Offensive struggles inside the 20 have overshadowed the defensive dominance inside the red zone since late October. After ranking 26th in red-zone defense through Week 7, the Ravens have allowed a touchdown on just seven of their opponents’ last 24 trips inside the 20. Regardless of the competition, that’s impressive.
It’s tough to believe Marlon Humphrey’s punch-out was just his second forced fumble since registering an NFL-high eight in 2020. That was one heck of a play by the Pro Bowl cornerback after the Falcons had converted a fourth-and-2 and were threatening to score.
Who knew the Ravens simply needed to bring back Sammy Watkins to register their longest reception since DeSean Jackson caught the 62-yard bomb in Jacksonville in Week 12? Then again, Huntley and Watkins connected for the clutch completion in the comeback win at Chicago last year.
Ravens Snap Counts & Grades vs. Falcons - Ryan Mink
Right tackle Morgan Moses had a second straight dominant game, earning the highest grade of any Ravens player with a 92.8 from PFF. Moses had a 86.4 grade last week and was particularly strong in run blocking for a second consecutive game. “His pulling has really been something,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s just really good at it.”
Fullback Patrick Ricard saw a heavy load, playing 85% of the offensive snaps after seeing just 56% against the Browns a week earlier. The 85% was his second-highest percentage of the season. Ricard had the third-best grade on the offense at 84.6.
Running back Gus Edwards had a monster game with 99 rushing yards on 11 carries and his 85.3 PFF grade, the second-best mark on the offense, reflected that. Edwards and Dobbins just about split the workload with 21 and 22 offensive snaps, respectively. Justice Hill, who became the team’s kick returner, dipped to just seven offensive snaps.
In his first game back in Baltimore, wide receiver Sammy Watkins got the start and second-most wide receiver snaps (17) behind Demarcus Robinson (28). DeSean Jackson had 15 snaps, though he was targeted twice compared to one target for each of the other two receivers. Watkins and Robinson made their targets count with a 40-yard grab and 6-yard touchdown. Harbaugh credited Watkins for making a play on the scramble drill and added, “He blocked really well. He was physical, and you could tell he was excited to be out there.”
Defensive Notes vs Falcons Week 16 2022 - Ken McKusick
Roquan was all over the field in a 15-tackle effort. He lost a sack to Madubuike despite forcing Ridder’s slide. He was regularly able to penetrate the OL on the Falcons wide-zone runs and collected some valuable clean-up tackles. He contributed to 2 drive-ending plays.
In terms of the stat sheet, Queen has only 1 primary tackle (S-6), but he had a number of important assists, had a PD in coverage, recovered a fumble, and was involved in 3 drive-ending plays.
Marlon commonly found himself in coverage of the Falcons top draft pick, Drake London. He had a big game by most measures but Humphrey tilted the balance with a big forced fumble to wipe out a 20-yard reception.
Brandon could have been picked on in this game, but Ridder’s most frequent target was London, who Humphrey shadowed. He was involved in 2 drive-ending plays and another which brought up 4th and 2.
Justin Madubuike was ready for the responsibility of leading the defensive front.
Madubuike’s third NFL season set up as a pivotal chapter in his NFL career. The 2020 third-round draft pick flashed the quickness to become a serious interior playmaker in years one and two but only here and there. The Ravens craved more. Older teammates told him how good he could be and urged him not to settle.
The 293-pound defensive tackle was already on track for his best NFL season, but the Falcons game presented him an opportunity to show how far he has come. Atlanta came to town with one of the league’s most productive running games and two of its best blockers in guard Chris Lindstrom and tackle Kaleb McGary. The Ravens would take on this ground machine without Calais Campbell, their most dependable interior lineman and one of those veterans who had urged Madubuike to chase greatness.
Would Madubuike step into the breach? He answered with seven tackles, third most on the team, piling up bodies at the line of scrimmage on some plays, ranging wide on others and adding a sack for good measure.
“I’m going to tell you what: He’s been playing great all year, to be honest with you,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been dominant, really. He’s twitchy, fast, powerful. [Madubuike] played great. I thought our edge-setters played great. You know who those guys are. I could name them all.”
Madubuike and his young linemates, Travis Jones and Broderick Washington, performed admirably without Campbell to buoy them. The Ravens, also aided by a stellar, 15-tackle game from Pro Bowl linebacker Roquan Smith, prevented explosive runs and kept the Falcons out of the end zone.
It can also be said that of all NFL coaches to have ever made at least 10 playoff appearances with one team, only Belichick, Cowher and Harbaugh have made the playoffs at a 66.7 percent or better clip. I know that’s a mouthful, but it cuts to a cross-section of longevity and consistency that is spectacularly rare to reach. It doesn’t necessarily clinch Harbaugh’s place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (even if Cowher is already there and Belichick will be joining him), but at the moment it presents the strongest argument for his future induction.
Detractors once attempted to suggest that the coach simply won because he had Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on his team. Ironically, I usually believe that coaches are about as good as the players on their team. But Harbaugh’s success has transcended all players. With Sam Koch’s retirement after last season, no single player has been there for all of Harbaugh’s playoff appearances. The standard has also transcended coordinators in all three phases of the game and even general managers. (Which also, of course, does not mean that those folks haven’t all played integral roles in creating the standard.)
Whatever your opinion of John Harbaugh might be, you can’t dismiss the rarified air he’s now reached. Ten playoff trips in 15 seasons is a staggering feat. The accomplishment deserves appreciation and respect.
And then in a couple of weeks we can start yelling about the organization’s offensive philosophy again.