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Ravens News 9/26: Fleeting Success and more

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens Brent Skeen-USA TODAY Sports

Five things we learned from the Ravens’ 22-19 overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts

Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

The Ravens’ current offensive reality is one step forward, one step back

They looked unstoppable on their opening drive for the second straight week, covering 80 yards with five passes and seven runs, eating 6:31 on their way to a 7-0 lead. They were so impressive working off coordinator Todd Monken’s script that all those empty first quarters from 2021 and 2022 felt like ancient history.

Their troubles began with clumsy ball handling — Kenyan Drake’s fumble at the end of a 24-yard gain deep into Colts territory, Jackson’s fumble at his own 19-yard line that handed the Colts a field goal, a mistimed snap from center Sam Mustipher that cut short another drive. Yes, it was wet, but the ball didn’t slide out of the Colts’ hands like a greased melon.

The Ravens managed three first downs over a seven-drive span that lasted from late in the first quarter to late in the third. They regained their momentum briefly by turning to their running game, with Jackson’s once-in-a-generation elusiveness on full display. He finished a third-quarter touchdown drive by knifing between defenders for his second touchdown of the day, and his 16-yard scramble was the key play on the Ravens’ next scoring drive in the fourth quarter.

Their success was fleeting, however, as they came up empty on their last five drives of the game. That all adds up to two successful drives in their last 14. Their blocking was insufficiently sturdy. They didn’t challenge the Colts downfield. Monken’s play calling late in the game felt uninspired. Jackson made more mistakes than great plays.

Five Takeaways From The Ravens’ 22-19 Loss To The Colts

Bo Smolka, Pressbox

It won’t get any easier for the banged-up Ravens with AFC North bruisers on deck.

The Ravens now embark on a two-week stretch that could help clarify the AFC North. The Ravens visit Cleveland on Oct. 1 and then Pittsburgh the week after that. With a win at Cincinnati already in the bank, the Ravens have a chance to take a commanding lead in the division with two more road AFC North wins. Even if they split those two games, they could still be in first place in the division with all three road games out of the way.

To be sure, the Ravens will be limping into Cleveland, and the physical nature of AFC North football pretty much assures they will be limping out of Cleveland, too, and then going on to Pittsburgh. That is a tough back-to-back assignment. But they are 1-0 in the division, and while this loss to the Colts stings, the team can quickly salve their wounds the next two weeks.

It’s a week-to-week league, players and coaches like to say, and this week, they will be glad for it. This one is over, and to paraphrase Bill Belichick, they are on to Cleveland.

“We could have been 3-0, and we’re not,” linebacker Patrick Queen said. “So there’s nothing we can do about it now. We’ve just got to capitalize next time. [Can’t] let this one [loss] turn into two.”

NFL Week 3 weirdness: Barnwell explains seven surprising games

Bill Barnwell, ESPN

Justin Tucker missed a game-winning field goal attempt

For anyone else, this would hardly be a surprise. A 61-yarder is difficult to hit in domed stadiums, let alone in a steady September rain in Baltimore. The league as a whole is 21-of-44 on attempts between 59 and 64 yards over the past five seasons, and even that’s subject to some serious selection bias. Teams typically won’t attempt those sorts of kicks in wet, windy conditions or with kickers who don’t have elite legs.

Maybe it shouldn’t have been as big of a surprise. Although Tucker hit a 66-yarder to win the game against the Lions in 2021, he’s 0-for-4 on kicks in that aforementioned range over the past five years and 1-for-8 on kicks of 60 yards or more over the past decade. Anything seems possible with Tucker because of how reliable he has been inside of 60, but even the best has his limits.

In a game in which the Ravens had 14 meaningful drives to work with, the offense wasn’t able to sustain possession. Two of the drives produced more than two first downs; unsurprisingly, they both produced touchdowns. Nine of the 14 drives produced either zero first downs or one first down.

Back in Slot, Kyle Hamilton Is Making Plays in Multiple Ways

Clifton Brown,

Hamilton’s immense skillset as a versatile safety was on full display during the Ravens’ 22-19 overtime loss to the Colts. He was a devastating blitzer with three sacks in the first half, the most first-half sacks by any player in franchise history.

His six quarterback pressures and three sacks across 11 pass rush snaps were tied for the most pressures by a defensive back in a game since 2018, per NextGenStats.

“I call him ‘The Avatar,’” edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney said. “He is 6-’4 at safety and can run, can hit. I like playing with him. I think he’s a great player, smart guy. Kyle, he’s going to bring it.”

Hamilton gave credit to Clowney and other teammates for allowing him to have free runs at Minshew. However, it was Hamilton who showed the athletic ability and discipline to turn those opportunities into sacks.

“Anytime you get edge blitzed like that, it’s a team rush,” Hamilton said. “You have Clowney on the edge. He’s one of the best pass rushers in this league. He’s pretty much giving himself up so I can free up and get those sacks.

“Honestly, that’s probably about as unblocked as you can get. You have to make your layups. They were having some protection issues. Guys in the backend (were) allowing time for me to get there (by) covering well.”

So, Which NFL Teams Can Actually Win the Super Bowl?

Steven Ruiz, The Ringer

Tier 2: Good Enough to Make a Run at It

Baltimore Ravens: +1300

Typically, losing to Gardner Minshew is enough to disqualify any team from Super Bowl contention, but I will make an exception for the Ravens. So much had to go badly for the Ravens to find themselves on the wrong side of a 19-16 overtime loss in Baltimore on Sunday, starting with the team’s growing list of injuries.

If the Ravens can get healthy and make it back to the playoffs, the team we see then won’t resemble the one we saw on Sunday. And even this lesser version of Baltimore would have beaten the Colts if not for a blatant missed face mask call that would have allowed the Ravens to kneel out the clock … or a missed pass interference call on fourth down in overtime with the Ravens on the edge of field goal range.

Outside of more ball security issues, Lamar Jackson was mostly brilliant again on Sunday. The Ravens couldn’t get their deep passing game going, but that’s not out of the ordinary during a rainy game. Plus, Baltimore was without Odell Beckham Jr., the team’s resident field stretcher, and it lost Rashod Bateman to a hamstring injury during the game. Jackson is playing like a QB capable of winning an MVP award, and Mike MacDonald’s defense looks like a top-five unit. That’s a good recipe for a Super Bowl run. The Ravens have a chance.