Here’s what The Baltimore Sun sports staff had to say immediately after the Ravens’ 31-24 win over the host Arizona Cardinals in Sunday’s Week 8 game at State Farm Stadium.
Brian Wacker: A week after the Ravens looked like an NBA team constantly on the fast break, Lamar Jackson struggled to find open receivers against a Cardinals defense that was dropping into coverage, especially early, and the offense stagnated. The Ravens have a habit of playing down to lesser opponents and did so once again. After their opening drive in which they went 75 yards in 10 plays and picked up five first downs, with Jackson completing 6 of 7 passes along the way, the Ravens managed just 25 yards and one first down on their next three possessions.
But when you have perhaps the NFL’s best defense, you can get away with those kind of missed opportunities against a bad team.
Michael Pierce was a tour de force, stopping several fourth-down tries, forcing a fumble and generally wreaking havoc in the middle of the line. Meanwhile, Geno Stone and Brandon Stephens continued their strong play, each hauling in an interception. And when the Ravens did stop the Cardinals, their offense did just enough to find the end zone. One of the more intriguing lines of the day was wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. finishing with zero catches but drawing three flags on the Cardinals, including two for pass interference that set up easy touchdowns.
Mike Preston: The Ravens continue to flirt with potential losses because they can’t play consistently on offense. The best way to attack this team is to give quarterback Lamar Jackson different looks and he struggles at times to make reads. The Cardinals were good in taking away Jackson’s bread and butter on blitzes by locking down rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers on quick screens. The defense played well enough to win, but that group was far from dominant as well. It was surprising how well the Cardinals ran the ball, even though nose guard Michael Pierce played a great game. The No. 1 question remains the same for the Ravens: Will they develop that killer instinct going into the postseason or is the same inconsistent team that we’ve seen the last three years?
Childs Walker: The Ravens made life more difficult than it needed to be against a 1-6 opponent, handing the Cardinals an opening touchdown with a pair of penalties and flirting with turnovers on offense. They would have been in worse shape if not for a monster performance from nose tackle Michael Pierce, who stopped Arizona on a pair of fourth downs.
They could not build on their offensive breakout against Detroit. Lamar Jackson held the ball too long at times, and their offensive line did not win consistently against a defense that relied mostly on three- and four-man rushes. On the plus side, they continued to be efficient in the red zone, taking advantage of an acrobatic interception by Brandon Stephens to go up 14-7 at halftime. They did it again after Geno Stone picked off Joshua Dobbs in the third quarter, with Gus Edwards powering into the end zone. They also came up with some nifty run designs to put the game on ice in the fourth quarter.
On a day when other powerhouses suffered upsets, the Ravens will feel fine flying home with an unsightly win.
C.J. Doon: The Michael Pierce game? The veteran defensive tackle was a bright spot in an otherwise uninspiring Ravens performance. He not only stuffed the run, but also recorded a strip-sack that nearly turned into a defensive touchdown. The Ravens were fortunate to get two bad interceptions from Joshua Dobbs, which led directly to a pair of scores that put the game out of reach, but we can no longer call safety Geno Stone’s nose for the ball a statistical oddity. He has a league-leading five interceptions after starting the season on the bench and might be a better option than $70 million starter Marcus Williams.
Looking big picture, the Ravens are now in the mix for the top seed and a first-round bye in the AFC thanks to the Chiefs’ loss to the Broncos. Given the inconsistency we’ve seen on offense, that’s pretty remarkable and a credit to the defense for allowing Lamar Jackson and Todd Monken to get comfortable as we near the halfway point of the season.
Tim Schwartz: We already knew the Ravens defense was elite — something they proved last week and further solidified against a bad Cardinals team — but they still lack the overall consistency from week to week. The Ravens’ offense was bad today. There’s no way around it. They capitalized when they needed to (thanks to Geno Stone’s league-leading fifth interception giving them a short field) but their inconsistencies are going to cost them against better teams. It’s what we saw against the Colts and Steelers in their only losses. Better teams, such as the Seahawks and Browns — the Ravens’ next two opponents — are going to make them pay if they have 183 total yards through three quarters. Fortunately for Baltimore, its defense has no weaknesses and is going to lead the team to victory more often than not.