The Baltimore Ravens faced off with the Los Angeles Rams in what ended up being a wet instant classic thriller that they came out on top of 37-31 in overtime to extend their winning streak to three in a row coming off a bye week. In an interconference clash that they were favored to win, the Ravens had an up-and-down day in all three phases but made game-winning plays in each as well.
Their defense looked out of sorts in the first half but played much better after halftime, with the exception of the final couple of drives. Meanwhile, the offense struggled with consistency but feasted on big plays in the first half and got into a better rhythm in the second. However, the most clutch play came from an unlikely hero on special teams.
Below are some of the top takeaways from the Ravens’ win in Week 14.
Ravens continue to find a way to finish
Closing out games was a problem this team struggled with earlier in this season and over the past couple of years. This marked their second game of the year that needed overtime to decide the victor and in the first, they came up short and suffered their first loss in Week 3 at home to the Indianapolis Colts. Sunday’s win over the Rams was by far their most thrilling win of the season and further proof that they are becoming a team that can consistently close out close games.
"Just a tremendous, amazing victory." pic.twitter.com/7scaArG0DB— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 10, 2023
“I just couldn’t be more proud of those guys, because it was mountains and valleys,” Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “There were peaks and there were lows in that game. It’s the National Football League in December against a very worthy opponent, and our guys just weathered all those storms – figuratively and literally – out there and found a way to make those plays to win the game at the end.
In Week 12 before their bye, it was the defense that came up with a clutch turnover in the fourth quarter to turn the tide in a close game against the Los Angeles Chargers and the offense closed it out in regulation with a late touchdown. Against the Rams, all three phases came up clutch and played major factors in the team’s victory.
The offense marched 75 yards down the field in 15 plays over the course of three minutes and 25 seconds to score the go-ahead touchdown with 76 seconds left in regulation. Even though the defense gave up several big plays including several back-breakers inside the final minute that allowed Los Angeles to force overtime with a game-tying field goal, they made several crucial stops to start the second half after a rough first and they forced a three-and-out to set up the game-winning play.
The Ravens’ special teams have been uncharacteristically inconsistent this year outside of their two specialist and long-snapper Tyler Ott. That frustrating trend continued on Sunday when an offsides penalty in the first half gave the Rams’ offense new life and they proceeded to march 55 yards in 12 plays and score a go-ahead touchdown. Poetically, the same player who was called for that costly offsides would become the hero of the game when it was all said and done.
With All-Pro return specialist Devin Duvernay out with a back injury in the second half, the Ravens turned to third-year pro Tylan Wallace—who had never performed the duties in an NFL game prior to this game—and in overtime, he rewarded their trust, and redeemed himself for his earlier mistake by taking a punt 76 yards for the walk-off score in exhilarating fashion.
TYLAN WALLACE ICES THE GAME ❗❗❗ pic.twitter.com/On4jjuacED— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 10, 2023
“The main thing for me, especially with the weather, I was just like, ‘I need to catch it first before anything.’ But, on that play, we had the return set up, and I was like, ‘This is a perfect opportunity to put the game away,’” Wallace said. “I just saw the crease, and I just took it outside. It just feels great to be able to make a difference in the game and help the team win.”
Lamar Jackson had another MVP performance
Somewhat lost in the thrilling ending of the game was the sensational performance of the Ravens franchise quarterback, who was electrifying with the way he consistently made plays with his arm and legs. He outdueled veteran Super Bowl-winning quarterback Matthew Stafford by throwing for the second-most passing yards in a game this season with 316 on 43 attempts and 24 completions and led the team in rushing with 70 yards on 11 attempts, most of which were brilliantly improvised and executed scrambles.
His three touchdowns through the air tied for the most he has thrown for in a single game season. More impressive than the sheer numbers themselves were several of the incredible plays that he compiled. He was aggressive downfield and completed the two longest touchdown passes of the season thus far. He stood tall and bought time in the pocket to deliver numerous dart throws including the late go-ahead in the fourth quarter and the two-point conversion attempt that followed.
Facing third-and-17 from the Rams’ 21-yard line with three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald bearing down on him, Jackson threw a laser strike of a pass to standout rookie Zay Flowers in the front of the end zone to give the Ravens the lead back.
To ensure that the Rams couldn’t win the game on a walk-off field goal, the offense stayed out on the field and opted to go for two to try to make it a three-point game. Jackson rolled to his right and after his first read was taken away with a defender wrapped around his lower legs, he connected with Flowers for the second time in as many plays for what would end up being a crucial conversion given that Los Angeles would force overtime on the ensuing possession.
TWO POINT CONVERSION IS GOOD ❗❗❗❗— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 10, 2023
Tune in on FOX pic.twitter.com/Ll4YfXMrsS
Jackson would’ve completed an even higher percentage of his passes had some of his targets not dropped the ball or stopped running midway through a route. Nevertheless, it was a vintage clutch performance by the former unanimous league MVP who is in the running again this year albeit in a much tighter race this time around. His lone mistake was an interception on an underthrown deep ball intended for wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who had gotten a couple steps behind the secondary.
“I wish I would have had those other few [deep balls],” Jackson said. “I feel like I was too excited, because I just saw [my receivers] flying, but I should have just kept my poise and delivered them like I did earlier on in the game and the game probably would have been over faster than [going to] overtime.”
Pass catchers continue to step up with Mark Andrews out
In the second game since they lost the three-time Pro Bowl tight end indefinitely due to an injury, the other weapons in the passing game stepped-up in a big way with several snags for big plays, touchdowns, and crucial conversions to move the chains.
All but one of Flowers’ six receptions went for first downs, veteran Nelson Agholor caught all five of his targets for 32 receiving yards including two back-to-back snags on the late touchdown drive, and both of Bateman’s receptions resulted in a new set of downs on the Ravens last drive of the first half that ended in a field goal. The two most productive pass catchers on the day were three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and second-year tight end Isaiah Likely who finished first and second in receiving yards.
Beckham Jr. led his new team against his former team with 97 receiving yards on four catches and 10 targets. He made several key grabs for first downs but his best play was the filthy double move he put on a Rams’ cornerback that got the safety to bite too and left him wide open down the field for a 46-yard touchdown. It marked his third score of the season as he continues to heat up for the Ravens during the second half of the season.
OH MY GOODNESS— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 10, 2023
LAMAR TO OBJ!!!!!!!
Tune in on FOX! pic.twitter.com/EhczPj5eeM
Likely was heavily involved in both halves of this game, unlike their previous game where he recorded all of his catches in the first half. In his second straight start and third of the season filling in four Andrews, he recorded season-highs in targets (seven), receptions (five), and receiving yards (83). The majority of his yardage came on a 54-yard catch and run where he was left wide open streaking down the left sideline and finished the play in the end zone for the Ravens’ first points of the game and his first touchdown since Week 17 of his rookie season.
That's Likely a TOUCHDOWN— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 10, 2023
Tune in on FOX! pic.twitter.com/f7E736rahA
“It was a fast motion play for me, and I didn’t really see anyone coming in motion with me,” Likely said. “So, I raised my hand, and I was like, ‘Throw it to me. Throw it to me.’ [Lamar Jackson] saw me and I said, ‘I’ve got to score on this one.’”
Defense has uneven overall performance but still made plays
The Ravens vaunted top-ranked unit gave up a season-high 410 yards of total offense, nearly allowed their first 300-plus-yard passer, and did allow their third 100-yard rusher of the season. However, they were able to come up with several clutch stops in the second half and one in overtime to help propel the team to victory.
Los Angeles opened the game with nine straight runs and marched all the way down to the Baltimore nine-yard line before inexplicably abandoning their ground game and having to settle for a field goal. They were dictating the pace of the game and dominating at the line scrimmage in the first half which allowed them to head into halftime with a 20-17 lead.
After some halftime adjustments, the defense came out much better in the second half and forced four straight punts, pitched a shutout in the third quarter, and allowed just 43 yards on the ground in the final three periods including overtime after giving up 85 in the first half alone.
“[Defensive coordinator] Mike [Macdonald] came to us on the sideline and was like, ‘They want you to hold onto to the blocks and what you need to do is shut them quick,’” defensive tackle Justin Madubuike said. “They were doing a lot of duos in the interior, trying to con the linebackers like ‘PQ’ [Patrick Queen] and ‘Ro’ [Roquan Smith]. He was telling us to make an emphasis on just shutting blocks and making tackles quick [on] the line of scrimmage, so that’s what we tried to do. That’s what we did.”
They got several key contributions from their front seven players, especially Madubuike who extended his consecutive games with at least half a sack streak, and All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith who led the team with 10 total tackles including two for a loss and a quarterback hit.
Their secondary had one of its roughest outings of the season with several players giving up big plays through the air down the field, particularly on the final two drives of regulation. The Rams were able to gash to the Ravens for two plays of 10-plus yards and three of 20-plus yards on a pair of late fourth-quarter drives to add on nine points and force overtime.
The Ravens won despite probably the secondary's worst game of the season.— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) December 10, 2023
Marlon Humphrey: 92 yards allowed in coverage, DPI
Brandon Stephens: 58 yards, 1 TD allowed
Arthur Maulet: 44 yards allowed
Kyle Hamilton: red-zone DPI
A big reason for some of the lapses in coverage and overall inconsistent play of their backend had to do with second-year safety Kyle Hamilton leaving the game with a knee injury. He returned briefly before exiting again and even though he remained on the sideline and was seen standing and walking, Hamilton did not re-enter the game a second time.
The 2022 first-round pick has been the best player on the Ravens’ defense this season and is quickly establishing himself as one of the best safeties in the entire league. His ability to impact the game in a multitude of ways from his hybrid slot defender role makes him the ultimate weapon and a nightmare for opposing offenses.
After the game, Harbaugh said that both Hamilton and Duvernay will be evaluated and they’ll know more on Monday. This situation is one to monitor closely given how much the sophomore breakout stat means to unlocking and unleashing Macdonald’s innovative plans of attack.