The Baltimore Ravens were on the brink of falling victim to the proverbial trap game just one week after winning their home opener over Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. However, a record-breaking 66 yard field goal by future Hall of Fame kicker Justin Tucker saved the day and gave them their first win on the road over the Detroit Lions, 19-17. This article highlights the players whose performances and/or key plays flew under the radar on Sunday afternoon, the unsung heroes.
WR Sammy Watkins
For the second week in a row, the veteran wideout came up with an incredibly clutch catch to set up the game-winning play. With the offense facing fourth-and-19 from their own 16-yard line with no timeouts left, the chances of the Ravens pulling out the win seemed slim to none after Lamar Jackson lost a total of nine yards on the drive.
In the face of painstaking adversity, Jackson launched a 36-yard heave to Watkins who had found a soft spot in Detroit’s prevent coverage down the left sideline. Instead of instinctively getting out of bounds like most offensive skill players are coached to do in those situations, Watkins fought for an extra couple yards, much to the chagrin of many of the fans watching from home as well as the select few in attendance.
We’re all losing our minds about that #NFL record breaking field goal from Justin Tucker, and rightly so.— Nic Mason (@British_Raven19) September 26, 2021
But, let’s not forget this equally breathtaking play from Lamar Jackson to find Sammy Watkins. #RavensFlock pic.twitter.com/yMce96M09r
While his actions after the catch seemed controversial at the moment, it ultimately turned out to be a heads-up play by the veteran because the Ravens didn’t pick up another yard on the next play. He was able to provide every inch needed for Tucker to bounce his historic boot off the crossbar and through the uprights. Who knows how the ball might have bounced had he not fought for as many yards as he did.
Through the first three games of the season, Watkins has already established himself as one of Jackson’s most trusted and reliable targets in the passing game when he needs a play made through the air. In years past, that designation or trust factor appeared to mostly belong to Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews. Thankfully times are changing and the former league MVP has at least one more pass catcher he consistently has faith in to make a crucial reception when they need it most.
S Chuck Clark
The veteran safety has been the rock and most consistent performer in the Ravens’ suddenly shorthanded secondary through the first three games of the season. Against the Lions, he had another stellar game that was lost in the disappointment of the defense letting up yet another double-digit lead to a team they were favored to beat comfortably.
Clark finished with a team-leading and game-high 12 total tackles, nine of which were solo, and one for a loss. He also recorded a quarterback hit and his first sack of the season on a safety blitz for a 12-yard loss that forced the Lions to punt.
"Chuck Clark keeps storming in!"— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 26, 2021
Tune in on CBS! pic.twitter.com/48Au5jFPYO
He was the Ravens’ best open-field tackler on a day where that continued to look like a glaring issue on the unit as a whole, especially in the second and third levels. Clark made a clutch tackle on Lions running back D’Andre Swift on a third-and-5 in the first quarter to stop him a yard shy of moving the chains. Detroit was going to go for it on fourth-and-1 but a false start backed them up five yards and they failed to get the Ravens to jump offsides before ultimately deciding to punt.
Clark can be credited for the collective effort that effectively neutralized Lions’ Pro Bowl tight end TJ Hockenson who is their top target in the passing game. The 2019 first-round pick is still their leading receiver through the first three games of the season but was only targeted twice and held to just 10 yards,
The Ravens nearly came away with a turnover on the play before Clark logged his sack when he hit the arm of Swift as he attempted to throw a ball that was pitched to him back to Goff. Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser who is usually sure-handed uncharacteristically dropped the layup interception that he easily would’ve taken into the end zone for the defense’s first score of the season.
DT Justin Ellis
With starting nose tackle Brandon Williams out on the COVID-19/reserve list, the eight-year veteran stepped up big time and performed better than expected. Ellis played with a lot of power, hustle, and tenacity as both a run defender and interior pass rusher.
He finished with two solo tackles and had an impressive pressure on Jared Goff that had the potential to be his first full career sack and first of the season. Ellis helped six-time Pro Bowler Calais Campbell form a nearly impenetrable wall in the middle of the defense as the majority of the Lions’ yardage on the ground came on off-tackle runs.
CB Tavon Young
The veteran slot corner appears to be regaining his pre-injury form after another solid outing where he made a handful of plays against the Lions following his bounce-back game against the Chiefs last week. He fared well in coverage but his most impactful play came as a pass rusher where he brought down Goff for a 13-yard loss on a perfectly executed and well-timed blitz.
2-5 is LIVE!— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 26, 2021
Tune in on CBS! pic.twitter.com/0gQJqtcfZh
The play drove Detroit out of Baltimore territory and ended a drive in the second quarter that looked promising when it started. Young finished the game with three solo tackles including one for a loss and logged a quarterback hit.