Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken referred to Lamar Jackson last week as a “two-play quarterback.” The comment was a nod to Jackson’s ability to improvise and create if something isn’t open or breaks down with the initial play. I couldn’t help but think of that on Jackson’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor in the third quarter. The 49ers had every Ravens potential pass catcher blanketed in the end zone, and Fred Warner took away Justice Hill underneath. But Jackson bought time, slithered out of trouble and moved to his left, giving Agholor enough time to break free and come back to the ball. You can’t cover forever. It has to be frustrating for defenses to execute nearly perfectly and still give up a touchdown. That’s what makes Jackson so challenging to face.
Yet, another example of Jackson’s growth: On the third-and-goal play from the 1-yard line in the third quarter, Jackson could have tried to power through a couple of defenders and extend the ball over the goal line. However, he recognized he was in traffic and, by exposing the ball, was risking a turnover. He came up short and Baltimore had to settle for the field goal, but it certainly beat the alternative. I’m not sure he would have made that same decision earlier in his career. By the way, Monken had some nice moments, none better than the play call and design on the Zay Flowers touchdown, but I didn’t get sending Edwards out wide on the 1-yard line and having Jackson take the snap in an empty backfield. Just because teams know that Edwards might get the ball doesn’t mean they can stop him from gaining a yard. They haven’t very often this year around the goal line.
Gilberto Manzano, Sports Illustrated
The Ravens (12–3) proved they have the pieces to beat any team in the postseason after dismantling the 49ers, 33–19, on Christmas night.
Jackson was sensational, posting a stat line of 252 yards and two touchdowns on 7.2 yards per attempt. He completed 65.7% of his passes, going 23-of-35. It’s time to stop pointing at where he ranks in terms of passing yards and touchdown passes. Jackson has gradually gotten better throughout his first season with offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and this might be his best season as a passer. He’s pushing the ball downfield and not looking to run every chance he gets. The Ravens are built to play with a lead and are capable of winning the shootouts, too, evident by their Week 14 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
But Baltimore is also a matchup nightmare on the defensive side. The Ravens have a complete team, which should be a scary sight for every team come the postseason.
Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner
Of the 14 different starting quarterbacks the Ravens have faced this season, six have required midgame or postgame treatment of some kind. The punishment the defense has doled out is as varied as it is extensive. In some cases, it’s transformed seasons.
“We just try to play the game the right way,” cornerback Brandon Stephens said Monday. “We never want to see anybody go out. But we just try to play physical, man, play in and play out. Make the other team be the one to tap out, not us.”
Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa is next up. Despite his history of concussions, Tagovailoa has started all 15 games for the Dolphins this season, avoiding trouble with one of the NFL’s quickest triggers and an improved understanding of how to fall when he is hit.
The Ravens will test him, both mentally and physically. The more quarterbacks struggle with one, the more they tend to struggle with the other.
“We’re just tenacious,” Madubuike said. “We’re hungry. We play angry. We play ferocious. We play aggressive. We play violent. That’s just us. I mean, from me to ‘Broddy’ [defensive lineman Broderick Washington] to [defensive lineman] Mike [Pierce] to [outside linebacker] Odafe [Oweh] to J.D. [outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney] to [outside linebacker Kyle] Van Noy, ‘Urb’ [defensive lineman Brent Urban], everybody’s just hungry. Everybody just loves to play with each other. And when you bring those hungry dogs together, it’s like a big pack, man. It’s hard to stop, as you can see.”
Zoltan Buday, PFF
3. BALTIMORE RAVENS (UP 1)
Projected Week 17 starters:
LG John Simpson
RT Morgan Moses
The Ravens continue to rotate players at left tackle and right tackle. At left tackle, Ronnie Stanley played 58 of a possible 68 snaps and Patrick Mekari played the remaining snaps. At right tackle, Morgan Moses started and played 51 snaps and Daniel Faalele was on the field for 17 plays.
The Ravens’ offensive line stood out in pass protection against San Francisco’s strong pass rush. The unit did not allow a sack and surrendered nine pressures on 40 dropbacks to rank seventh in pass-blocking efficiency in Week 16.
Best player: Tyler Linderbaum
Linderbaum’s 74.3 pass-blocking grade ranks fifth among centers this season.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)
This is the game of the week and could decide the top seed in the AFC and the MVP between Tua Tagovailoa and Lamar Jackson. The Ravens have blown out a bunch of good teams, but that won’t be the case here. Miami will hang around in this one, but I think in the end the Ravens defense will be the difference with a late stop.
Pick: Ravens 28, Dolphins 27