In Week 15, the Baltimore Ravens returned to the scene of one of their most disappointing losses of the 2022 season and made sure history didn’t repeat itself with a commanding 23-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. It marked the Ravens’ fourth straight victory, improved their record to 11-3, and clinched a playoff berth while also 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 continued to find a way to pull away late once again. The Jaguars didn’t lay down and tried to keep the game close but the Ravens prevailed in the end thanks to some underrated yet impactful performance from a handful of well-known starters and several of their less-heralded players making plays on both sides of the ball.
This article highlights the players whose performances flew under the radar but were still clutch — the unsung heroes.
DB Marcus Williams
The seventh-year veteran free safety only played the first half of the game yet was able to finish with the third most tackles on the team with five including four solos. Williams made the most of what ended up being his final takedown of the night when he tackled rookie wide receiver Parker Washington in bounds with the clock running under 10 seconds and the Jaguars without any timeouts left. The remaining time ticked off and the Ravens’ first-half shutout was saved after it looked like Jacksonville might have been able to make it a one-score game after getting the ball down to the Baltimore five-yard line with a 36-yard gain on the play before.
Marcus Williams may have just made one of those tackles we look back on at the end of the season as a season defining play.— Zach Bollinger (@zachbollinger18) December 18, 2023
Keeps it a two score game and we get the ball coming out of half… MASSIVE PLAY pic.twitter.com/EwGIw61x4E
WR Rashod Bateman
The third-year pro got off to a hot start to the game with back-to-back catches on the Ravens’ first offensive possession for gains of nine and 18 yards to move the ball across midfield and into Jaguars’ territory. The drive would eventually stall out in the red zone after quarterback Lamar Jackson tripped over the ankle of running back Keaton Mitchell and avoided taking a sack by throwing an incompletion, only to be called for intentional grounding on the next play.
Bateman tied for the team lead in targets with six but the connection between him and Jackson wasn’t clicking like it was on that first drive the rest of the way. His third and final reception came in the second quarter and went for 12 yards and first down on another eventual scoring drive. While three catches for 39 receiving yards doesn’t seem like much, the quality contributions that each of his receptions made were crucial to the success of those drives. There were also some potential big play opportunities that the two of them just missed out on converting because pressure played a role in Jackson either not seeing him or not allowing him to deliver the ball on target.
CB Brandon Stephens
The third-year pro continued his underrated breakout campaign against the Jaguars and played a massive role in keeping Calvin Ridley in check for the vast majority of the game. Jacksonville’s top receiver was targeted a game-high 12 times but was only able to haul in five catches for 39 receiving yards. Even on the play where Stephens got called for bogus defensive pass interference, it was just another example of how well he can mirror and shut down an opposing team’s receiver. He finished with four total tackles including three solos—one of which was a tackle for loss on Ridley when he dragged him down to the ground before he could get going on a quick slip screen.
This was flagged for defensive pass interference against Ravens CB Brandon Stephens pic.twitter.com/83kIMWpgAJ— Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL) December 18, 2023
WR Odell Beckham Jr.
The three-time Pro Bowler only had three targets and one resulted in a bad drop that he couldn’t control through contact with the ground and prevented a 30-yard gain after Jackson had just worked some of his escape magic. Even though he only caught one pass for 14 receiving after averaging 2.6 receptions and 82.3 receiving yards in his past three games, Beckham Jr.’s clutch grab resulted in a new set of downs for the offense on a third-and-long on their first touchdown drive of the first half. He also contributed to the running game as a downfield blocker and was especially impressive in that aspect of the game during a 15-yard rush by Jackson up the right sideline in the fourth quarter.
RB Justice Hill
The fifth-year veteran played the fewest snaps (18), saw the fewest carries (five), and recorded the fewest rushing yards (23), yet was able to have a profound impact on the game nonetheless with his incredible contributions as a pass blocker when their offense needs to move the ball through the air in a hurry. The way he squares up and often stonewalls or completely levels blitzers from the second or third level is very impressive. Hill has come a long way to become the well-rounded player he is now. Hill also finished as the fourth highest-graded offensive player on the team according to Pro Football Focus with an overall of 76.6. With the season-ending injury of electric rookie running back Keaton Mitchell to a torn ACL, expect to see heavy doses of Justice being served the rest of the way.
Ok fine I couldn't help myself. Look at the eyes! Look at the feet! The decisiveness! Smooth! Justice Hill is the step dad who stepped up (in pass pro)— Spencer Schultz (@ravens4dummies) December 18, 2023
Jet protection on lock. https://t.co/6roOAn51NC pic.twitter.com/uW6D1pyLpq
TE Charlie Kolar
The second-year pro played a season-high 25 offensive snaps which was 36 percent of the team total and also a season-high mark. He nearly scored his first career touchdown and tied his career-long for a reception on his lone target and catch of the game. It came late in the second quarter when hauled in a 15-yard pass from Jackson that advanced the ball just two yards shy of the goal line. A bone-headed personal foul penalty accompanied by a flop all but nullified the yardage he gained on the next play but the Ravens would still find their way into the end zone on the play after that when Jackson connected with his fellow second-year tight end Isaiah Likely for a 16-yard touchdown strike.
Kolar helped the Ravens take over the game on the ground in the second half with his contributions as a run blocker. He even got in on some ball-carrying action with a cool quarterback sneak—tush push style—on a third-and-inches play. While it worked to perfection, it technically didn’t count because the Jaguars were flagged for having too many men on the field, resulting in an automatic first down.