The Ravens picked up right where they left off on Monday night against the Jaguars in Week 15, coasting to a 40-14 victory. Baltimore dominated on both sides of the ball from start to finish and rode robust offensive success to a third straight victory.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s impressive showing:
1) Ravens offense hitting their stride
During the Ravens rough midseason rough patch a few weeks ago, one of the most concerning trends was their inability to sustain offensive consistency. Between Week 8 and Week 12, the Ravens struggled to put together complete performances on offense.
Since putting the COVID outbreak behind them after losing to the Steelers three weeks ago, though, the Ravens offense has turned a corner.
Dating back to their Week 13 victory over the Cowboys, the Ravens have now scored 30+ points in three consecutive games. Playing against inferior defenses might have something to do with this but this recent string of production is encouraging nevertheless.
After scoring 34 against Dallas and 47 in last week’s win over the Browns, the Ravens poured in 40 more points against Jacksonville. The formula has been quite similar during this stretch and it involves running the heck out of the football, which Baltimore has done to a high degree of success.
This same formula drove the unprecedented production we saw from the offense in 2019 and Greg Roman has tapped back into it in recent weeks. The offense is peaking at the right time during the stretch run to make a playoff push.
The Ravens didn’t rush for 200+ yards against the Jaguars, as they did the previous two games, but J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards each averaged just a shade under 5.0 YPC. Success on the ground has sparked more efficiency and opportunistic plays in the passing game, too.
2) Lamar Jackson rounding into form
In conjunction with rushing success, perhaps the biggest reason for the Ravens offensive turnaround has been the play of a rejuvenated Lamar Jackson. Since recovering from COVID-19, Jackson has looked more and more like the MVP we saw in 2019.
His heroics against the Browns last week have well-documented. Jackson only threw for a shade over 100 yards passing against the Cowboys but dominated on the ground — as he also did against Cleveland. In today’s game versus the Jaguars, Jackson demonstrated a mixture of a bit of everything.
Jackson underthrew a deep pass attempt to Marquise Brown on the first drive of the game, which was promptly intercepted. From that point on, though, his accuracy was on point and he connected a handful of chunk gains. In the first half, Jackson completed seven throws that gained 10 or more yards, highlighted by a 28-yard strike to Marquise Brown and a 27-yard throw to Mark Andrews just two plays apart.
Jackson was pulled in the fourth quarter after just two second half drives. During this stretch, though, Jackson completed all but two throws and orchestrated back-to-back touchdown drives 10 plays and 75 and 86 yards, respectively.
On the day, Jackson finished with a stat line of 243 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air — while adding 35 yards on the ground a rushing touchdown. Jackson completed 17-of-22 attempts and earned a passer rating of 133.1. This marks his third-highest passing yardage total and his second-best passer rating of the season.
Jackson, along with the offense as a whole, appears to be peaking heading into the final two games of the year.
3) Taking care of business
Despite having a clear talent advantage on both sides of the ball against the Jaguars, who have just one win all season (which game in Week 1), there was some potential for a “trap game” here given the circumstances.
Short week? Check.
Coming off a high stakes, emotional victory? Check.
These are two factors that often lead to a team playing down to their competition but neither manifested into such for the Ravens. Jackson’s interception on the opening drive provided an early scare but just two plays later, Matthew Judon sacked Gardner Minshew in the end zone for a safety.
Four minutes and 22 seconds later, the Ravens were leading 9-0 after a 68-yard touchdown drive — capped off with a four-yard pass from Jackson to Miles Boykin in red zone. On the next possession, Minshew was sacked by Patrick Queen for a four-yard loss on fourth down and the Jaguars turned the ball over.
At this point, it felt as though a lopsided victory was inevitable.
The Ravens cruised to a 26-0 advantage at halftime and could have won by more than the 14-point advantage showed in the final box score. Good teams beat bad teams, but great teams often dominate them. Today, the Ravens fell into the latter category.
Every game from here on out is a must-win for the Ravens and it was encouraging to see them refrain from taking Jacksonville lightly at all.
4) Yannick’s revenge game
Since joining the Ravens via trade just before Week 7, the results have been mixed for Yannick Ngaouke. He’s enjoyed a steady role and healthy dose of playing time, and Ngaouke has been able to supply pressure on opposing quarterbacks with regularlity.
However, he’s had trouble putting the finishing touches on plays and has come up just short of a sack and/or forced fumble on a number of occasions. Positive regression was overdue and it felt as though this game, against his former team, was the perfect spot for Ngaouke to finally break through . . .
And break through he did.
On the Jaguars final drive of the second quarter, Ngaouke got loose in the backfield and sacked Minshew for a loss of eight yards, which set the Jaguars back after a 12-yard gain the previous play. Flash forward to the third quarter and Ngaouke was on the serving end of perhaps the key “nail in the coffin” moment of this game.
Jacksonville had drove 61 yards and were 13 yards away from the end zone when Ngaouke, on third down, used a spin move to sack Minshew for a second time and poke the ball loose. Derek Wolfe recovered the fumble and closed the door on Jacksonville scoring on back-to-back possessions.
This marked the 18th forced fumble of Ngaouke’s career — a figure representative of the disruptive force he can be when engaged.
5) Secondary players step up in the secondary
The Jaguars passing attack is nothing to write home about, but they do have some youth and talent in the receiving core. Players like D.J. Chark, Keelan Cole, Collin Johnson and Laviska Shenault have flashed high-level play at times throughout the season.
The same can be said for their quarterback, Minshew, who has demonstrated a knack for keeping plays alive and making something out of nothing. Against a banged-up Ravens secondary on Sunday, there was room for belief that Jacksonville’s weapons could make some plays.
The Ravens were down two of their starting cornerbacks in Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith, both of whom were inactive, as well as Davontae Harris — who had stepped into a larger role in recent weeks. Baltimore’s cornerback core featured Marlon Humphrey, Anthony Averett, Piere Desir, and Tramon Williams.
So, essentially one sure thing and three question marks.
Oddly enough, it was Humphrey who got thrown out more than anyone. Averett, who drew the start opposite Humphrey, rarely had his name called and made a couple of plays on the ball. Desir and Williams appeared to hold their own, too.
Jacksonville did little damage through the air until later in the second half when the game was already decided. Even when their receivers did make receptions, more often than not the coverage was tight and defenders were in good position.
The strength of the Ravens defense is their secondary, so it’s encouraging to see backups and recent callups from the practice squad step up when their number is called.