Against the Colts on Monday night, the Ravens found themselves engaged in a thrilling, down-to-the-wire finish. This is a spot they’re already plenty familiar with this season and have come out on both the winning and losing side of these types of games.
It took a 19-point comeback effort in the second half to knock off Indianapolis at home and somehow, someway, they did it. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t perfect and early on, it was near-disastrous. And yet, the Ravens won their fourth straight game and improved to 4-1.
There’s no shortage of adjectives to describe what just unfolded. Perhaps these takeaways are better suited to explain.
Lamar Jackson re-inserts himself into the MVP circle
The Ravens’ offense gained 523 total yards on Monday night. Lamar Jackson accounted for just about 500 of them. That about sums up the story of this game, which is Jackson seizing control and leading the Ravens on a 19-point comeback.
Jackson’s goal-line fumble in the third quarter appeared to torpedo any potential comeback effort. The Ravens trailed 16-3 at the time and the costly turnover ruined a 12-play drive, to which the Colts promptly scored to extend their lead to 22-3. It was this point that Jackson and the Ravens’ offense officially woke up.
Three straight touchdown drives and back-to-back successful two-point conversions saw the Ravens tie the game at 25-25 with under a minute remaining. In overtime, Jackson swiftly completed six straight passes and rushed for 12 yards to march the Ravens down the field, capping it off with a game-winning touchdown pass to Marquise Brown.
In the second half and overtime combined, Jackson threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns — matching his total on the season — while completing all but three (!) passing attempts. Jackson’s 443 passing yards on the night represent a franchise-record and he added 62 more on the ground for good measure.
He sure did not look like a running back, nor did he look like someone who couldn’t throw the ball or play from behind. What he did look like, was an MVP.
There have been 4,017 individual games of 40+ pass attempts in NFL history.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 12, 2021
Lamar Jackson (86.0%) now has the highest completion percentage in any of those games.
H/T @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/u8oSBaJGUH
Another battle, another test . . . another conquer
Entering Week 5, four of the Ravens’ first five games came down to the wire and were decided by one possession. Last week’s win over the Broncos broke the trend. If anyone thought a matchup against a banged-up Colts team at home — in primetime — would be an uneventful game . . . you thought wrong.
The Ravens really dug themselves a hole in this game. They were completely lifeless offensively for the first two quarters. Then, when the offense began to pick up the pace, the defense seemingly could not get off the field and ceded chunk play after chunk play. This, compounded with untimely penalties and mistakes, had them deep in the gutter.
And yet, despite all the odds stacked against them, they prevailed. This is becoming the theme of the team’s season. For perspective, think about this . . .
Including tonight’s game, already this season the Ravens have: trailed in all but one game, overcome two double-digit deficits and won, gone to overtime twice and won off a game-winning, record-breaking field goal. All the while, they’ve had more players on injured reserve than any other team in the NFL.
All of these things considered, their 4-1 record through five games is miraculous.
Boomer sooner duo comes up huge
It’s no secret that the Ravens’ passing game goes as Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown goes. Sammy Watkins has been a valuable complement this season, but Andrews and Brown are the focal points. That only becomes more magnified if Watkins gets injured, as he did tonight — leaving the game in the second quarter.
There’s no erasing a 19-point deficit without Andrews and Brown leading the way in the receiving game, and both players were nothing short of stellar tonight.
Brown did not have a catch in the first half. Andrews had only a few. Over the final two quarters and into overtime, Jackson looked their way play after play; and his two most trusted targets delivered time after time.
23 combined targets between the two of them. Four combined touchdowns. Andrews catching a career-high 11 balls for 147 yards and adding two two-point conversion receptions. Brown catching a career-high nine passes and securing the game-winning score in overtime. You could not have asked for a better performance from your two best pass-catchers in that type of spot.
This is not to diminish the contributions of Devin Duvernay, Devonta Freeman and others, who all made timely catches as well. But the Colts’ defense had no answers for Andrews and Brown down the stretch and they made catch after catch when it mattered most.
Not all heroes wear capes
Jackson will garner the headlines from tonight and rightly so. However, Calais Campbell made arguably the biggest play of the game. Without his blocked field goal in the fourth quarter, the Ravens’ comeback effort almost certainly falls short.
The Ravens had just put together a quick 78-yard touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 25-17 but the Colts responded by moving the ball into scoring territory. If Rodridgo Blankenship nails home his field goal try, the Ravens then trail by 11 points with just over four minutes remaining and no timeouts.
Campbell’s swim move and block on the field goal attempt was Baltimore’s lifeline. It kept the game at one-possession and afforded the Ravens the opportunity to even things up with a touchdown and two-point conversion. Blankenship helped the Ravens shortly after by missing a game-winning try, sure, but don’t overlook Campbell’s play.
Campbell has been a beast this season but has not necessarily had a game-breaking play until tonight. He came up huge in a gigantic spot on Monday night.
Maddening slow starts continue
Now for some of the not so good. The Ravens’ offense has not been a fast-starting one this season. Entering Week 5, they had not scored on an opening drive through the first four games. They scored just 14 combined first quarter points in Weeks 1-2 and went scoreless in the first quarter against both the Lions and Broncos.
This problem went from bad to worse against the Colts. They punted on the first four drives of the game, did not convert a third down attempt through the first two quarters and entered halftime with only three points. All of their failed third down conversions were third-and-short tries, too, where they needed five yards or less to convert.
The Ravens were fortunate to only be trailing by a touchdown at halftime given how flat their offense was. They had 144 total yards at the break and 80 of them were gained on one drive in the second quarter. They put themselves behind the 8 ball and started the game in a touchdown deficit for the third time this season.
In the first half, everything felt tight and condensed offensively. Designed counter and read-option runs were sniffed out and the Ravens did not push the ball downfield at all. When they went up-tempo in the second half and unlocked the playbook, perhaps by necessity, everything changed.