Ravens 27, Saints 13 : Week 9 – Recap & Grades :
Offense – Another impressive performance by this group despite being short handed for the 2nd straight week as they get production from all the backups & don’t miss a beat in the process. They rush for over 150 yards for the 8th straight game, rushing for 188 on 40 carries, an average of 4.7 yards per rush. Kenyan Drake leads the way w/ 93 yards on 24 carries, an average of 3.9 yards per carry & 2 TD’s, Lamar Jackson rushes for 83 yards on 11 carries, an average of 7.5 yards per carry & also goes 12-22 as a passer for 133 yards & 1 TD. His only TD pass comes on a beautiful rollout 24-yard throw to TE Isaiah Likely on a flag pattern for the first score of the game (Likely’s only catch) but he makes a few tough throws in the pocket, including a 16-yard pass to the newest Raven, WR DeSean Jackson, the only catch of the game for the veteran. He is sacked 3 times against a tough New Orleans pass rush but only for a loss of 2 yards, as the pass protection holds up well but the run protection on the other hand absolutely took control of the game from the beginning & just kept mauling. Jackson orchestrates a 12-play, 81 yard drive in the 2nd quarter in which he runs for 7, 16 & 12 yards & Drake runs it in to the end zone untouched to add to the lead while the Saints defense is left scratching their heads as to how to put a stop to the running game & Jackson who just kept having their way all night long. This group converts on 9 of 15 3rd downs & amasses 319 total yards while winning the time of possession 37:47 to 22:13 as they just kept pounding away at the Saints front 7 time & time again. Jackson spreads the ball around to 10 different receivers w/ 2 of his main targets out & continues to do it even after losing DeSean Jackson to a hamstring injury in the 2nd half. This group was amazing all night long considering the personnel they had & being on the road on Primetime but the bright lights were not too big for this unit. WR James Proche catches 2 passes for 22 yards, an average of 11.0 per grab & TE Josh Oliver hauls in 1 pass for 19 yards as well as Jackson had the passing game moving the chains when they weren’t gashing the Saints on the ground. This was an impressive performance all around as the continued running of the football & use of play action when needed just ripped out the heart of the Saints defense & nearly had them waving the white flag. If this group can run the ball & assert their will on teams the way they did in this game they can beat anybody on any field, in any stadium, just a very impressive performance by this unit given the circumstances.
Grade : A
Defense – Where do we start? This unit was absolutely amazing all night long. They turned in one of the best performances of the season as the pass rush was relentless, the front 7 flew around & made plays & the secondary had the back end on lock. Going against a pretty good Saints offense, they hold RB Alvin Kamara to just 30 yards on 9 carries, an average of 3.3 yards per carry & hold the Saints to just 48 rushing yards on 15 carries, an average of 3.3 yards per carry. They hold New Orleans to just 243 total yards & QB Andy Dalton to just 210 yards passing while sacking him 4 times for a loss of 28 yards as OLB Justin Houston leads the charge w/ 2.5 sacks & records the only interception on a tipped pass by DT Brent Urban that lands in Houston’s arms & is returned 5 yards to the New Orleans 17. OLB Tyus Bowser also made an impact in his season debut after being activated from the PUP list as his presence is felt on more than one occasion in the pass rush & CB Marlon Humphrey picks up 1 of the 4 Ravens sacks on the night while leading the way w/ 7 tackles & DT Calais Campbell also registers .5 a sack, including 2 tackles. The real story is the impact of ILB Roquan Smith who registers 5 tackles & makes his presence felt 5 minutes into the game when he stuffs Kamara on a 3rd & 1 on the Saints 2nd drive of the game & forces a punt which leads to an 11-play, 76-yard TD drive for the offense. This was vintage Ravens defense at it’s finest & a throwback to what this group used to look like on a weekly basis. The Saints go just 3-11 on 3rd down & are held to just 49 total plays, while only holding the ball for just over 22 of the 60 minutes as this unit forces 5 punts in 10 possessions. They allow a late TD in garbage time on what looked like a busted play but the final score doesn’t even reflect the level of dominance that this group displayed all night. DC Mike McDonald’s defense now ranks 3rd in total takeaways w/ 16, ranks 4th in sacks w/ 27 & is holding teams to just a 33.7% 3rd down conversion rate, which ranks 6th in the league. After struggling early & blowing 2nd half leads, this group has come together nicely in recent weeks & really started to gel as of late while only getting better w/ the new addition of Smith & adding Bowser w/ even more help on the way. If this group plays like this then the sky’s the limit for what they can do against any team in the league, they can rush the passer now, they can stop the run & even w/ the loss of FS Marcus Williams they can defend in the secondary. This group was the real highlight of the night, they played w/ a tenacity that we haven’t seen since the days of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed & Terrell Suggs & company. This Ravens defense looks familiar, this Ravens defense looks Championship Caliber.
Grade : A-
Special Teams – Just another day at the office for this unit as Justin Tucker kicks FG’s of 32 & 41 yards, Rookie P Jordan Stout punts it away 4 times for 193 yards, an average of 48.3 yards per punt, including 2 inside the 20 as he continues to fill in nicely for Sam Koch who’s help working w/ Stout in the off-season after retiring has shined through. Pro-Bowl returner, Devin Duvernay doesn’t get a chance to return anything but RB Justice Hill returns a kick 9 yards while the coverage is solid once again, holding WR Rashid Shaheed to 41 total return yards, 33 on 2 kick returns, for an average of 16.5 per return w/ a long of 20 while gaining just 8 yards on 1 punt return. This group has been solid week in & week out, they continue to do the underrated things that nobody sees like holding their position on kick coverage, not committing dumb penalties & being solid in communication as a unit. As mentioned before, this group has lost some key pieces in recent years but hasn’t missed a beat while continuing to be great on a weekly basis despite the new names & faces. They are still the only unit in the league w/ a kick return TD, thanks to Duvernay & have the best FG% thanks to Tucker. Not a lot to talk about w/ this group & that’s a good thing, that means they just continue to do their job every week & know their assignments, they are a reliable, trustworthy group that has been performing at a high-level for a long, long time. There are 3 guarantees in life, death, taxes & the Ravens special teams, while the offense & defense have taken a dip at times or underperformed here & there, this unit has been as sturdy, if not sturdier than any group in the league year in & year out. From the old Wolfpack to the new, the new faces to the old, from coach to coach, gunner to gunner, Kicker to Kicker & Punter to Punter, one might argue this may be one of the best ST groups the Ravens have ever had in the last 20+ years, going back to the Matt Stover, Kyle Richardson & Jermaine Lewis days. Coach Harbaugh being a special teams guy has helped but it has been the veteran presences & solid gameplanning of ST coach Chris Horton in recent years that has put this group at the top of league every single season. Overall, this game was just another day in the life for this group who made it business as usual, under the lights, in a dome or under the sun, outdoors it doesn’t matter where or how….this group will always get it done.
Grade : A
Coaching : This game was the absolute best this coaching staff looked all season. This was their most impressive & consistent game in every phase as the team looked ready to go from the beginning despite missing some key pieces & didn’t miss a beat on offense. This team has discovered it’s identity & it begins w/ running the football & playing stout defensively – OC Greg Roman was able to continue the success on the ground but also dial up a few surprises like the TD pass to Likely on the flag pattern that looked like a designed run & moved the defense up enough for Likely to get behind. The designs of the running game & sustained success on the ground all night long was a thing of beauty as Roman’s use of the pistol & relentless running attack allowed the offensive line to win in the trenches & keep mauling until the Saints front 7 nearly tapped out. The coaching staff used their talent properly in every aspect, they attacked weakness on both sides of the ball & kept it coming all night, this was a flashback to the days of old where the defense & offense went hand in hand & helped each other out, bludgeoning teams w/ their physicality & just wearing them down mentally. It looked like this coaching staff used the 10 days off to tweak some things & start coaching to this team’s strengths, they are utilizing their talent to the fullest no matter who is on the field & they are using what they do best to step on team’s throats & never letting up. DC Mike MacDonald has this defense in absolute attack mode, they are hitting anything that moves & are starting to return to form, they are rounding out nicely as a unit as key parts of this pass rush have emerged or returned from injury & are now playing 60 minutes of football every week. They have learned how to get back to closing teams out & are doing it now w/ relative ease. Remaining undefeated in the Superdome is no easy task but it seems like that building seems to bring out the best in the Ravens for some reason, this team just goes to another level in the Big Easy. Overall, a great performance by this coaching staff, just an absolute masterpiece on Prime Time where this team is now 2-0 this season, they look like for now they have fixed all the issues that were plaguing them early – penalties, bad analytics, blown coverages & miscommunication have all drastically been reduced & it is showing in the results from week to week. The Ravens now have a 3-game winning streak & it’s due to health, improving, players starting to get in a rhythm & guys getting on the same page but more importantly it’s because of this coaching staff finally molding this squad into a team w/ an identity, something they were searching for since the season started. This coaching staff is the reason for the success in recent weeks & they have this team playing better than they have all season despite missing some key parts, it’s a pretty impressive job.
Grade : A-
Overall Grade : A-