Lamar Jackson sounded glum after the biggest win of the Ravens’ season. He’d broken a decades-old Dan Marino record, but he’d also thrown two interceptions. He’d outplayed Justin Herbert, but he’d also finished with a season low in passing yards. The Ravens had dominated inside M&T Bank Stadium, but he’d also left points on the field.
If the most remarkable thing about their 34-6 win Sunday over the Los Angeles Chargers (4-2) was how easy it looked, a close second was the machinery that deconstructed the AFC West’s top team. Jackson was solid in the pocket and in the open field, not extraordinary. The Ravens’ downfield passing game was nonexistent. Their pass rush got to Herbert for only two sacks.
And still the Ravens (5-1) rolled to their most comprehensive win all season, a start-to-finish takedown of two of the NFL’s golden boys, Herbert and first-year coach Brandon Staley. It was a thumping that evoked the dominance of the Ravens’ 2019 season, but it came with a style that felt more 2018. They ran almost wherever they pleased on offense, set up a no-fly zone on defense and dominated on special teams.
Jackson, one of the NFL’s most overpowering forces this season, could’ve been better. Around him, though, there were a lot more reasons for optimism than in previous weeks.
“There were a couple of plays I wish I could have back,” Jackson said. “But yes, I would say this is a game where we did some great things out there.”
In guiding the Ravens to a fifth straight win and a Week 7 battle with the Cincinnati Bengals (4-2), Jackson made history for the second straight week. Sunday’s victory was the 35th of his career, surpassing Marino for the most in NFL history by a quarterback under the age of 25. “That’s pretty cool, I guess,” Jackson said.
His day ended midway through the fourth quarter, with the Ravens up by four touchdowns and fans high-fiving their way to the exits. Six days after setting a franchise record for passing yards in a prime-time win over the Indianapolis Colts, Jackson finished 19-for-27 for 167 passing yards and a touchdown. He said afterward that it was an “it happens” kind of afternoon.
His first interception came after Chargers inside linebacker Kyzir White dropped into a blind spot for an easy pick. His second came after rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman, making his NFL debut, bobbled an on-the-numbers throw into White’s outstretched hands on Jackson’s final drive.
With the Chargers working to take away Jackson’s deep shots, Jackson had to content himself with open running lanes (eight carries for 51 yards) and easy completions underneath. According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Jackson averaged 7 air yards per attempt, just over what he averaged Monday night (6.9).
“It’s a lot of season left,” Jackson said. “We just want to keep winning. Just keep it a game at a time. That’s all.”
The Ravens will win a lot more games if they can run like they did Sunday. They finished with 38 carries for 187 rushing yards (4.9 per attempt), by far their most on the ground since Week 2, and three touchdowns. Latavius Murray, 31, and Devonta Freeman, 29, turned back the clock against the NFL’s worst run defense, averaging a combined 5.4 yards per carry.
The Ravens might have to heal quickly before Sunday’s home game against the Bengals, who have one of the NFL’s stiffer run defenses. Center Bradley Bozeman (back) and Murray (ankle) both left Sunday’s game with injuries, though coach John Harbaugh said neither was “overly serious.”
“We, as a whole, in the running back room, can take it to another level,” said Freeman, who joined Murray and Le’Veon Bell with a touchdown run apiece. “We’ve been doing a whole bunch of learning and stuff, and sometimes, when you’re unfamiliar with different offenses and terminology, it causes you to play a little slower. But we’re in the NFL, and it’s a fast business, so they’re expecting us to know it. We have to come in and execute whenever our number is called. We’re growing in the offense, and we’re learning.”
The Ravens’ high score was more a testament to their defense, which held the Chargers to a season low in yardage (208), than to their offense, which likewise finished with a season low in yardage (327). Herbert, an early contender along with Jackson for NFL Most Valuable Player honors, could do little to carve up a Ravens unit coming off maybe its worst performance of the season.
On early downs, the Chargers’ run game was outschemed and overpowered by a disciplined Ravens front. The 26 rushing yards the Ravens allowed were their fewest since a November 2019 blowout win over the Los Angeles Rams. Starter Austin Ekeler, who’d averaged 5.6 yards per carry over his first five games, had six carries for 7 yards in his sixth.
On late downs, Herbert’s magic was missing. He’d combined to complete 41 of 60 attempts on third and fourth downs entering Sunday’s game, his powerful right arm helping the Chargers convert seven of their first eight fourth-down opportunities.
Against the Ravens, Herbert went 4-for-9 for 39 yards and was sacked twice on third down. On fourth down, he was 0-for-3 passing. Overall, the Chargers completed just three of their 12 third-down opportunities and one of four fourth-down chances.
With the return of starting safety DeShon Elliott, who nabbed his first career interception and added a sack, the Ravens’ secondary had its most manpower all season. It looked nothing like the pass defense that had given up 402 yards to Carson Wentz and Indianapolis, in both scheme and execution.
“It was a lot of looks that we didn’t see on film and stuff they constructed for us,” said Herbert, who finished 22-for-39 for 195 yards, a touchdown and an interception, just his second career game with fewer than 200 passing yards. ”They did a great job at disguising their looks, bringing pressure from one way and hiding from another. It was looks they hadn’t shown all season and stuff that you know we have to be better at to adjust to during the game. But you know, they played a great game.”
With the Ravens’ special teams cruising against an overmatched Chargers unit — no kick return got past the 21-yard line, and kicker Tristan Vizcaino missed his fifth extra-point attempt of the season — Harbaugh could be proud of a comprehensive performance. The Ravens were better in all three phases Sunday. “We played the way we needed to play in this game today,” Harbaugh said after the team’s ninth straight October win.
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With one more victory, the Ravens will head into their Week 8 bye at least tied for first in the AFC. Considering the stars they’ve lost to injury and the near-losses they’ve avoided, they will have cobbled together an impressive two months. Considering how the Ravens looked Sunday, the two months after that could turn out even better.
“We have a long way to go, and I feel like that’s the scary part about this team,” Freeman said. “We’re still reaching super, super heights that haven’t been reached on this team yet. We have a bunch of guys coming in that are just coming in to work every single day. We all know there’s room for improvement, so we’re going for that every single day. We’re going to put this win behind us and move onto Cincinnati and try to get into the details, make some corrections, get better and be better than we were today.”
Sunday, 1 p.m.
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Line: Ravens by 6