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Overreactions to the Ravens’ Week 14 win over the Rams

Spicy yet reasonable takes following the Ravens victory.

Los Angeles Rams v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens played the most exhilarating game in Week 14 and emerged victorious with a 37-31 overtime win over the Los Angeles Rams. There were several encouraging performances in this interconference matchup, where they continued to find a way to finish and avoid a major letdown coming off their bye.

Here are a few noteworthy performances from the team’s Week 14 triumph that warrant some spicy yet reasonably conceivable takes.

Ravens have two No. 1 wide receivers

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a year makes! Last season, when the Ravens were making their push for plays, they were without starting quarterback Lamar Jackson. His backup, Tyler Huntley, was down to Demarcus Robinson, Sammy Watkins, James Proche, and a 36-year-old DeSean Jackson at wide receiver. They still were able to punch their ticket to the postseason but it was mostly on the back of a potent rushing attack and a dominant defense.

While their defense is still dominant this year and they have the league’s top rushing attack, the biggest difference outside is the vastly improved weapons in the passing game. Their most notable additions were made at the receiver position and the return on investment has been tremendous.

Sunday’s game was the team’s second since All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews suffered an injury. Against the Rams, three-time Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr. and first-round rookie Zay Flowers came up clutch on numerous occasions for Jackson and the offense. They both made crucial catches for key conversions and caught their third touchdowns of the season in big moments.

Beckham’s 46-yard touchdown in the second quarter was his longest score of the season and the result of a perfectly executed double move. It also gave the Ravens the lead back and swiftly answered a touchdown drive by the Rams. He finished as the team’s leader receiver with 97 receiving yards on four catches and tied for the team lead with 10 targets.

Flowers bounced back from a rough first half in which he had a pair of bad drops and was absolute money in the fourth quarter, catching four passes for 45 receiving yards including a 21-yard score and two-point conversion. That give the Ravens a late three-point lead with 76 seconds left in the game. He finished with six receptions — five of which resulted in first downs — for 60 receiving yards and tied Beckham Jr. for the team lead in targets.

In just one year, the Ravens went from having no true No. 1 wide receiver to having a pair of them. Flowers and Beckham Jr. are capable of being dynamic playmakers, coming down with crucial catches, and finding the end zone when the team needs it the most.

Their leading wide receiver in 2021 was Robinson, who led the position group with 75 targets, 48 catches, and 458 receiving yards in 17 games. Through 14 weeks this season, both Beckham Jr. and Flowers have already eclipsed 500 receiving yards and Flowers leads the entire team with 90 targets, 64 catches, and 673 receiving yards.

Kyle Hamilton-less secondary is worrisome

Los Angeles Rams v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Ravens dodged a major bullet on the injury front to arguably their most indispensable defensive player. On Monday, Head Coach John Harbaugh revealed that Hamilton avoided a serious knee injury in Sunday’s win and shared there’s a possibility that he might not miss any time at all.

While he declined to confirm the report that Hamilton suffered a Grade 1 MCL sprain, the fact that the 2022 first-rounder might be back as soon as Week 15 is the best news anyone could’ve hoped for. In Hamilton’s absence, the Ravens struggled to consistently stop the Rams’ offense from getting into scoring position. Therefore, this positive development is truly game-changing.

The Ravens’ defense gave up nearly twice as many yards per play when Hamilton wasn’t on the field (7.7) compared to when he was (4.1). His absence was especially noticeable on some plays where veteran slot corner Arthur Maulet gave up several catches for key conversions while defending wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

Hamilton likely wouldn’t have been able to prevent Marlon Humphrey from getting beat twice in back-to-back plays down the sideline late in the fourth quarter. Same goes for Brandon Stephens getting beat for a touchdown in the back of the end zone on the previous possession. However, he has been a lynchpin in Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald’s top-ranked unit all season.

Hamilton is the key to unlocking the multitude of ways in which Macdonald can scheme creative pressures and deceptive coverages. Without him, against the higher level of competition they’re slated to face down the stretch, they’d likely be in some hot water. But with him, they are well-equipped to stifle and shut down just about any offense in the league.

Keaton Mitchell still isn’t being used enough

NFL: DEC 10 Rams at Ravens Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The undrafted rookie running back has been an exciting spark plug for the Ravens’ offense dating back to his Week 9 breakout performance. However, he has yet to reach double figures in carries and only has one game in which eclipsed 10 total touches (Week 12 with 11 combined touches for 89 scrimmage yards). Mitchell is their most explosive running back and has shown he possesses a dynamic skill set. He has power and contact balance to run hard between the tackles, as well as the speed to bounce out the edge and erupt up the sideline.

Against the Rams, he led the Ravens running backs in carries (nine), total touches (10), rushing yards (54), and scrimmage yards (62). However, he was slightly out-snapped by fifth-year veteran Justice Hill (30-24), who is the preferred option in two-minute drills given his combination of pass blocking and catching skills.

Mitchell’s 27-yard run marked his fifth straight game with one or more plays from scrimmage of 20+ yards. He led the team in yards per carry with 8.5 despite the wet conditions on Sunday causing him to slip and or lose his footing. if not for that, he likely would’ve broken off more chunk runs including a couple that might’ve gone for touchdowns.

A natural game script can sometimes cause an imbalance when it comes to the run-pass ratio and the Rams game was a prime example. The Ravens threw the ball 43 times to just 26 combined carries — and some of those carries were originally passing plays that resulted in improvised scrambles. Still, Mitchell has shown that he deserves anywhere between 12-15 carries minimum, since it will more than likely lead to explosive plays.

As good as Hill is catching passes out of the backfield, the rookie should be utilized more in the passing game as well. His first offensive snap of the game saw him take a check-down pass eight yards for a first down but he only received one more target the rest of the game. It almost sounds like a broken record at this point, but Mitchell remains underutilized in an offense that sometimes falls into lulls for stretches in games. That puts pressure on their defense and allows the opposing team to hang around longer than they should.

Inconsistent run defense remains a concern

Los Angeles Rams v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Even though they tightened up after halftime and yielded just 43 yards on the ground in the final two quarters and overtime, the Ravens allowed over 120 rushing yards for the fourth time in their last six games. They appeared to have turned a corner heading into their bye week after they held the Los Angeles Chargers to 86 yards in Week 12, with 35 coming on one rush. However, they allowed the Rams to rack up 85 rushing yards in the first half alone, although 52 of them came on their first drive of the game.

“Mike 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.’ They were doing a lot of duos in the interior, trying to con the linebackers like ‘PQ’ [Patrick Queen] and ‘Ro’ [Roquan Smith],” defensive tackle Justin Madubuike said postgame. “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.”

As impressive as their adjustments were, the fact that they were able to get gashed as badly as they did is concerning because it has happened in multiple games this season. They’re about to embark on the toughest slate of their schedule, where they’ll be going up against some dangerous rushing attacks that deploy similar schemes to the Rams. These teams have even better and faster players thatn Los Angeles, namely the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16 and the Miami Dolphins in Week 17.

There is a chance that they could cross paths with the Dolphins again or the Cleveland Browns for the third time this year in the postseason. It remains to be seen how they’ll handle Miami’s rushing attack, which ranked second in the league behind the Ravens in total rushing yards (1,720) and rushing yards per game (143.3). The Dolphins are tied for first in rushing touchdowns (22) and led the NFL in yards per carry (5.3) through the first 13 weeks.

In their second matchup against Cleveland in Week 10, the Ravens allowed a season-high 178 yards on the ground. Their division rivals suddenly look like a legit contender with their former franchise quarterback, Joe Flacco, under center for the remainder of the season and an elite defense.