The Baltimore Ravens continued their 2023 quest for a championship with a decisive 27-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in an early-season AFC North clash. The offense showed tremendous improvement following a rusty Week 1 opener and the defense was stout for most of the game before allowing some late scores.
Here are some of the top takeaways from the Ravens’ Week 2 victory, in which players on both sides of the ball stepped big in place of injured starters.
Lamar Jackson is starting to look Lamar-velous again
Last week, the former unanimous league MVP expressed his displeasure and disgust with how rusty he believed he looked last week in a sloppy win over the Houston Texans.
Rusty As But thank you God— Lamar Jackson (@Lj_era8) September 10, 2023
Against the Ravens’ division rivals on Sunday, Jackson shook off that rust and looked extremely sharp. He made several impressive throws throughout the game, none more so than the 52-yard bomb he threw on a rope to Zay Flowers. That set up an eventual touchdown on the offense’s first possession of the second half following a Bengals turnover.
Jackson finished 24-of-33 for 237 passing yards, two touchdowns with no interceptions, and a passer rating of 112.8. The two-time Pro Bowler was just as deadly with his legs as he racked up 54 rushing yards on a team-high 12 carries.
His ability to extend plays and take off to pick up drive-extending first downs was a major factor in the team winning this game. He would’ve led the team in rushing yards had some of his long runs not gotten negated by holding penalties. After a penalty resulted in his lone fumble being reversed, his ball security improved the rest of the way.
Improved wide receiver depth was on full display
Ravens’ General Manager Eric DeCosta made it his mission to revamp what has been the most much-maligned and was the least productive unit in the league last season. So far through the first two games, it looks like a mission accomplished, as the team has had different wide receivers step up in a major way.
The first outside free agent that DeCosta brought it in was nine-year veteran Nelson Agholor on a one. After he didn’t record a catch or even receive a single target in the season opener, the former first-rounder made several crucial first-down snags for the Ravens in Cincinnati.
Agholor finished as the team’s leader in receiving yards with 63, tied Mark Andrews for the lead in receptions with five, and hauled in his first touchdown as a Raven to cap off the team’s final scoring drive.
First-round rookie Zay Flowers didn’t lead the team in targets, touches, or receptions for the second week in a row but he did make his presence felt with impactful plays on more than one occasion. He finished with four catches on five targets for 62 receiving yards and added another six yards on one rushing attempt.
The bulk of his 67 total scrimmage yards came on a beautiful deep reception that he reeled in from Jackson where he split two defenders, tracked the ball well, and came down with the incredible grab.
Backups in the backend balled out
For a unit missing three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey and ball-hawking free safety Marcus Williams, up against arguably the best wide receiver trio with a fearless gunslinger under center, the Ravens short-handed secondary did a hell of a job against the Bengals offense. They helped hold Joe Burrow to just 222 yards passing on 41 attempts and two-time Pro Bowl wideout Ja’Marr Chase to five receptions and under 40 receiving yards for the second week in a row.
The Ravens got incredibly clutch plays from several different defensive backs to prevent touchdowns and drive-extending conversions. In his ninth career start and first of the season in place of an injured Williams, fourth-year pro Geno Stone had the best game of his young career. He led the team with nine total tackles, a pass break up, and his second-career interception.
Brandon Stephens stepped up as the Ravens’ No. 1 cornerback and had another strong game as open field tackler. He prevented Tee Higgins from getting his feet in bounds for a touchdown. Ar’Darius Washington got picked on at times but played well at the nickel spot overall finishing with five total tackles, a pass breakup, and a quarterback hit on a blitz.
The most impressive play by a cornerback on either team all game was the clutch pass breakup by fifth-year veteran Rock Ya-Sin, who ripped what initially looked like a touchdown catch by Chase out of his grasp before he slammed to the ground.
Running game gets rolling
After losing starting running back J.K. Dobbins to a torn Achilles in the season opener and with left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Tyler Linderbaum out with injuries, it would’ve been understandable if the Ravens’ ground game had struggled.
However, the exact opposite happened. They racked up a season-high 178 rushing yards in led by a joint effort from Jackson, running backs Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, and even some contributions from a pair of wide receivers. Hill got the start and recorded 41 yards on 11 carries and Devin Duvernay had 15 yards on three jet-sweep carries.
Edwards was a punishing force that picked up several key first downs including the five-yard rush to move the chains and ice the game. He finished as the team’s leading rusher with 62 yards on 10 carries and the first points of the game on his first touchdown of the season.
Aside from a few bad holding penalties, the offensive line had a very strong day in both run and pass blocking. Jackson wasn’t sacked once and had consistently clean pockets to throw from and in the ground game, several linemen had devastating blocks to pave the way for their ball carriers.