When asked about his emotions going into Sunday’s game at M&T Bank Stadium against the highly regarded Detroit Lions, Ravens middle linebacker Roquan Smith had a calm answer.
“I just think about it … Sunday, we’ll be ready, so we’ll be ready to welcome those guys here,” said Smith, who leads the team in tackles with 63. ‘They’re playing good ball, but, hey, I’m from the ‘Show Me’ business, so you have to show me.”
The Lions (5-1) are probably saying the same thing about the Ravens (4-2), especially Baltimore’s No. 2 ranked defense. The Ravens are No. 10 in rush defense (97.7 yards allowed per game) and No. 2 in pass defense (163.3).
But the Ravens have yet to play an offense as diversified as Detroit’s, which is averaging 383.7 total yards — and they certainly haven’t played a quarterback as good as Jared Goff.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow was struggling with a calf injury, and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Kenny Pickett was hobbled by a bruised knee. The Cleveland Browns’ Deshaun Watson didn’t play in Week 4 because of a shoulder injury.
Welcome to the “Show Me” Bowl.
“I think Jared Goff’s made some of the smartest passes, smartest plays,” Ravens outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney said. “He’s out there calling the shots, and the offensive line — that’s a good group. They put together a lot of first-round draft picks up there — a lot of guys that can move the defensive line.
“It’s going to come down to that in this game — their [offensive] front vs. our [defensive] front. We know that going into this game who’s going to dominate the line of scrimmage. I think that’s what we’re going to have to do.”
When the Ravens beat Cincinnati, 27-24, five weeks ago, Burrow and the Bengals’ passing game were still out of whack. Cleveland wasn’t a threat without Watson in a 28-3 loss, and the Steelers managed a 17-10 victory even without injured star receiver Diontae Johnson.
Detroit doesn’t have such limitations. The Lions average 124.2 rushing yards and 259.5 passing yards per game, which is No. 8 and No. 4, respectively, in the NFL. Detroit might be without starting running back David Montgomery (ribs) but they have a capable replacement in rookie Jahmyr Gibbs.
Detroit also has three good receivers in Amon-Ra St. Brown (38 catches for 455 yards and three touchdowns), Josh Reynolds (19 catches, 341 yards, 3 TDs) and Sam LaPorta (29 catches, 325 yards, 3 TDs). Detroit’s running game also makes the play-action passing game hard to stop. The Lions have 32 plays of 20-plus yards and have recorded at least 350 total net yards in their first six games.
Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald calls the offense multifaceted, which might be an understatement.
“It’s a lot. I guess the first word that I would say is multiple and balanced,” Macdonald said. “They’re able to get to a lot of things easily with their personnel being able to move guys around using all their pieces. I think their run game mixes all the zone [scheme] and the gap [scheme] world mixed with under center. They’re very explosive with the under-center, play-action pass.
“Then, you couple that with the dropback [passing] game and being able to get guys in space and find matchups and things like that. Those are the things you definitely have to account for. Then, they do a great job of obviously running the ball and then protecting the quarterback where he can operate back there. Obviously, he knows where to go with the ball. Overall, I think the numbers support it, but it’s a very good offense.”
It will be interesting to see whether the Ravens’ banged-up secondary can control the Lions’ receivers. Starting safety Marcus Williams is basically playing with one arm because of previously injured pectoral muscle and he suffered a hamstring injury Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey is better inside over the slot than outside, but he gives the Ravens some options. Fellow starting cornerback Brandon Stephens is a converted safety and the Lions will probably attack him immediately.
In previous games, the Ravens have been able to lay off in coverage because they didn’t face a quarterback who could challenge them consistently down the field.
The Lions present a different challenge.
“I think this is Year 3 for him, so he’s an experienced guy,” Stephens said of St. Brown. “He’s their go-to guy, so we know we have to be ready to play him.
“We know this is a big game for both of us. We know we’re going to get every team’s best when they come into our stadium. We just have to play our game. We don’t need to change anything that we’re doing. We don’t need to make it bigger than what it is. At the end of the day, we just need to be 1-0 and at the end of this week.”
Much of this game will be decided by the pass rush. The Buffalo Bills and the Ravens are tied for the league lead with 24 sacks, followed by the Miami Dolphins and the Los Angeles Chargers with 21.
Defensive tackle Justin Madubuike leads the team with 4 1/2, followed by weakside linebacker Patrick Queen and Clowney with 3 1/2 and safety Kyle Hamilton with three. Clowney has nine hurries and Madubuike has eight.
Meanwhile, Detroit has allowed only 10 sacks in 216 dropbacks. That’s a sack rate of 4.6%, which ranks fifth in the NFL and is well below the league average of 6.8%.
“Obviously, they’re very good,” Ravens outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. “They have one loss. They’re leading [the NFC North] division. They’ve won their recent games by large margins. They haven’t even been in a close game, I don’t think, since early in the season.
“They’re tough. They’re physical. They’re legit. We’re looking forward to the game. [We] can’t wait to get out there and play,” he said.
“Show Me” time begins Sunday. It’s on.