In Week 14, the Baltimore Ravens bested the Los Angeles Rams in an instant classic that went into overtime and resulted in a 37-31 victory. It marked the Ravens’ third straight and improved their record to 10-3, keeping them atop both the AFC North and in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the conference.
In a game where they were favored to win, the Ravens were able to find a way to finish yet again. The two teams traded blows back and forth but prevailed in the end thanks to some of their less-heralded players making plays in all three phases.
This article highlights the players whose performances flew under the radar but were still clutch — the unsung heroes.
In a game where they faced three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald lined up all over the defensive alignment, the Ravens starting blocking unit accomplished their primary objective of not letting him wreck the game. They held the future Hall of Famer without a sack or even a single tackle with the only box score stat that he registered being a pass deflection that Lamar Jackson threw directly at his helmet after he jumped up into the passing lane.
Baltimore’s offense line limited Donald by any means necessary, sometimes using as many as three blockers at a time. They paved the way for the team to rack up their third-most yards of the total offense this season with 449 which included 139 rushing yards and gave quarterback Lamar Jackson all day at times to carve up the Rams’ secondary to the tune of 316 passing yards and three touchdowns.
They rotated offensive tackles in an effort to keep their two veteran starters fresh for later in the game and it worked out swimmingly as Patrick Mekari came in every few drives to relieve left tackle Ronnie Stanley and second-year pro Daniel Faalele did the same on the right side. Stanley has been dealing with a knee sprain and Moses had a lingering shoulder injury but both of their relievers held up well in pass protection for the most part.
Coach Harbaugh on the O-line rotation: pic.twitter.com/cypdgMQiTN— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 11, 2023
“[Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses] both played pretty well. Of course, Pat [Mekari] played like he always does, and then Daniel [Faalele], to get those reps in there – I think he had one probably that he’d want back,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “Other than that, I thought he played the rest of the reps really solid in there and did a good job just with the two situations with the guys physically – Ronnie and Morgan – that helped us, and they were all on board for.
“The idea was to split the workload up and also help Ronnie and Morgan be the strongest they could be in the fourth quarter. That was our thinking, and it sure turned out to be a wise move. It was Joe [D’Alessandris]’s idea, and I thought it was a really good idea. It worked out great.”
FB Patrick Ricard
The four-time Pro Bowler only played 23 offensive snaps, just 32 percent of the team total, but made the most of them as he helped pave the way in the run game and aided in past protection. One of his best blocks of the game was on Keaton Mitchell’s 27-yarder when he drove a Rams veteran cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon out of bounds and into his own team’s bench area while staying square and driving his feet. The pickup allowed the Ravens rookie to explode up the sideline on an eventual scoring drive.
OLB Kyle Van Noy
The 10th-year veteran didn’t record either of the Ravens’ sacks or any of their 10 quarterback hits against the Rams but he was a difference-making menace all the same, and made a pair of clutch plays on drives that ended in punts during the second half. Van Noy finished with four total tackles including two for a loss and a pass deflection. His second takedown behind the line of scrimmage came on a running back screen that he blew up for an eight-yard loss that knocked the Rams out of field goal range late in the third quarter. He dropped into coverage and broke up a pass intended for standout rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua early in the fourth quarter.
WR Nelson Agholor
The ninth-year veteran continued to come up clutch with his play and unselfishness in this game. He hauled in all five of his targets for 32 crucial receiving yards on scoring drives at the end of each half. Agholor was a popular target for Jackson when the Ravens needed to move the ball fast with his first three catches coming a two-minute drive before halftime. He helped set up a field goal to cut the Rams’ lead to just three with back-to-back catches for 20 yards and a third for one yard on a screen. On the team’s three-and-a-half minute touchdown drive at the end of the fourth quarter, he caught back-to-back passes that totaled 11 yards resulting in a first down, and moved the ball into the red zone.
Perhaps his most meaningful contribution was the role he played in setting up rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers for the touchdown to give the Ravens the lead with 76 seconds left in regulation. According to Jackson, it was Agholor’s idea to run his route deeper than it was originally intended to draw the safety up and get Flowers one-on-one with a trailing corner to make the clutch scoring grab on third-and-17 from the Rams’ 21-yard line.
“Nelly’ was telling me if we do that play, he’s going to run to the safety and run him out of the window [then] Zay [Flowers] should be wide open, and that’s exactly what happened,” Jackson said. “We had the coverage, the safety jumped ‘Nelly’ and Zay did the rest.
“It would have been single high. But ‘Nelly’ knew he was going to run with him if he ran and got on his toes and ran past him, he would have thought he’d been open. If ‘Nelly’ would have done that, he would have been open and the safety would have stayed, but that was just a heck of a play.”
DT Travis Jones
The second-year pro continued to show his growth as an interior pass rusher with his best game of the season thus far against the Rams, despite playing his lowest percentage of total defensive snaps since Week 3. Jones recorded his second full sack and a season-high two quarterback hits including one that caused Matthew Stafford to throw the ball away for an incompletion. He also recorded a pair of tackles including a solo and one for a loss.
RB Justice Hill
The fifth-year made key unheralded contributions on offense and special teams against the Rams. He led all Ravens running backs with 34 snaps despite not receiving a single carry but was excellent in pass protection during two-minute scoring drives at the end of each half and picked up 12 yards and first down on his lone touch that came via a check-down pass in the fourth quarter. While there were several players that played a role in springing third-year wide receiver Tylan Wallace for the game-winning walk-off touchdown in overtime, it was Hill who secured the final block on Rams rookie punter Ethan Evans that ensured he could take it the distance and not get pushed out of bounds.