In a must-win game for their playoff hopes, the Ravens responded in Week 16 by defeating the Giants at home. Baltimore cruised to a 17-point lead at halftime and executed enough down the stretch to secure a fourth straight win.
It wasn’t a flawless performance by any stretch, but in a spot where the season was potentially on the line, the Ravens once again took care of business.
Some takeaways below:
1) In front of the 8 ball
One of the driving factors behind the Ravens offensive turnaround over the past three weeks has been their ability to not just start fast, but sustain drives during the first and second quarters. This trend continued against the Giants on Sunday in a big way.
Baltimore’s opening drive was nothing short of surgical. The Ravens drove 82 yards in 13 plays and scored a touchdown, but even more notable was the fact that they chewed over eight minutes off the clock in the process. During this span, the Ravens picked up five first downs (three passes, two runs) despite only having two plays gain more than 10 yards.
Jackson was a perfect 4-for-4 and capped off the drive with a six-yard connection with Marquise Brown in the end zone. After a quick three-and-out, the Ravens capitalized on good field position and marched back downfield. 10 plays, 65 yards in just over five minutes of play and a two-yard touchdown run put the Ravens up 14-0 in the blink of an eye.
Baltimore’s final two drives of the first half went 10+ plays and ended with field goals and while not touchdowns, they still served to give the Ravens a 20-3 advantage at halftime.
This marks the fourth straight game in which the Ravens have scored 20 or more points through the first two quarters, and the fifth straight game where they’ve led by more than a touchdown at halftime. Conincidentally, they have wound up winning all of them.
The Ravens are starting fast and finishing drives at a greater rate than they were several weeks ago.
2) Three-headed monster
The Ravens had the benefit of facing softer defenses in recent weeks. New York was likely to give them their toughest test since Week 12 against Pittsburgh, particularly in the rushing department — as the Giants entered this game with the league’s No. 6 ranked rush defense.
Against a more formidable challenge, the Ravens rushing offense continued its buzzsaw ways. As a team, the Ravens ran the ball 40 times and churned out 249 yards on the ground with two touchdowns. The Giants’ stout defensive line had difficulties containing the edge and the Ravens took advantage early and often.
Once again, it was a balanced attack between Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins and Lamar Jackson. Edwards narrowly led the team in both carries (15) and rushing yards (85), highlighted by a 32-yard scamper in the third quarter. To his credit, Edwards also caught two passes for 37 more yards through the air. Jackson rushed 13 times for 80 yards and Dobbins ripped off 77 yards of his own with a rushing touchdown for the fifth straight game.
With Mark Ingram now iced out of the gameplan in back-to-back weeks, Greg Roman has unlocked a productive and dynamic combination of Dobbins and Edwards in the backfield. It’s worked wonders for the Ravens offense, who have rekindled their same rushing prowess from 2019 — just essentially replacing Ingram for Dobbins in the equation.
3) Mark Andrews continues to dominate
After a Pro Bowl season in 2019, where he tied for second in the NFL in touchdown receptions with 10, expectations were high for Mark Andrews entering this year.
Like the passing game as a whole, Andrews’ first half of the season was up-and-down and fell short of expectations. Entering Week 9 against the Patriots, Andrews had only 297 receiving yards on the year and struggled with a handful of uncharacteristic drops.
However, during this latter stretch of the 2020 campaign, Andrews has returned to the dominant receiving threat we saw last season and has consistently been productive. Since Week 9, Andrews has five straight games with five or more receptions and 60+ receiving yards.
The biggest change has been him and Lamar Jackson finally connecting on chunk plays downfield with consistency, which were few and far during the first several weeks of the year. Over the past four games, Andrews has long receptions of 31, 39, 27, and 25 yards, the latter of which he recorded against the Giants today.
Against New York, Andrews was targeted 11 times (10 in the first half) and caught six balls for 76 yards, easily pacing the team in both categories. On more than one occasion, Andrews snagged the ball in tight coverage and moved the chains.
Jackson and the running game have garnered most of the headlines, but ever so quietly Andrews has been picking up steam for some time now. He remains the Ravens most reliable source of receiving production. As he goes, so too does the passing attack.
4) Pass rush coming to life?
The Ravens pass rush has been in the microscope among fans this season and has received criticism because of Baltimore’s lack of sack production, similar to last year.
Entering Week 16, the Ravens ranked middle-of-the-pack in the NFL as a team in sacks but were still near the top of the list in QB hits. This suggests that the Ravens have been able to get consistent pressure on quarterbacks this season but have struggled to finish plays — which there is some truth to.
After failing to bring Baker Mayfield down against the Browns in Week 14, the Ravens pass rush has come to life over the past two games. In last week’s win over the Jaguars, Baltimore racked up five sacks and seven QB hits. Against the Giants, they exceeded these totals by sacking Daniel Jones six times and recording 11 QB hits.
It was once again a group effort, as a handful of defenders got involved on the action. Jihad Ward, Justin Maduibuike, Pernell McPhee, and Matthew Judon each had a sack, while Chris Board paced the team with a pair of his own. Three of the team’s six total sacks came on one sequence in the fourth quarter, where Jones was brought down on three consecutive plays by Judon, McPhee, and Board for a net loss of 13 yards.
It’s fair to question how much of this recent development can be attributed to facing softer offensive lines. Regardless, it’s encouraging to see consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks from multiple sources — and even more encouraging to see defenders top it off with sacks.
In a press conference with the media earlier this week, Lamar Jackson wore a shirt that said “finish” in big letters on the front of it. When asked what the shirt meant, Jackson suggested it was the theme of the rest of the season for the Ravens and pointed out they failed to close out games earlier in the year.
He’s not wrong, as losses against the Steelers (Week 8) and Titans (Week 10) were games in which the Ravens led by a touchdown or more in the second half and wound up losing.
This is in the past, of course, all the Ravens can do in the present is focus on the task at hand. Heading into Sunday, that task was clear: win the final two games against the Giants and Bengals, and hope to receive help from outside sources to clinch a postseason berth.
Thanks to the Browns and Colts both losing in the early afternoon window, just minutes after the end of the Ravens game, Baltimore now controls it’s own destiny. If they win next week against the Bengals, they will make the playoffs no matter what happens (thank you, tiebreakers) . . .
The Ravens have “finished” games consistently during this recent hot streak. Now, they’ve put themselves in a position where if they do so one more time, the playoffs are in store.