In their second primetime game of the season, the Baltimore Ravens overcame a slow start to prevail in Tampa Bay, defeating the Buccaneers by a score of 27-22. It was a tale of two halves for the Ravens, who sleepwalked through two quarters before doubling the opponent’s score in the second half.
This marks the first set of back-to-back wins for the Ravens this season, and they now improve to 5-3 and retain their hold on the division lead. Let’s break down some key takeaways from Thursday night’s action.
The offense figures it out
The Ravens’ offensive performance in the first half of this game was, to put it frankly, ugly.
Aside from a field goal in the opening minutes, which was gifted by a Buccaneers’ muffed punt, they punted four times, turned the ball over on downs, and had a field goal try blocked at the end of the second quarter. Lamar Jackson was sacked three times and the Ravens had three runs for negative yardage. On top of that, two back-to-back penalties for 30 combined yards ruined a potential scoring drive in the second quarter.
Come the third quarter, a switch was flipped and it was much-needed. The Ravens corrected their uneven run-pass balance through the first two quarters (30 pass attempts) and finally began capitalizing in the red zone. Back-to-back touchdown drives of 80 and 77 yards saw them run the ball 12 times compared to six pass attempts.
That momentum carried into the fourth quarter. Another nine-play, 83-yard drive ended with a 15-yard end around touchdown run by Devin Duvernay. In three straight touchdown drives, the Ravens gained 14 total first downs while Jackson completed eight straight throws.
They unlocked a rhythm that was completely absent in the first half and frankly missing over the past few games, too. And, it came without the services of their top two pass-catchers in Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman, who exited early and did not return.
Complimentary playmakers come up big
To that last point, you might think a scenario with no Andrews nor Bateman in the lineup would spell doom-and-gloom for the Ravens’ offense. Despite the uphill battle, Jackson and company weathered the storm, leaning on the contributions of secondary offensive playmakers to do so.
Summer standout Isaiah Likely stepped up with an expanded workload in Andrews’ absence. The rookie tight end immediately became Jackson’s go-to target and resembled the budding star we saw in training camp and the preseason. Three of Likely’s six receptions came in the second half and went for gains of 17, 10, and 16 yards. His 10-yard, toe-tapping touchdown catch in the back of the end zone gave the Ravens their first lead of the game.
Demarcus Robinson also caught six passes, all but one in the first half, for 64 yards and had a key first down conversion late in the third quarter. Robinson gained 15 yards on a quick screen pass and the Ravens scored two plays later. Meanwhile, Devin Duvernay turned five second-half touches into over 60 scrimmage yards and a touchdown.
The Ravens also got seven combined catches from Kenyan Drake and James Proche II. Jackson was essentially forced to spread the ball out with no safety blanket in Andrews or big-play threat in Bateman. While there wasn’t a ton of chunk plays downfield, the quick-throw passing game with everyone involved unlocked momentum and the results were positive.
It certainly helped, too, that they were able to gain over 200 total yards on the ground as a team. Gus Edwards had 65 rushing yards, Drake rushed for 62, while Jackson, Duvernay and Justice Hill added 43, 33 and 28 ground yards, respectively.
Clamping down after a slow start
For the second straight game, the Ravens’ defense allowed a touchdown on their opening drive after previously not doing so through six weeks. It took the Buccaneers just eight plays to go 75 yards and score, aided by a 44-yard catch from Chris Godwin and a Marcus Peters’ holding penalty in the end zone.
Then, Tampa Bay used a 10-play drive on their next possession to take a 10-3 lead with a field goal from Ryan Succop. With a quick three-and-out from the Ravens’ offense on the next possession, it seemed like things might get ugly fast for Baltimore. Much like last week, though, the Ravens’ defense responded and buckled down.
They forced back-to-back three-and-outs and thwarted a potential scoring drive just before halftime, thanks to consecutive sacks from Justin Houston. To keep the Buccaneers at only 10 points through two quarters, during a dreadful stretch from the Ravens’ offense, was paramount.
Then, as the offense found their groove and scored back-to-back touchdowns to open the third quarter, the Ravens’ defense again forced two punts in a row and held the Buccaneers to a field goal early in the fourth quarter. That’s the type of balance and consistency between both sides of the ball the Ravens have been badly missing.
We could have talking about a much more impressive defensive performance, too, if the Ravens were able to corral any of their three dropped interception chances.