Baltimore Ravens

5 things we learned from the Ravens' win over the Jaguars

1.) The Ravens are really, truly in sole possession of first place in the division.

Look at the AFC North standings if you don't believe it ...


1. Ravens: 3-0
2. Steelers: 2-1
3. Bengals: 1-2
4. Browns: 0-3

The good news: The Ravens will be in first place at the end of next week, too.

The bad news: Like a video game with 16 levels, the season gets gradually harder from here.
John Harbaugh attributed Sunday’s win to “the hand of God,” but perhaps God was really looking out for the Ravens in April when the NFL released its schedule.
There could not have been an easier opening three weeks than Bills/Browns/Jaguars. Those teams are a combined 1-8. Sure, three of those losses are because the Ravens handed them out, but each of those games featured the NFL’s dregs seemingly doing just as much to beat themselves.
Now that the cupcakes have been eaten, the next four games are against average teams that will likely be on the fringe of playoff contention: Raiders, Redskins, Giants and Jets.
Then the Ravens get a bye week to brace for a brutal back nine that includes the Steelers and Bengals twice apiece, the Patriots, the Cowboys and the Eagles (who might actually be good).
So really, a 3-0 start was a must.
People talk about how the Ravens have an easy schedule this year because they went 5-11 last year, but the only two games affected by their 2015 record are the Jaguars and Raiders. In finishing in third place last year, the Ravens set up games against the third-place teams in the AFC South and West.
The Steelers, by finishing in second last year, instead have to play the Colts and Chiefs; the reigning division champion Bengals have to play the Texans and Broncos in those slots.
One other note about the AFC North: The Ravens are the only team with a positive scoring differential through three weeks (plus 13). The Steelers, after losing 34-3 in Wentzylvania, are now a minus 1.

2.) The Ravens' defense is for real.

I know, I just got through illustrating how bad the first three opponents were. But in the NFL, even the worst teams are capable of popping off for points. Through three weeks, the Bears and the Titans are the only teams who have yet to score 23 or more points in a game.
Meanwhile, the Ravens have held all their opponents to 20 or fewer.
On Sunday, the Ravens' offense and special teams didn’t give the “D” very much help, as Jacksonville capitalized on some short fields. Still, the Jags, who many thought would have a potent offense this year, scored only 17 points.
The Ravens’ average of 254 yards allowed ranks second in the NFL between the Seahawks and Panthers. Good company.

3.) Short passes are the Ravens' running game in disguise.

Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman clearly has no faith in his running game -- and why should he?
The team is averaging 3.3 yards a carry, 82.3 yards per game. That level of production does little to keep an offense on schedule, and it inspires no confidence in 3rd- or 4th-and-short situations.
So dumpoffs and wide receiver screens have become the Ravens’ de facto running game. If Joe Flacco's recovering knee isn't bothering him, his right shoulder soon might. Flacco is averaging more than 39 pass attempts per game. For perspective, Packers gunslinger Aaron Rodgers is averaging just over 31 passes per game this year.
The shaky offensive line play also restricts the Ravens from going deep. You can’t wait for Mike Wallace or Breshad Perriman to lope downfield if a 275-pound defender is charging at you.
Flacco found a groove, connecting on 21 consecutive passes Sunday, but that number loses impact when he’s not passing far enough downfield to pick up first downs. Here’s how the Ravens’ drives finished during that 21-completion stretch: touchdown, field goal, punt, field goal, field goal.
Sixteen points in five series is efficient offense, but it’s not all that explosive. And that was the Ravens at their very apex.

4.) C.J. Mosley worked hard on his pass coverage.

Many considered C.J. Mosley's sophomore season a disappointment because he didn't improve much from a Pro Bowl rookie year. Now in his third year, Mosley has clearly made strides in pass coverage, where he's one of only two NFL linebackers (and 11 players total) with multiple interceptions so far.

The pick against the Browns sealed the game. The one against the Jaguars was an artistic, one-handed snag in front of a leaping Allen Robinson.

Josh McCown and Blake Bortles might not be the most impressive pelts to hang on the INT wall, but both of Mosley's plays were athletic and significant.

5.) Don't doubt Justin Tucker.

You know the stats and you know the reputation, but when a kicker lines up for a long field goal with the game on the line, don't you get a little nervous?
Not with Tucker.
He made all four field goal attempts Sunday, including his day’s longest, a 54-yarder for the game-winning points. He’s got a dozen game-winners and probably a couple more to come, so long as the Ravens play these snug affairs every week.
The NFL’s best kickers -- and Tucker is in that group with Dallas’ Dan Bailey, New England’s Stephen Gostkowski and maybe a couple others -- have reached an insanely proficient level. When Tucker was short on a 57-yarder (a Jaguars penalty gave him another shot from 42, which he drilled), it was genuinely surprising.
After the game, Tucker allowed himself a bit of an excuse for the miss that wasn’t. He said rather than using a kicking ball, he was using an offense ball, which was like trying to “kick a chocolate bar.”
What's it like kicking a chocolate bar? Maybe something to try after you collect some Halloween candy next month. 

It's only a matter of time before Tucker teams with Hershey's for a commercial that can't be any worse than his Royal Farms spots.