The Baltimore Ravens won their home opener over Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in a second straight instant classic that might rival last week's loss to the Las Vegas Raiders for 'Game of the Year' honors. This piece will highlight players who flew under the radar on Sunday night, the unsung heroes.
WR Sammy Watkins
Heading into this matchup, the veteran wide receiver was highly motivated to help the Ravens beat his former team. He didn’t get off to the best start, his slip on the Ravens’ third offensive play from scrimmage led to a 34-yard interception for a touchdown by safety Tyrann Mathieu.
Watkins had another miscue later in the game when he let a perfectly placed pass from Lamar Jackson bounce off his hands for an ugly drop. However, just like his quarterback and cohorts on defense, he bounced back in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to make a crucial play.
The fourth-down decision that will go down in Ravens lore forevermore would’ve never come to fruition without Watkins contribution on the previous play. Facing a third-and-7 from their own 37-yard line, Jackson dropped back to pass and hit Watkins for a six-yard gain that set up the famous fourth-and-1 “Go for it!” scenario. He finished the game with four receptions on seven targets for 44 yards, with no catch being as crucial as his last.
CB Anthony Averett
The fourth-year cornerback played a prominent role in Defensive Coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale’s plan to limit the impact of Chiefs’ All-Pro receiver Tyreek Hill. Despite the speedy wideout’s small stature, keeping him bottled up is easier said than done.
Averett’s most impactful play came on a key third down in the fourth quarter as the Ravens were trying to rally back to take the lead after trailing for nearly the entire game.
The Chiefs were approaching midfield and facing a third-and-9 when Mahomes tried to complete an outbreaking route to Hill on the right sideline. Averett was in tight coverage on Hill and was able to swat the ball away as it arrived for a clutch pass deflection that forced Kansas City to punt on the next play.
Anthony Averett one on one against Tyreek Hill in the slot?— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) September 20, 2021
No problem. Blanketed. pic.twitter.com/m69DfbBfof
This play proved to be the timely defensive stop that the Ravens desperately needed as they went on to score the go-ahead touchdown on their ensuing drive. Averett finished the game with four total tackles and held up well in coverage for most of the night.
RB Latavius Murray
The veteran running back has only been on the roster for less than two weeks but has already scored a touchdown each of the Ravens’ first two games. While he doesn’t possess the same burst or efficiency running into loaded boxes as Gus Edwards, he’s filled the short-yardage and goal-line battering ram duties admirably.
In addition to plowing through a host of Kansas City defenders on his five-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14-14 in the second quarter, Murray also picked-up key drive extending first downs on a third of his carries. He finished with 36 rushing yards on nine carries, which was the third most on the team.
After a horrendous outing against the Raiders in the season opener, it was gut-check time for the Ravens’ offensive line heading into this game. Despite losing Tyre Phillips to short-term injured reserve and All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley missing the game to have his surgically repaired ankle evaluated, the makeshift unit rose to the occasion and answered the call with an impressive performance.
Their blocking paved the way for the Ravens to pull off the upset with 251 yards and four scores on the ground. They also vastly improved in pass protection from a week ago and kept Jackson clean enough to complete 18-of-26 passes for 239 yards and one touchdown to two interceptions.
Unbalanced elephant package power left for the WIN!— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) September 20, 2021
Zeitler with a game winning kick out on his pull. A+++++
Villanueva clears the down block WAY out. pic.twitter.com/nlU8Fn8qbO
One member of the starting unit that was under the most intense outside scrutiny in the aftermath of the Raiders loss was veteran Alejandro Villanueva. His regular-season debut at right tackle was as bad of an outing as a tackle could have, but with Stanley out he returned to his natural position on the blindside and was the highest-graded player on the team according to Pro Football Focus.