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Ravens News 9/21: Unflinching Resolve and more

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Winners and Losers of NFL Week 2 - Rodger Sherman

Winner: Lamar Jackson

It’s always been about what Lamar Jackson can’t do, until he comes out and does it

The latest thing Lamar Jackson couldn’t do until he did it: beating Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who were 3-0 against Jackson.

Baltimore’s running attack was devastated by a slew of injuries early in the season, leaving just Lamar’s arms and legs against the world. Now, he had to rally the team out of a double-digit deficit against a team he supposedly couldn’t beat.

The thing is, he’s got a hell of an arm. He got one touchdown on this ridiculous jump pass that traveled over 20 yards in the air. Pretty much the only guy who can get that much power with zero feet on the ground is Mahomes.

In one night, Jackson did a pair of things he wasn’t supposed to be able to do—a big comeback win against the team he couldn’t beat. There are still, of course, other things he hasn’t done yet: He hasn’t led the league in most major passing categories, he hasn’t won a Super Bowl, he hasn’t shut everybody up about him yet. But the list is getting a lot shorter.

After Rousing Victory, Ravens Will Lean On Their Resiliency - Clifton Brown

It was another example that Ravens teams under Head Coach John Harbaugh are often at their best when the odds seem stacked against them. The Ravens had not been home underdogs since 2019, when they defeated the New England Patriots in another prime time matchup.

Underdogs again, the Ravens won again. In any situation, it’s always dangerous to count them out, and they fiercely believe the 2021 season is still filled with promise.

“Our team is strong. We’re together,” Lamar Jackson said after another display of his all-around talent. “That loss – that close loss in Las Vegas –feels like it gave us a little boost. It didn’t slow us down. We know where we can be at, and we showed a little bit tonight. We’ve just got to keep getting better…We’ve just got to stay focused, just keep doing what we’re doing, [and] we’ll be fine.”

“I’ve been on a lot of teams, and bad plays happen, and guys start, ‘Hey, this your fault,’ and start blaming,” Humphrey said. “Whether it’s [a] little or big fuss, there really wasn’t any fuss. We just kept saying the same thing – don’t flinch.

“I think it shows that we can play with anybody. When we play good, Baltimore Ravens football, we’re a tough team to beat. I think it’s extremely positive. Everybody has been counting us out, but we’re going to go out there [and] play hard – that’s what we did tonight.”

‘No missed assignments’: Ravens offensive line earns high marks in bounce-back game - Jonas Shaffer

“I thought they played really well together,” coach John Harbaugh said at his news conference Monday. “Really, no missed assignments. Communication was so good. Physicality was there. The game plan was really good. We had all kinds of different types of protections we were rolling through to take care of their blitzes that [Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve] Spagnuolo does, so they played really well together.”

“He did really well,” Harbaugh said of Cleveland, the third-round pick who was inactive for Week 1. “He stepped up in a game. You never know until a guy gets in a game and plays his first game, and he was very solid out there. Had a couple of really powerful, physical blocks, and his technique is still ... young, technique-wise when you watch him. But that’s only going to get better, too.”

Harbaugh said he expects Powers and Cleveland to continue their timeshare. “They both played really well. So, yeah, they should both play going forward. We’ll see where it takes us.”

Ravens’ Odafe Oweh’s big-time moments against the Chiefs show why his Penn State stats were so misleading - Bruce Feldman

But Oweh didn’t produce gaudy stats on the field. He had five sacks in 2019 but zero sacks in seven games in 2020. That triggered some doubt about how that freakish athleticism translated to the NFL. One NFL linebacker coach who had worked him out described him as “very tight-hipped” and “really stiff,” adding: “He could become a 15-sack guy or he could just as easily be out of the league in three years.”

An NFL defensive line coach I spoke to, one who also had studied Oweh’s tape beyond the stat sheet, said he saw Oweh differently and believed Oweh would be a major impact guy because he was a rare athlete and for how he played.

“I know he didn’t have any sacks last year, but he was still really disruptive,” the coach said. “He does things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. You watch their Indiana game, and he hit the quarterback, like, 10 times.”

“It’s a great system for him,” the coach said. “They really do a lot defensively and they can line him up everywhere. This is a guy who is faster than most of the safeties in the league, so he can make up for a mistake or a bad step. He can be a stand-up OLB and defensive end. Those guys have multiple looks and move their guys around. You are not concerned with an athlete like him in coverage either.”

Week 2’s biggest decisions: Ravens’ fourth-down call pays off; Giants too cautious? - Next Gen Stats

Baltimore clinches victory on fourth-and-1

FOURTH QUARTER: With 1:05 remaining and the Ravens (leading 36-35) facing a fourth-and-1 from their own 43-yard line, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson rushes for 2 yards.

According to the Next Gen Stats Decision Guide, the Ravens’ decision to go for it here was unequivocally the optimal call, by a difference of 24 percentage points in win-probability value. Converting meant the Ravens would win. If they hadn’t converted? Their win probability would have dropped to 33 percent. And if they’d punted the ball back to the Chiefs, the Ravens’ chance of winning would have been roughly 58 percent, assuming Patrick Mahomes and Co. would have gotten the ball back with under one minute left from deep inside their own territory.

But that only explains the outcomes. We also have to take into account how likely it was that Jackson and the Baltimore offense were going to convert on fourth-and-1 (the distance was 1.1 yards, to be exact, according to our ball-tracking data). In that situation, against the Chiefs’ defense, the Ravens had a 75 percent chance of gaining enough yardage for a first down. Taking this into account, the expected win probability of going for it was 82 percent. The difference between 82 percent (the value of going for it) and 58 percent (the value of punting) represents the difference in win-probability value of the two decisions. In the end, the numbers say it was a no-brainer. Jackson’s run kept the ball out of Mahomes’ hands.