Ravens Lamar Jackson became the only player in league history to throw for at least 270 yards and rush for at least 120 yards in a game.
From Lamar Jackson’s individual brilliance to disappointing days for the offensive line and secondary, here are five things we learned from the Ravens’ 23-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
The Ravens leaned hard on Lamar Jackson’s individual brilliance.
The Ravens could do no wrong on offense in their Week 1 blowout of the Miami Dolphins. They acted like a power-running team on one possession and a vertical, big-play machine the next. All of it worked.
In Week 2 against the Cardinals, they depended far more on the unique athletic traits of their second-year quarterback. The good news for them was that Jackson proved up to the task.
He carried a team-high 16 times for 120 yards, and his runs, some devised and some improvised, were essential to each of the team’s five scoring drives.
“It was probably the difference-maker in the game,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
Jackson did not revert to his rookie form, when he trusted his legs more than his arm. He completed 24 of 37 passes for 272 yards and put the game away with a daring 41-yard completion to rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown late in the fourth quarter.
“You all watched Lamar make great throws all day from the pocket,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “So he has improved dramatically there.”
Which means the rest of the NFL will face a nightmare scenario game planning for the Ravens. How do you account for an efficient passer who doubles as one of the most dangerous open-field runners in the world?
“It’s just going to be a real conundrum for them,” Harbaugh said.
This was the dream scenario the Ravens contemplated when they traded back into the first round in 2018 to draft Jackson. After they handed him the ball midway through last season, they went all-in building their offensive concepts around his hybrid gifts.
Against Arizona, Jackson became the first player in NFL history to throw for at least 270 yards and run for at least 120 yards. Only a few other players in the last century of professional football (Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick for a brief window) could have contemplated hitting both those marks on the same afternoon.
If you’re trying to build a revolutionary offense, as the Ravens say they are, it sure helps to have a potentially revolutionary player at its heart.
Perhaps we jumped the gun in declaring the secondary the strength of this team.
The Ravens gave up four passes of 30 yards or more to Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, and that’s an alarming statistic considering they’re about to face the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player and most dynamic passer: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Give the Cardinals and first-year coach Kingsbury credit; they kept the Ravens off balance with an attack that built off short, quick throws early and gradually stretched the field both vertically and horizontally.
This approach discombobulated the Ravens, who were playing with second-year cornerback Anthony Averett in place of injured veteran Jimmy Smith and are still adjusting to the absence of their top nickel cornerback, Tavon Young. The Ravens were penalized twice for having 12 men on the field and appeared harried as they ran substitutes in and out.
“It’s a spread-open offense,” Harbaugh said. “And sometimes you get into some zone-coverage situations, and you have to get lined up fast, and you have to communicate fast. The route matches are not simple. They’re not simple for any team.”
Safeties Tony Jefferson and Earl Thomas III both expressed dissatisfaction with the Ravens’ communications on the back end.
“They got some great concepts, schemed-up concept plays and they took advantage of them,” Thomas said. “A couple of them, we just didn’t have zone eyes; there were mental errors and simple mistakes that if we was on our stuff, you never would have seen that. It’s stuff we have to clean up.”
The Ravens did clamp down when the Cardinals had to play in tighter spaces, and their red-zone stands were essential to winning the game.
But this secondary is vulnerable over the top. We’ve seen it two weeks in a row, even though the Ravens have allowed just two touchdowns.
"Lamar played a great game running the ball, and running the ball effectively,' said John Harbaugh after a 17-23 win over the Cardinals.
Mark Andrews is the Ravens’ best receiver now, and it’s not particularly close.
Brown has certainly added new dimensions to the offense with his quickness in the flats and his ability to get behind defenses.
But when Jackson finds himself in a tight spot, he looks over the middle to Andrews. The second-year tight end has 16 catches on 17 targets this season, and he’s quickly playing himself into the elite at his position.
Andrews emerged as Jackson’s favorite downfield target during the Ravens’ run to the postseason last year and returned stronger, faster and more assertive. Almost everyone who watched the Ravens daily during training camp predicted he’d take another step toward NFL stardom this season.
Andrews has exceeded those lofty expectations. Safeties and linebackers can’t hope to shadow him one-on-one, and he catches everything in traffic. He’ll also lower his shoulder (or vault Nick Boyle-style) to extend a play. Jackson obviously believes in him at a level deeper than simple see-and-throw dynamics.
“I tell Mark all the time, ‘We gonna play street ball,’ ” Jackson said, repeating a phrase that has become common around the Ravens offense.
“The way he plays the game and the way I run routes and the way I see the game is super similar,” Andrews said.
NFL fans saw Mahomes unleash widespread devastation with All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce in Kansas City last year. Jackson and Andrews are poised to become the next quarterback-tight end partnership to make such an impression on the league.
Ravens offensive lineman Orlando Brown, Jr., talks about facing former teammate Terrell Suggs and the Cardinals pass rushers.
The Ravens struggled to finish drives because of sloppy offensive-line play.
After a stellar debut in Miami, the offensive line shot itself in the collective foot with six penalties, including three holding calls.
All of the drives on which the line was penalized ended short of the end zone.
“The penalties killed us,” Jackson said, blaming himself for a pair of illegal formation calls that were assessed to his blockers. Former Ravens star Terrell Suggs also did an effective job lobbying officials for holding calls.
The line’s struggles went beyond sloppiness; they didn’t clear much room between the tackles for No. 1 running back Mark Ingram II, who finished with 47 yards on 13 carries after rushing for 107 on 14 attempts against the Dolphins.
“I’m not exactly sure why. I have to watch the film to really let you know,” right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said. “I think maybe they had the box overloaded.”
The Ravens got away with a below-average performance from their line Sunday. But they won’t keep up with Mahomes and the Chiefs if they repeatedly put themselves in third-and-long because of penalties and low-yield running plays.
Having spent most of his career in Baltimore, Arizona Cardinals linebacker Terrell Suggs reacts to playing in the stadium that he once called home.
On a day when Terrell Suggs came back to Baltimore, Matthew Judon played like his worthy successor.
Judon has long paid homage to Suggs as a mentor. The fourth-year linebacker also faces significant pressure to make up for the pass-rush production lost when Suggs and Za’Darius Smith departed in free agency.
So far, he’s risen to the task.
With Suggs watching from the other sideline Sunday, Judon consistently beat Arizona’s tackles off the edge and finished with four tackles, a sack and three quarterback hits. Overall, the Ravens hit Murray nine times, a major reason why their defense bent but did not ultimately break.
Judon got off to slow starts each of the last two seasons, with zero sacks in the first five games of 2017 and a half sack in the first five games of 2018.
But he played with notable intensity from the start of training camp this season and has carried his form into the games that matter.