Well that was . . . something.
The Ravens defeated the Lions on Sunday in dramatic fashion, escaping Detroit with a 19-17 victory. Despite leading by multiple scores at halftime, it took some incredible late-game heroics for the Ravens to pull out a second-straight win.
All three of Baltimore’s games this season have been decided by one possession and these past two victories have come by a combined three points.
Some takeaways from another wild finish below.
Justin Tucker is one of one
This game started with Justin Tucker pushing a 49-yard field goal attempt wide right in the first quarter. It broke a streak of Tucker making 27 consecutive field goals on the road in the regular season. So, it goes without saying that this was uncharacteristic.
But of course, the game had to end with Tucker making up for it in the biggest way possible: setting a new NFL record with a 66-yard field goal to win the game as time expired. Did it bounce off the bottom of the crossbar? Yes. Does it matter? Nope.
As he’s done time and time again over the years, Tucker delivered when the Ravens needed him the most. He saved Baltimore in this moment from suffering a borderline disastrous defeat in a game that, frankly, should have not been this close.
The leg strength, the clutch gene — Tucker is in a class of his own. Of course the last time Tucker played in Detroit in 2013, he kicked a game-winner from 61 yards out.
Tucker is the king of the Motor City.
Don’t forget the throw
Tucker will make the headlines and deserves his flowers. However, it would be foolish to overlook what Lamar Jackson did just two plays earlier: delivering a 36-yard strike to Sammy Watkins on 4th-&-19.
There was roughly 1:00 left on the clock when the Ravens’ started the final drive of the game (with no timeouts). Jackson threw an incomplete pass to Duvernay but more importantly was sacked twice for a loss of nine total yards.
In almost the blink of an eye, the clock squandered to just 26 seconds and the Ravens needed 19 yards to convert a first down. The probability of converting a first down in this situation, let alone still win the game, was incredibly low.
Aside from an interception on the previous drive, Jackson was accurate and pinpoint throwing the ball for most of the afternoon. This throw, though, was the biggest of the game — and nothing short of phenomenal.
The “trap game” avoided
Anytime a team is facing a lesser opponent after an emotional, high-stakes victory, often in primetime, the matchup is immediately billed as a “trap game.”
There was optimism the Ravens would avoid this phenomenon heading into Sunday. As they led 13-0 at halftime and received the ball first in the third quarter, it felt like they were ready to cruise to a victory. Instead, they stalled down the stretch and allowed the Lions to mount three consecutive scoring drives to take a late lead.
It felt ridiculous that the Ravens found themselves in a desperate situation late in the game at all. They squandered numerous opportunities to step on the gas pedal in the first half, which eventually came back to bite them.
Marquise Brown dropped three crucial passes: two would-be touchdowns and another would-be long gain. Tyus Bowser dropped an interception that likely would have been returned for a pick-six touchdown. Tucker missed a field goal in a dome.
These are the types of things that happen in a typical “trap game” and the Ravens nearly succumbed as the latest victim. Fortunately, they were saved and escaped with a win.
Concerning defensive trends
The Ravens were shorthanded on the defensive line in this game, missing several contributors in Brandon Williams, Justin Houston, Justin Madubuike and Jaylon Ferguson. As such, there was some cause for concern that the Lions could find success running the ball in this matchup.
Detroit ran the ball with some success late in the game but the Ravens generally held them in check, as the Lions totaled just 97 rushing yards on 23 attempts for the game. Instead, the Lions’ offensive success in the second half was aided by the Ravens’ defense struggling to defend the middle of the field and tackle in space.
Baltimore held T.J. Hockenson to only two catches for 10 yards but had difficulty slowing down the likes of D’Andre Swift and Kalif Raymond in the second half. Swift made defenders miss in the open field as a rusher and receiver. He turned a number of short catches into longer gains, as did Raymond, in large part because of missed tackles.
The Ravens’ defense was dominant in the first half but allowed Detroit to manufacture three straight drives of 11 plays, 12 plays and nine plays for 17 total points. Through Week 3, now, we’ve seen some recurring issues with pass coverage and tackling in the open field.
This is an area the Ravens need to tighten up moving forward with some higher-powered offensive opponents on the schedule.
This was a strange game for the Ravens’ running backs. None of Latavius Murray, Ty’Son Williams and Devonta Freeman were particularly effective with their opportunities despite a favorable matchup on paper. The workload between them, though, was what stood out.
Murray led the group with seven carries, followed by Williams with five and Freeman with four. Through the first two weeks of the season, Williams looked to be easily the Ravens’ most effective and dynamic running back, totaling 142 rushing yards on 22 carries.
However, he was largely a ghost in this game despite seemingly playing the most snaps again. Williams only had 22 rushing yards with his five carries but it was puzzling to see him not factor into the game plan.
We know the Ravens prefer a by-committee approach, especially now given the makeshift nature of the depth chart. However, they seem hesitant to give Williams a consistent, sizeable workload — despite him being their best pass-catcher and most dynamic athlete at the position right now.
It seems as though it will be hard to get an exact handle on the Ravens’ backfield on a week-to-week basis.