It also helps that Jackson’s three touchdown passes were the most he’d thrown in a game since last year’s Week 9 overtime win over Minnesota, the point at which his 2021 season went south before ending prematurely due to injury. Per Next Gen Stats, his three touchdown passes of 20-plus air yards marked a single-game career high as his final scoring strike of the day was a 55-yard bomb to a wide-open Bateman for a 24-3 advantage.
Ultimately, the Ravens played well enough — especially on defense — to beat an inferior opponent in comfortable fashion, which is all you could really ask from a team that couldn’t run the ball, rested nearly all starters in the preseason, and is still waiting on the likes of Stanley, top running back J.K. Dobbins, and three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters to return to action. But unlike last year when the Ravens were already on such dangerous footing so early in the season, the good news is these players will be coming back. And while there’s no crystal ball to determine when — even if — they return to their pre-injury form, you’d much rather have them in the picture than out of the conversation entirely.
Score one for new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.
New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald will probably enjoy watching the film of this game, considering his group created two turnovers, held the Jets out of the end zone until the game’s final minute and held them to 2-for-14 on third down.
Overall, it was an impressive start at all three levels of the defense, especially up front.
The Jets, like the Ravens, have been scrambling at the tackle position, losing their presumptive starter (Mekhi Becton) and his replacement (Duane Brown) to serious injuries before the season began. That pressed them into their third-best option at left tackle, switching right tackle George Fant to the left side, and the Ravens’ defense was able to take advantage of the offensive line issues to harass 37-year-old quarterback Joe Flacco.
Justin Houston set the tone early, hammering Flacco to the turf on an incomplete pass, and Houston later recorded his first sack of the season and 103rd of his career.
The Ravens’ interior pass rush was also disruptive, a point of emphasis this offseason.
Defensive tackle Justin Madubuike blew up the pocket several times and finished with five tackles, matching a career high. Nose tackle Michael Pierce also spent a lot of time chasing his former teammate, finishing with three tackles and a quarterback hit. He also forced a fumble that the Jets recovered, but the fumble cost them a first down.
“We were moving our guys around, disguising quite a little bit, and I think [Flacco] had to hold the ball at times, too, which gave our guys a chance to get there as well,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Our guys pressed the pocket really well.”
Defensive lineman Justin Madubuike was probably the best Raven on the field with five tackles, a half sack, another sack that was negated by an illegal contact penalty and several hustle plays. “An All-Pro-level player today” is how defensive end Calais Campbell described Madubuike. Campbell added a sack, two quarterback hits and four tackles. Nose tackle Michael Pierce had three tackles and spent much of the second half chasing Flacco out of the pocket. Broderick Washington batted down a Flacco pass and had a sack wiped out by a Kyle Fuller holding penalty. Brent Urban also pitched in with 25 snaps.
“That’s what we aim for each and every week,” Pierce said. “That’s what we put on the board with (defensive line coach Anthony Weaver). That’s what Coach (John Harbaugh) expects out of us. Set the tone up front. Playing with guys like Calais, and you saw what Justin Madubuike did today, that’s how it goes.”
And it came on a day when the Ravens did not have third-round defensive tackle Travis Jones, who applied pressure throughout training camp, available because of a knee injury. With Jones back in the mix, which could happen within the next few weeks, this group should be even stronger.
Titles aren’t won in Week 1, but Ravens’ victory over Jets provides relief and momentum - Mike Preston
So, when the Ravens came away with a 24-9 victory before a crowd of 78,827 at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Harbaugh and players exhaled deeply. Not only was it over, but they won convincingly after struggling in the first half.
“We knew the Jets were going to be very physical, very tough, very emotional; that’s how they play. They fly around, they hit you, they’re a tough, physical team. They play very hard; they’re very well-coached. So, we were hoping to weather that first quarter as much as we could.”
“I feel like it was just us feeling it out, out there,” Jackson said. “We didn’t play in the preseason. I haven’t played in like six games last year — not much really. We’re just getting back into the swing of things. We played better, we came out better in the second half and started putting points on the board.”
For some of the Ravens, there was some vindication. The receivers have been maligned all preseason about being one of the worst groups in the NFL, and the lack of a pass rush has been a point of contention for years. But on Sunday, the Ravens sacked Flacco three times and hit him on eight other occasions.
Baltimore Ravens CB Kyle Fuller out for season with torn ACL - Jamison Hensley
“He got pushed off and just landed the wrong way,” Harbaugh said. “And the turf doesn’t usually give as much as grass. So that’s what happened.”
Fuller, 30, was playing in his first game for his hometown team. Ravens officials initially thought Sunday there was a chance that Fuller’s injury wasn’t serious, but tests Monday confirmed the ligament tear. Fuller signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with Baltimore this offseason.
Before the Sunday game, Peters was spotted running the stairs of MetLife Stadium.