore’s run defense has drastically improved. This trend continued versus the Bengals in Week 5, as it continues to become more and more clear that key additions in the offseason are having a positive impact.
The Ravens defense entered Sunday’s contest ranked seventh in the league with 97.5 rushing yards allowed per game, and this number will only improve after Week 5. RB Joe Mixon mustered just 59 yards on 24 carries, much of which came late in the fourth quarter with the game already out of reach.
In the prior two matchups, the Ravens limited the Texans to only 51 rushing yards on 17 carries. In Week 3, rookie sensation Clyde Edwards-Helaire racked up 64 rushing yards but it took him 20 carries to do, good for a yards-per-carry average of just 3.2.
The likes of Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, and Patrick Queen were added in the offseason in large part with the hopes that they would improve a run defense that was rather leaky at times in 2019. So far, the early returns have been extremely encouraging.
4) Playmakers making plays
This paragraph feels like a broken record at this point, but week after week it continues to need to be said: Marlon Humphrey is good. Like, really good. Oh, and Marcus Peters isn’t half bad either. Same goes for Patrick Queen.
Between these three players, the Ravens have three defensive pieces with a knack for getting their hands on the football. Maybe it’s a bit too early to label Queen as bona fide playmaker after just five games, but he continues to make impact plays.
Against the Bengals, Queen sacked Burrow from behind and recovered his own forced fumble. Then, he recovered a loose ball in the fourth quarter and returned it 52 yards to the end zone to put the Ravens up 27-0. The player who made this highlight possible, though, was of course Humphrey.
Humphrey yet again poked the ball loose from an opposing receiver, this time rookie Mike Thomas. Humphrey now has THREE forced fumbles on the season and they have each resulted in a touchdown, meaning Humphrey has directly or indirectly been responsible for 21 points on the year. The near-$100 million dollar man is a certified game-wrecker.
Peters intercepted Burrow on the the Bengals third drive of the game, played stout coverage from start to finish, and had a strip-sack in the second half that nearly resulted in another recovered fumble.
5) About the offense . . .
The Ravens scored on each of their first three drives and jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead by the early portion of the second quarter. However, from that point on, it wasn’t exactly a smooth offensive performance.
The remaining four drives of the first half resulted in a turnover on downs, a punt, an interception and a missed 61-yard field goal attempt as time expired. Those hopeful that the Ravens would quickly jumpstart things in the second half were not rewarded.
Only one offensive possession in the final two quarters resulted in points, which was a field goal, and the remaining three led to punts (excluding late-game kneel down)
- 3 plays, 8 yards, 1:39
- 7 plays, 38 yards, 2:29
- 3 plays, 8 yards, 1:40
Luckily, the offense picked a good day to score only 20 points, as the performance from the defense was nothing short of spectacular. However, it was certainly a strange performance from Greg Roman, Lamar Jackson, and company.
Roman seemed adamant on throwing the ball early and often. Even after the Ravens jumped out to a comfortable lead, though, Jackson continued to drop back in passing situations despite the running attack proving more than capable of serving as a source of yardage-gaining.
The offensive line struggled in pass protection at times and Jackson was far from best, to be frank. Jackson completed 19-of-37 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw an interception for the second straight week and missed a handful of throws he usually executes on.
Baltimore clearly isn’t executing to their full capacity on offense right now. However, it’s premature to sound any alarms or panic. The Ravens offense performed at a historic rate last season and some regression to the mean was inevitable.
As long as the Ravens are winning games by multiple touchdowns, though, it’s hard to laser in too much on any of these concerns.