In Week 8 of the 2023 regular season, the Baltimore Ravens were back on the road and came away from their interconference matchup against the Arizona Cardinals with a 31-24 win in a game that wasn’t as close as the final box score suggests.
In a game that they were heavily favored to win, the team was able to play complementary—albeit sloppy at times— football thanks to some of their less-heralded players on both sides of the ball.
This article highlights the players whose performances flew under the radar but were still clutch — the unsung heroes.
WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Even though the three-time Pro Bowl wideout wasn’t able to haul in any of his four targets on Sunday, three of them resulted in first downs anyway as he drew a defensive holding and two pass interference penalties. The first was a 19-yard pass interference on the Ravens’ first possession of the game that moved the ball from the Arizona 27-yard line to the eight-yard line, and the offense would score two plays later. The second was defensive holding that gave the offense a fresh set of downs on the opening possession of the second half. The third was a 16-yard penalty from inside the red zone late in the fourth quarter that moved the ball from the Arizona 17-yard line to the one-yard line and the Ravens scored on their very next play.
“They know he’s No. 3, and they do not want to give up a completion to him,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s being covered that way, and he draws two huge defensive pass interference calls. Now, Odell and Lamar [Jackson] and all of us want those to be catches, but pass interference is the same as a catch in this league – almost.”
The 10th-year veteran hasn’t had the first half of the season from a production or availability standpoint that he or the team had envisioned when they inked him to a one-year deal worth up to $18 million in April. He has recorded 14 receptions on 26 targets for 162 receiving yards and no touchdowns in six games but has still had a significant impact on the offense by moving the ball with a team-leading six defensive holding and pass interference penalties.
Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t scored a touchdown this season & was seen throwing his helmet out of frustration.— My Mixtapez (@mymixtapez) October 30, 2023
The Ravens have drawn seven penalties (DPI or Holding) in the season so far.
Six of them came through defenses trying to contain Odell Beckham Jr.
: Patrick… pic.twitter.com/Sba6UhNk31
CB Brandon Stephens
The third-year pro continued his dominant play on the outside for the Ravens’ defense against the Cardinals. He actually outplayed his three-time Pro Bowl fellow starter Marlon Humphrey, who was flagged once and got juked by his former teammate Marquise Hollywood Brown in the open field on a reception. Stephens was great as an open-field tackler and finished with the third most total tackles on the team with seven including six solos. He was excellent in coverage as well, notching a pass breakup and his second career interception on an overthrow. His timely turnover sparked the offense and gave them a short field to break the 7-7 tie with a swift seven-play touchdown drive late in the second quarter.
OG Kevin Zeitler
The 12th-year veteran interior offensive lineman didn’t just make history by becoming just the 17th player ever to beat all 32 teams in the league in the Ravens’ win on Sunday, he played an integral part in making it happen with high-level performance. Zeitler was part of the blocking unit that took over the game and racked up 102 rushing yards in the second half alone. According to Pro Football Focus, he didn’t allow a sack or single pressure and finished with a pass-blocking grade of 88.2 which was the fourth-highest mark in the league in Week 8.
Kevin Zeitler vs. the Cardinals:— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) October 30, 2023
88.2 pass-blocking grade (4th in Week 8)
0 sacks allowed
0 pressures allowed
FB Patrick Ricard
The four-time Pro Bowler also played an integral role in the offense’s overall success as a pass and run blocker. Ricard can be seen making key blocks on several runs near the goal line and he even took out two Cardinals defenders on the same play when running back Gus Edwards’ scored his second touchdown from seven yards out. Each week he continues to prove those who doubted that he would have a role in the Ravens’ new-look offense wrong with his vital contributions.
WR Rashod Bateman
The third-year pro only had three touches in the game but two of them were pivotal plays on touchdown drives. His first went from a potential interception on an underthrown ball by Jackson to resulting in his longest reception of the season for 29 yards after he stole the ball away from a Cardinals defender. The big gain occurred on the Ravens’ first drive of the game and moved the ball from their 49-yard line to the Arizona 22-yard line.
Terrific job by Rashod Bateman tracking and then fighting for this underthrown ball (Lamar was hit).— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) October 31, 2023
Slow start to the season with some injuries but has started to flash a bit as a receiver/blocker. pic.twitter.com/sO5nraOntD
His second reception went for just five yards but was three-yards shy of first down and led to a field goal attempt. Bateman’s third touch was on a jet sweep handoff that he received to the short side of the field but he was still able to turn the corner and explode upfield for an 18-yard gain. It marked his first career rushing attempt and earned an additional 15 yards tacked on to the end of the play after he was shoved when already out of bounds. The crucial play moved the ball from the Baltimore 34-yard line to the Arizona 33-yard line and sparked the offense’s fourth and final touchdown drive of the game.
“It’s not something he’s done a lot. I don’t think he’s practiced it even that much, the ball handling of it, but to have him be able to do that,” Harbaugh said. “When he turned the corner and accelerated up the sideline, that was impressive, wasn’t it? He ran by a couple guys, and he really showed some burst there and got up the sideline. They actually hit him out of bounds [which] got us another 15 [yards], so it was a huge play in the game that ran time off the clock, got us down [the field] deeper and got us another score.”
RB Justice Hill
While Edwards had a career-best performance on Sunday, the fifth-year veteran had a solid and impactful outing as well. He finished with 65 scrimmage yards on four combined touches but did most of his damage as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Only 15 of his total yards came on rushes while he tied three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews for the team lead in receptions (four) and receiving yards (40).
Hill’s biggest play came on a 24-yard catch and run on a swing route two plays following Stephens’ interception late in the second quarter. It moved the ball into the red zone from the Arizona 43 to the 19-yard line and Edwards plowed his way across the goal line for the first of his three touchdowns four plays later.
P Jordan Stout
Similarly to Ricard, the second-year specialist plays a less glamorous position that doesn’t get its well-deserved recognition even when they are consistently performing at a high level, which is exactly what Stout is doing this season. Against the Cardinals, the 2022 fourth-rounder was the key to the Ravens winning the field position battle by consistently forcing Arizona to have to drive nearly the length of the field if they wanted to keep pace with his excellent punts.
Stout pinned their offense back at or inside their own 10-yard line on four of his five attempts in Week 8 and is quickly establishing himself as one of the elite punters in the league with his precise ball placement and superb hangtime that allows his coverage unit more time to get into position to limit returns.