Take-home points from Baltimore Ravens playoff-clinching win
By Darin McCann
The Baltimore Ravens dominate to crash through the door of this year’s playoffs
The stakes were clear for the Baltimore Ravens heading into their season-ender against division rival Cincinnati on Sunday: Win, and the Ravens make the playoffs. Lose, and hope for others to make you a lucky — and I’d argue undeserving — entrant in the tournament.
The Ravens decided to just go ahead and do it on their own, and they did, smashing the Bengals to the tune of a 38-3 drubbing. We’ll find out later who the Ravens will face next weekend, but the important take-away from this is they won and earned a third straight trip to the playoffs, this year riding a five-game win streak when they needed each of those five wins.
Let’s take a quick look back on this one.
• The Ravens out-gained the Bengals 525-195, had 14 more first downs and gained 404 rushing yards. It was a classic case of one team being able to physically overwhelm another team and basically do whatever… wait. 404 yards?
The Ravens averaged 352.3 yards per game of total offense heading into this one and then ran for 404 yards? Go home, Bengals. That was embarrassing. And, I do mean “home.” Like, wherever you are from originally. Just… go.
• Lamar Jackson gets the attention from this team, so let’s take a look at his game today. Passing, he went 10-18 for 113 yards, with three touchdowns and a pick. He contributed another 97 yards on 11 carries with his feet.
There were brilliant throws like the touchdown to Boykin and the second touchdown to Brown, and a few “just bad” tosses. But he was electric and magical and seems to have hit his stride at the right time of the season. If this is the Jackson the Ravens get in the playoffs, this team is dangerous.
• The defense played a terrific game today.The Bengals didn’t get their first first down of the game until there was about 3:30 left in the first half, and 55 of the Bengals’ 195 yards of offense came on a run by Trayveon Williams when he just avoided getting stuffed for a loss by DeShon Elliott. I thought Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey both looked very good in coverage, as did Anthony Averett.
• Tyus Bowser is a really good football player. He made plays against the run and pass and seems to do so every game. The Ravens are going to have to make some decisions this offseason, but you have to think the team’s brass is going to make Bowser a priority. Unless some other team comes in with a truckload of money and opportunities, I expect him to be back next year.
• J.K Dobbins is more than just an exciting addition for this team, he is a really important asset to consider when you are inevitably asking yourself right now if this year’s Ravens team will do better in the playoffs than the 2018 and 2019 teams. Mark Ingram was great last season, but he was never quite the same after his injury late in the year and was basically non-existent in the playoff loss to the Titans.
The year before saw Kennth Dixon mixing in with Gus Edwards to handle the running back committee. Dobbins brings a different element than any of those players, and is the most explosive Ravens running back since the heyday of Ray Rice. The combination of Jackson, Dobbins and Edwards is every bit as dangerous to opposing defenses as any lethal receiving unit you might be considering. It was good to see them get through this game healthy.
• If Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin can consistently provide what they did today — possession work from Andrews, a deep pass and typically-solid blocking from Boykin and quick-hitters and touchdowns by Brown, that can work if they can keep the running game on the tracks.
Add in Willie Snead manipulating zone coverages and some spot work from Dez Bryant, and the Ravens can get enough out of their passing offense to be dangerous.
• That’s three straight years in the playoffs and a 30-7 record in games started by Lamar Jackson. Oh yeah, he was also last year’s unanimous Most Valuable Player. Sure, he needs to get a playoff win — or two or three — sooner rather than later to truly be in the discussion of the league’s best signal-callers, but it would appear safe to suggest that the Ravens did a nice job trading back into the first round of the 2018 draft to select their quarterback of the future.
He became the first quarterback in the history of the league to run for 1,000 yards in two straight seasons, and he has had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 68-18 throughout his career. Call him a running back, if you choose. But… you’re not smart. And he’ll probably beat your team.