In Week 12, the Baltimore Ravens traveled to the West Coast for a Sunday night matchup in Los Angeles and returned home victorious after a 20-10 win. There were several encouraging performances by players on both sides of the ball of this AFC primetime matchup where they found a way to finish and avoid blowing another fourth-quarter lead.
Here are a few noteworthy performances from the team’s Week 12 triumph that warrant some spicy yet reasonably conceivable takes:
Kyle Hamilton should be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate
Even though the second-year pro didn’t lead the team in total tackles, notch one of the team’s three sacks, or force one of their four turnovers, he was the most dominant defender that suited up for either team on Sunday night. Hamilton made plays all over the field as he continues to show how he can impact the game in a multitude of ways during his breakout season.
The 2022 first-rounder recorded six total tackles including a game-high two for loss on a pair of wide receiver screens he blew up behind the line of scrimmage after shedding would-be blockers. He also shined bright in coverage with his best play coming on the Chargers’ third drive of the game where he lined up over speedy slot wide receiver Jalen Guyton and ran stride for stride with him in phase deep down the field to force an incompletion resulting in a third-and-long. On the ensuing play, he joined forces with defensive tackle Travis Jones to make a drive-ending tackle.
Kyle Hamilton does it all.— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) November 28, 2023
1. Runs through Keenan Allen's face to make TFL (too small celly)
2. Runs step for step (both at 19.6 mph, per @NextGenStats) with speedy WR Jalen Guyton and finds the ball on deep shot breakup
3. Fights off block for another TFL, this time on Allen pic.twitter.com/UGIimrHUoG
“He’s playing really really good football,” Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald said Monday. “He’s a special player and he can do just about anything on the football field and we ask a lot of him and we’re very excited to have him. He’s playing at a high level right now.”
Hamilton is already well on his way to being voted to his first career Pro Bowl and named to the All-Pro First Team with the numbers and impact he has had on arguably the best defense in the league. If he keeps churning out performances like he had on Sunday under a national spotlight, with the Ravens slated to play at least two more games in primetime, Hamilton could emerge as a dark horse candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
Current leading candidates such as Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns and Maxx Crosby of the Las Vegas Raiders are nursing injuries while others such as TJ Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Micah Parson of the Dallas Cowboys will be playing fewer primetime games down the stretch.
Jadeveon Clowney deserves an in-season extension
The Ravens have several players on both sides of the ball who are playing in the final year of their current contracts. However, none of them has been a bigger bargain than the 10th-year veteran who continued having a resurgent season on Sunday against the Chargers. The former No. 1 overall pick was a relentless presence off the edge and finished with three total tackles, two quarterback hits, a clutch strip sack and fumble recovery.
“That might have been the play of the game,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “That rush, that sack, that recovery, the whole thing was just a Hall of Fame type play.”
Clowney is on pace to set new career highs in both sacks and quarterback hits with 7.5 and 17 through 12 games with his previous highs being 9.5 sacks and 21 quarterback hits. The Ravens signed him to a one-year deal worth just $2.5 million during training camp ahead of the final preseason game. The 30-year-old hasn’t just far outplayed that contract but he is well-deserving of an extension. It’d be wise to strike a deal now before his price shoots up any higher. Since joining the team, he has gone on record numerous times about how much he loves being in Baltimore, with the Ravens who allow players to be their genuine selves and where defenders specifically are put in the best positions to succeed.
The Ravens should be working on Jadeveon Clowney’s contract right now. He’s has been a game wrecker the entire season..— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) November 27, 2023
Isaiah Likely needs to be more involved from start to finish
The Ravens’ first game without three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews in the lineup couldn’t have started any better thanks to the second-year pro who stepped up in his place. Quarterback Lamar Jackson was surgical on two of the offense’s first three drives and Likely was one of his favorite targets in the first half especially. Five of his team-leading six targets came in the first two quarters as did all four of his receptions. He finished as the leader in receiving yards as well with 40.
Likely displayed impressive run-after-the-catch ability, elusiveness, strong hands, and contact balance. He should have been heavily involved in the second half, especially since he was at his most dynamic after he got the ball in his hands with space to maneuver. The only screen they dialed up for him came on first-and-20 and nearly picked up a first down on an 18-yard catch and run. He showed tremendous athleticism and vertical leaping ability when he went airborne over a couple of defenders in an effort to fight for a first down on a separate occasion.
The successful tight end screen.— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) November 27, 2023
It's so dang beautiful pic.twitter.com/Q2r0Z3ccMk
There’s still no replacing Andrews and what he means to the Ravens offense but Likely proved that he can be productive in his own way when given the chance. Making sure he is featured in the game plan when they return from the bye week will likely be a priority for Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken and his staff.
“We’re lucky to have Isaiah and he did a good job the other night,” Monken said. “He’s going to continue to grow as a player. We just got to continue to figure out how we’re going to use the other pieces we do have.”
Ravens have the AFC North pretty much wrapped up
With their victory over the Chargers on Sunday night coupled with the Browns’ loss to the Denver Broncos earlier in the afternoon, the Ravens not only remain in the top spot of the current AFC conference standings but also have a 1.5-game lead in their division race. Cleveland is now tied with the Steelers for second place at 7-4 behind the Ravens after Pittsburgh barely beat the Jake Browning-led Cincinnati Bengals.
In addition to Garrett dealing with a shoulder injury that could impact his effectiveness, the Browns also had rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson leave the game early after he was blasted while throwing the ball on an extended play. They could be forced to start veteran PJ Walker when they travel to take on the Los Angeles Rams in Week 13. They also might consider promoting former Ravens franchise quarterback Joe Flacco, who signed to their practice squad just last week.
The Steelers have the easiest remaining schedule of the bunch and could still conceivably catch the Ravens if they were to falter down the stretch, making the season finale matchup between the two archrivals a final battle for the division crown. However, their offense still struggled to put the ball in the end zone against a highly susceptible Bengals defense despite recording their first game of 400 or more yards of total offense in 58 tries dating back to Week 2 of the 2020 season. Their defense is still solid and growing healthier, and they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker after upsetting the Ravens in Week 5, but the second meeting will take place in Baltimore where the home team will be looking for revenge and a chance to head into the postseason on a high note.
Justin Tucker losing most accurate title is not entirely his fault
There is still no question about who the best active and all-time kicker is, but the mantle of most accurate no longer belongs to the Ravens’ five-time First-Team All-Pro after he missed his fifth kick of the season and first from under 50 yards on Sunday. The fourth-quarter attempt from 44 yards out went wide left and prevented the team from extending their lead to 16-10 at the time. It also dropped his career successful conversion rate to 89.93 percent, pushing him back to second place all-time behind Atlanta Falcons’ Pro Bowler Younghoe Koo (90.0) for the time being among kickers with at least 100 career field goal attempts.
On Monday both Harbaugh and Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton talked about how the Ravens had to rush their field goal unit on the field several times during the game, including on Tucker’s shocking miss, but aren’t making any excuses for it either.
Special teams coordinator Chris Horton on the unit being rushed: pic.twitter.com/9V6g6JZTcQ— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 27, 2023
“I’m not making excuses for him. He’d never accept that. He’ll tell you he has to make them under any circumstance,” Harbaugh said. “Can’t afford to call a timeout there. I don’t know why they didn’t administer [the clock] like they normally do... It’s just a miss. He’s human, and I’m sure glad we got him.”
Tucker is currently on pace to have the lowest successful field goal percentage rate of his entire career with a mark of 80.8 through 12 games. Sunday’s miss dropped him to 21-of-26 on the season but prior to that, all four of his misses were from beyond 50 yards including one from 61 yards that came up just short in a torrential downpour. His others came on a 59-yard attempt in Week 2, a 53-yarder in Week 8, and 55-yarder in Week 10 that was blocked by a defensive lineman. For comparison’s sake, Koo is 22-of-23 with his lone miss coming on a 48-yarder in Week 3 and he has only attempted three kicks from 50-plus, and none were beyond 54 yards while Tucker has three.