LANDOVER — The Ravens came, they conquered and then they caught the bus and went back to Baltimore.
That was pretty much the clean assessment of the Ravens' 31-17 win against the Washington Football Team at FedEx Field on Sunday.
The Ravens were balanced on offense and defense, but not playing at the level they reached near the end of the 2019 regular season. And that’s what everyone is waiting for right now.
It’s early, and no team wants to peak four games into the regular season. But at the end of 2019, the Ravens had the most productive running game in NFL history and an opportunistic defense that featured a secondary that could shut down most passing games. Yet right now, the best way to describe this team is effective and businesslike.
They’ll probably be classified that way for the next two weeks when they host the Cincinnati Bengals and play the Philadelphia Eagles on the road before welcoming the Pittsburgh Steelers to M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 1.
The Ravens need a serious challenger, like the Kansas City Chiefs, who dominated them Monday night and exposed weaknesses — the lack of a pass rush and how the offense, especially the offensive line, isn’t built for coming from behind. But it is unlikely that the Ravens will get tested for weeks because the majority of teams in the watered-down NFL are average.
Until then, the Ravens are on their “Feel Good Tour." There were some good things to see, such as quarterback Lamar Jackson throwing well on the run and tight end Mark Andrews making plays again. Wide receiver Marquise Brown actually gained yards after the catch, something that has been absent from his game as a pro.
The special teams were excellent again, and the Ravens showed some depth and flexibility by moving Orlando Brown Jr. to left tackle in place of injured starter Ronnie Stanley and inserting D.J. Fluker in Brown’s spot on the right side. After training camp, the tackle position appeared to be the one where the Ravens could least afford an injury.
It wasn’t much of a problem Sunday.
“First of all, those two guys … I thought those two guys did just a tremendous job,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Orlando switched to left tackle. D.J. went to right tackle, which he’d been practicing quite a bit at left tackle all week. So, I thought those guys really did a great job. [They] adapted on the fly and it speaks volumes for the type of football players they are. Ronnie has an issue, an upper body issue. It’s more of a strain than anything. He was really close to going. We thought maybe he’d be able to go. We actually thought he would be able to go, but those things are dicey sometimes. He just wasn’t able to do it, and he tried. So, hopefully he’ll be back for next week. We’ll see.”
On defense, the Ravens sacked Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins three times and hit him nine other times. Outside linebacker Matthew Judon collected his first two sacks of the season, and maybe it’s on to bigger things for Judon, who had 9½ sacks to lead the team last year. The Ravens held Washington to 69 rushing yards, which is another plus, but it’s hard to get excited about this win.
It’s just Washington, folks.
I know, the Ravens didn’t make the schedule, but it’s hard to be elated after last week.
Maybe it’s because they haven’t played a great game yet this season. They beat up on the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans, but there was still more to show.
Even on Sunday, the Ravens didn’t display that splashy, high-octane running game. Jackson improvised and made plays but was still careless handling the ball at times. On defense, the Ravens had problems tackling and containing Washington’s short passing game.
“Defenses play us a lot differently,” Jackson said. “We watch film on them. We study teams. When we go out there, it’s a totally different ballgame. We’re still pushing. It’s still early in the season. We just have to keep pushing, keep grinding, keep playing Ravens ball. That’s what we’ve been doing.”
Sunday’s win left you wondering how effective the Ravens would be against Pittsburgh or New England. They couldn’t stop Kansas City.
The Ravens are at the first-quarter pole of the season and they are in great shape with a 3-1 record. Very little has changed from the start of the season, when they were picked by a lot of the so-called experts to be a top contender for the Super Bowl title.
But until they play another quality team or simply overwhelm an opponent, it will be hard for the Ravens to make a great impression. In 2020, their season can only be validated through playoff wins.
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Until then, we’ll just keep waiting.