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Ravens News 10/19: Purple Heart and more

Los Angeles Chargers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Ravens make young season’s loudest statement in 34-6 throttling of Chargers - Judy Battista

One week after Jackson set a franchise record with 442 yards passing, he helped lead a rushing attack that rolled up 187 yards, poking hole after hole in the Chargers’ defensive philosophy that it is OK to give up rushing yards. That works if the defense can also disrupt the quarterback. But the Chargers could not do that with enough frequency against Jackson. And by the time they did it, the Bolts were already in a two-touchdown hole early in the second quarter. The first touchdown drive of the day underscored Los Angeles’ woes. Baltimore ran to the edges for most of the march, which included 62 rushing yards, but on the 14-yard touchdown run, Latavius Murray — signed after the rash of injuries — ran untouched straight up the middle. On the Ravens’ second drive, they cruised 74 yards over eight plays, never facing a third down, with Le’Veon Bell — another free-agent RB added in September — ultimately waltzing around the right edge for an easy touchdown.

Even more startling — and alarming to future opponents — was Baltimore’s defense, which made those plays on third down. The unit entered the game tied for 28th against the pass, but it held Justin Herbert to just 195 yards on 22 completions.

“Third-and-long is a lot better than third-and-medium — and a lot, lot better than third-and-short,” Harbaugh said. “So, if you can get them in third-and-medium or third-and-long, that’s the goal.”

Observations from the Ravens’ win: Josh Bynes finds his way home, what’s next at RB and a weekly advantage - Jeff Zrebiec

“I love this place,” Bynes said Sunday. “My heart is through and through purple.”

The Ravens’ 34-6 throttling of the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday featured the defense’s best performance of the season. It also coincided with defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s decision to insert Bynes, a healthy scratch in the previous game, at the middle linebacker spot and move struggling Patrick Queen to the weak side.

Bynes finished the game with six tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass defended. His impact, though, went beyond the statistics. The Ravens defense played with more poise. Guys were where they were supposed to be. Receivers weren’t consistently running free through the middle of the field. The tackling was better and so, as safety DeShon Elliott pointed out, was the communication.

“It just settled everybody into a good place where they could take a deep breath and just play football,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “The tackling was better. The assignments were better. The fits were better. Everything was just more settled down.”

That included Queen, who only played 19 snaps because he sustained a thigh injury in the first quarter. It was a limited sample size, but Queen at least looked to be playing fast and was involved in three tackles in limited action.

Ravens ‘Nearing Resolution’ With Ronnie Stanley - Ryan Mink

After suiting up in Week 1 in Las Vegas, Stanley has sat out the past five games. The Ravens didn’t place him on injured reserve as Stanley reportedly visited a doctor to examine his surgically repaired ankle from last year’s season-ending injury.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport’s report on Sept. 29, the plan after the doctors visit was for Stanley to rehab for a “couple weeks with hopes of returning sooner than later.”

Harbaugh was asked Monday whether there’s been any resolution with Stanley.

“I think we’re nearing one, but I don’t have anything to announce at this time,” he said.

Harbaugh said that “both tackles were phenomenal” Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, as Alejandro Villanueva and Patrick Mekari gave up a combined one sack and two pressures. Chargers edge Joey Bosa had his lowest-graded game of the season, per Pro Football Focus.

The question becomes what would happen when/if Stanley does return to the field. That would bump Villanueva out of the left tackle spot, but would he return to right tackle, where he had a tough time in Week 1 against the Raiders, or would Mekari remain in that spot?

Harbaugh had strong praise for the job Mekari has done this season, even after shifting from the interior of the offensive line to right tackle.

“I’ve seen a guy that’s just playing the position, really, in all honesty, about as well as you could expect it to be played. I mean, he’s getting the job done,” Harbaugh said.

Who Has the Edge in the NFL MVP Race a Third of the Way Through the Season? - Steven Ruiz

Team Value

If it wasn’t already clear before the 2021 season, it is now: Lamar Jackson makes the Ravens offense viable—not the other way around. When Jackson won the MVP award in 2019, there were still some naysayers who believed his success was the product of a stellar supporting cast and play-calling that was custom built for his strengths and weaknesses as a passer. Those arguments can no longer be made. The Ravens offensive line has devolved into a mediocre unit; the (already underwhelming) skill group has been living out the NFL’s version of a Final Destination movie over the past two months; and it appears offensive coordinator Greg Roman is calling the same passing plays he was a decade ago. Yet the Ravens offense ranks fourth in success rate and eighth in EPA, according to RBSDM.com. That’s all Lamar.

We spent the offseason worrying about Baltimore’s passing game, and for good reason. The receiving corps was upgraded during the offseason, but those upgrades were two rookies and a past-his-prime Sammy Watkins. On paper, this still looked like an offense that would be powered by the run game. But so far this season, the Ravens passing game ranks higher in EPA and success rate than the running game, according to RBSDM.com. And the gap would be much larger without Jackson’s rare mobility supercharging the ground attack. The Ravens rank sixth in total EPA on quarterback runs. On runs by any other position, they fall to a pedestrian 15th, according to Sports Info Solutions. Roman has adjusted to this new paradigm, increasing his pass calls on early downs by a significant margin over Jackson’s first two seasons as the starter.

Bengals Open as Big Underdogs in Week 7 Matchup Against Ravens - James Rapien

The Bengals crushed the Lions on Sunday to improve to 4-2, but their biggest test of the season [so far] is waiting for them in Week 7.

Cincinnati travels to Baltimore to play Lamar Jackson and the Ravens with first place in the AFC North on the line.

The Ravens opened as 6.5-point favorites over the Bengals this week according to the SI SportsBook. The over/under for the game is 47.

Baltimore has won five-straight games over Cincinnati dating back to 2018.