A tale of two halves in Indianapolis on Sunday saw the Ravens overcome a slow start and pull away late, cruising to a 14-point win over the Colts. A strong second half showing against a formidable AFC opponent is a convincing and encouraging sign moving forward.
Takeaways are below:
1) Rough sledding early
The Ravens offensive performance in the first half was, simply put . . . awful.
Granted the Colts defense is a top-ranked unit in the NFL, but the Ravens led the league in rushing yards entering this matchup. Through quarters one and two? 10 carries for 18 yards, on top of gaining just 55 yards of total offense and averaging 2.2 yards per play.
Seven of Baltimore’s 25 plays run resulted in negative yardage, including Lamar Jackson being sacked twice — one of which lost 13 yards and pushed the Ravens out of scoring territory. Of the Ravens five offensive drives in the first half, two were three-and-outs and the remaining three resulted in next to nothing. A tough watch, to say the least.
Baltimore’s offensive line was clearly outmatched by the Colts defensive front, as they failed to generate any sort of push. Jackson completed 9-of-13 pass attempts in the first half, but it amounted for a measly 37 passing yards. One of his incompletions came via a dropped pass from Marquise Brown on third down.
Needless to say, the Ravens were extremely fortunate to be trailing by only three points at the intermission mark, as their undermanned defense bailed out the other side of the ball. Chuck Clark’s 65-yard fumble return for a touchdown, forced by Marcus Peters, was the only way Baltimore managed to squeeze out points.
2) Bucking the trend
Although they faced a manageable three-point deficit after two quarters, the Ravens had previously lost their past 20 games when trailing at halftime — a statistic that didn’t bode well for their prospects of winning this game.
However, from the beginning of the third quarter on, we saw a completely different Ravens offense than the one fielded in the first half.
Baltimore quickly marched down into the red zone on the opening drive of the second half in just a few minutes of play. Unfortunately, the drive was flipped after Gus Edwards was stripped on a first down rushing attempt. On the next play, Marcus Peters gave the ball back to the Ravens offense via an interception of Philip Rivers — Peters’ second forced turnover on the game.
From there, momentum swung in the Ravens favor. Back-to-back touchdown drives of 10 plays and 14 plays, respectively, saw the Ravens take a 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter. The defense took the mantle from there, suffocating Indianapolis’ offense time and time again.
The biggest difference offensively was that Baltimore began to find their groove in the running game. After mustering just 18 yards on the ground early, Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins began to wear down the Colts front seven.
3) Lamar Jackson finds his groove
Jackson was far from the sole reason that the Ravens struggled offensively early on against the Colts. Aside from one turnover-worthy pass that was nearly intercepted, he connected on a handful of passes. Most of them, though, were screen throws to running backs or short completions close to the line of scrimmage.
With just 37 passing yards and 15 rushing yards after two quarters, it appeared Jackson was headed towards another subpar outing. This would have only spurred further concerns and narratives in the local and national headlines.
However, Jackson himself flipped a switch in the second half and ignited an impressive comeback effort, which we’ve rarely seen from him during his young career.
On the first possession of the third quarter, Jackson ripped off four consecutive completions of 9+ yards to move the Ravens in scoring position. Come the next drive following Peters’ interception, Jackson did the same with completions of 20 yards to Marquise Brown and 12 yards to Nick Boyle.
Jackson connected on all 10 of his pass attempts in the second half for 133 yards, but it was his scrambling and rushing that sparked Baltimore’s offensive turnaround. Jackson began to carve up the Colts defense with a handful of scrambles that gained 4-8 yards consistently, which aided in causing Indianapolis to reel.
His body language in the second half was night and day compared to what we saw earlier in the game. Jackson responded to adversity and played efficient, mistake-free football — which is exactly what the doctor ordered.
4) Strength of the wolf is the pack
Already missing their top defensive player in Marlon Humphrey and starting inside linebacker in L.J. Fort, the Ravens defense was dealt another blow on just the first drive of this game. Calais Campbell suffered an early calf injury and did not return.
So, missing key starters on all three levels, the Ravens were evidently at a disadvantage on the defensive side of the ball. How did they respond? With remarkable poise.
Aside from ceding an 8-play, 65-yard touchdown drive on the second Colts possession of the game, the Ravens defense was rock solid for the majority of the afternoon. Philip Rivers found some success through the air early, but the Ravens buckled down as the game progressed in a big way.
The Colts ran just four plays for one yard in the third quarter, and their next possession of 12 plays, 59 yards resulted in a turnover on downs. Matthew Judon brought pressure off the edge on 4th-&-3 and forced Rivers to throw the ball away.
After a nine-yard rushing touchdown by Lamar Jackson brought the Ravens lead to 11 points in the fourth quarter, the Ravens forced another quick turnover on downs on the Colts following possession, which all but closed the door on any potential comeback. The Ravens ceded only two third down conversions out of 12 tries from Indianapolis.
It was a strong collective showing and particularly impressive considering the absences of Humphrey, Campbell, and Fort.
5) History made
With just seven points on the board in the first half, thanks to the defense, the Ravens appeared primed to fall short of setting the NFL record for scoring 20+ points in consecutive games. Their streak at 30 games entering Week 9, which tied the Broncos record from 2012-14.
However, the offensive turnaround in the third and fourth quarters saw Baltimore break the 20-point threshold with ease — breaking Denver’s previously-held record. It’s an impressive feat that probably won’t be talked about much in the national news cycle, but deserves to be commended nonetheless.
Scoring in such high figures a consistent basis can be difficult regardless of opponent, but the Ravens seemingly find a way to do so week in and week out. The defense and special teams of the Ravens deserve credit for keeping this streak alive this season.
Had Chuck Clark not returned the fumble for 65 yards and a touchdown in this game, the Ravens finish with 17 points instead of 24 (just based on the final point total). Additionally, rewind to Week 3 against the Chiefs and the Ravens score just 13 offensive points — but wound up finishing with 20 total thanks to Devin Duvernay’s kickoff return touchdown.
We’ll see if the Ravens can continue stacking games onto the record next week and beyond.