As the Ravens prepare to face Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon in Foxboro, Massachusetts, they are still trying to lose the sour taste of last week’s 42-38 loss to Miami.
The Dolphins game could best be summarized by Charles Dickens’ classic opening line to his novel, “A Tale of Two Cities”:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us ...
The good news is that Lamar Jackson is clearly on a mission to prove, in deeds and action, that he deserves to be the highest-paid quarterback in the league with guaranteed money that surpasses Deshaun Watson’s five-year, $230 million deal with the Cleveland Browns.
He’s letting everyone know that like Tommy Gibbs, backed by the pulsating sounds of James Brown in the movie “Black Caesar,” he’s paid the cost to be the boss.
With each scintillating highlight, Lamar is screaming, “Told you so!” and “Look at me! You know what you see? You see a bad mother!”
The person in charge of the music at M&T Bank Stadium needs to rock that as Lamar’s theme song when he walks through the tunnel.
But I digress.
With last week’s mesmerizing performance, Jackson became the NFL’s all-time leader in terms of quarterbacks with 100-yard rushing games — now at 11 — surpassing the remarkable Michael Vick.
He also posted his third game with at least 100 yards rushing and three touchdown passes. You know who else in the illustrious history of the NFL has ever accomplished that? As Keith Sweat once crooned, “Nobody!”
The Ravens shredded the Jets and Dolphins in their opening two games with an offense that’s putting up 31 points per game. Two weeks into the season, Jackson has thrown for 531 yards and six touchdowns. Rashod Batemen has proved to be the downfield weapon that can change a game in an instant, evidenced by his touchdown grabs of 75 and 55 yards.
Tight end Mark Andrews has been Mr. Reliable as usual, with 156 receiving yards and a touchdown while leading the team with 14 catches.
But the running backs’ contribution to the offensive firepower has been more atrocious than John Travolta’s acting in “Gotti.”
Mike Davis, Justice Hill and Kenyon Drake have a combined 29 carries for 79 yards thus far. With the eventual return of J.K. Dobbins, assuming he can pick up where he left off after the devastating knee injury that has sidelined him since last preseason, the running game woes will hopefully be remedied.
If not, Head Coach John Harbaugh will have to do something to get that aspect of the offense up to par. Jackson leads the team with 136 yards rushing on 15 carries, but expecting him to continue to carry the rushing load is asinine.
New England is stingy against the run, surrendering a mere 78 yards per game. Coming into this game with zero weapons at running back is inviting trouble.
The Patriots will be bringing the heat with former Raven Matt Judon at defensive end, and they boast an impressive secondary, headlined by cornerback Jalen Mills, the seventh-year pro out of LSU.
Circling back to Dickens talking bout the worst of times, the Ravens have the absolute worst pass defense in the entire league right now.
The Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle ripped them to shreds last week, with those two receivers alone combining to catch 22 passes for 361 yards and four touchdowns.
The Patriots’ second-year QB Mac Jones is wise beyond his years and has passed for 465 yards and two touchdowns in New England’s opening games against the Dolphins and Steelers. They don’t fly down the field like Waddle and Hill, but New England receivers Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor have a combined 22 receptions for 288 yards.
Whatever’s been ailing Baltimore in the secondary will hopefully be remedied on Sunday. The one positive about the Ravens’ defense is their ability to stop the run. They’ll be tasked with shutting down Damien Harris, who’s averaging 119 yards per game. And they still need someone to step up as a threat on the defensive line as a pass rusher.
The Patriots will be at home for the first time this year after playing their first two games on the road. The Ravens cannot afford to start the year at 1-2.
Back to Dickens, right now we’re in the epoch of belief. But a second-straight loss on Sunday will bring about the epoch of incredulity.