Singular performances and limited sample sizes aren’t always the most accurate indicators of future success, but they do make coming up with bold statements and lofty predictions more fun.
The Baltimore Ravens lost to the Indianapolis Colts 22-19 in an overtime upset on Sunday to fall to 2-1 while the former Charm City franchise improved to 2-1 with a second straight win. There were several mistakes by players in all three phases, as the team faced adversity on the injury front coming in for the second week in a row.
Here are a few noteworthy performances both good and bad from the team’s Week 3 victory that warrant some spicy yet reasonably conceivable takes:
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong
The Ravens came into this game even more short-handed than they were in Week 2, when they beat the Cincinnati Bengals on the road. After the first two possessions of the day, it looked like their stockpile of injuries weren’t going to be a problem again. However, following a first-quarter fumble by veteran running back Kenyan Drake, everything began to spiral out of control.
Ball security continued to be an issue as the Ravens would fumble on their next three drives, losing one and Lamar Jackson fell on the other two. Thanks to their defense, they only trailed 10-7 at halftime but the offense struggled with consistency and execution in the second half and overtime. They failed to stay on the field and gain the necessary yards to ice the game or set up their future Hall of Fame kicker for an easier game-winning attempt.
Staying on the topic of special teams, Colts’ kicker Matt Gay made NFL history by drilling a record four kicks from 50-plus in the game. Justin Tucker went 1-of-2, making a 50-yarder and coming up just short from 61 yards at the end of regulation.
The Ravens’ punt coverage unit played poorly and Jordan Stout followed up a clutch 65-yard punt that set up an eventual safety with a 34-yarder on his last attempt of the fourth quarter. That gave the Colts less ground to cover to get into position to attempt the game-tying field goal.
As good as the defense played for the vast majority of the game, they weren’t without fault either. The Colts racked up 139 rushing yards on a Ravens unit that had only given up 138 in their first two games combined. They were especially susceptible to getting gashed to the perimeter, where their edge defenders struggled to consistently set the edge and keep contain.
Lamar Jackson’s late sack was his most costly mistake
On a day where he was sacked four times, the two-time Pro Bowler’s last was his most avoidable and proved to be the most damaging in the end. The Ravens had just gotten the ball back after the Colts tied the game at 19-19 with 57 seconds and two timeouts in their pocket. The drive got off to a great start with completions of eight, four, and 12 yards to three different targets.
Needing just a few more yards to get Tucker into comfortable range considering the elements, Jackson rolls to his left trying to buy time to throw, and doesn’t sense the impending backside pursuit pressure from Colts edge rusher Kwity Paye until it’s too late.
KWITY CHASES HIM DOWN.— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) September 24, 2023
While Jackson threw the ball away as he was being taken to the ground, his knee was ruled down for the debilitating sack before the ball left his hand. Even though he nearly got the yardage back with an 18-yard completion to Nelson Agholor two plays later, the time wasted and yards lost long prevented them from advancing the ball deeper into Indianapolis territory.
They would go on to lose in overtime, albeit controversially due to what NBC Sports’ Peter King called “gutless” officiating on the defensive pass interference penalty that wasn’t called. Rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers was tackled prior to the arrival of the ball.
Ravens need to lean more on the quarterback run game for now
Due to the season-ending torn Achilles suffered by J.K. Dobbins in Week 1 and the foot injury sustained by Justice Hill in Week 2, the Ravens turned to the very capable Gus Edwards to start in Week 3. He got off to a good start with 49 rushing yards on 10 carries through the first three quarters for nearly 5.0 yards per carry. Unfortunately, following a hard hit on a two-yard run early in the fourth quarter, he left the game and did not return after entering the concussion protocol.
Without their best closing back, the Ravens failed to do just that — close the game. Veteran Melvin Gordon had some nice plays on the offense’s touchdown drive in the third quarter but when they needed to get some hard yards late in the fourth and in overtime, he wasn’t able to deliver. Gordon only gained nine rushing yards on four carries in the fourth and just four on two carries in overtime. Drake didn’t receive a single carry during that span.
Thankfully, the injuries to Edwards and Hill aren’t long-term or season-ending like Dobbins and undrafted rookie Keaton Mitchell will be eligible to return from injured reserve by Week 5. However, in the meantime, until their younger and better running backs get healthy, the Ravens should lean more on the quarterback run game.
Jackson finished as the team’s leading rusher and recorded his first 100-plus rushing-yard performance of the season with a 101 on 14 attempts. He was by far their most effective runner and their only two touchdowns of the game came on a pair of designed runs from eight and 10 yards out.
The Ravens’ plan coming into the season under first-year Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken was to run Jackson less and utilize the running backs more. However, with less effective options being the only healthy ones at the moment, keeping the ball in the hands of the best dual-threat signal caller in NFL history seems like the best route moving forward.