Roquan Smith heard it all week. The Detroit Lions entered Sunday’s matchup with the Ravens as one of the best offenses in football, boasting the third-most yards per game and fourth-most points per game before stepping foot in Baltimore.
He heard it. It didn’t mean the Ravens inside linebacker believed it.
“A lot of things happen here and there, but you’ve got to show me once we’re on the field,” Smith said. “I don’t believe in all the things you hear and say. And, like I said, that chin hadn’t been tested just yet.”
That highly regarded offense came up against Baltimore’s highly regarded defense. And, when the sun began to set at M&T Bank Stadium, it was the Ravens who emerged with a thorough thumping of the Lions.
Smith said it best. He’s in the “Show Me” business. What, then, did the Ravens show the Lions?
“I’ll let you be the judge,” Smith said.
In short, Baltimore showed what kind of defense it possesses — it’s one that is historically dominant, and with former linebacker Terrell Suggs at the stadium for his halftime induction into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor, the 2023 edition of this defense proved it is cut from the same purple-and-black cloth of so many predecessors.
The Ravens allowed one garbage-time touchdown — a breakthrough that inside linebacker Patrick Queen admitted left the unit “pissed” despite the blowout victory — to bring their season total to six offensive touchdowns allowed.
Baltimore’s defense allows a touchdown on only 7.5% of its drives, according to TruMedia. That’s the lowest rate since at least the turn of the century, and it’s a point of pride for the Ravens.
“We definitely know,” Queen said. “We don’t talk about it much, but we definitely know.”
There’s an ample amount of time left this season, but the early returns show a distinct similarity to another Ravens defense of lore. In 2000, when the Ravens won the Super Bowl, their defense allowed 10.3 points per game — a record for the fewest points conceded in a 16-game regular season.
Baltimore’s 7.5% touchdown rate this season narrowly edges the 8.2% that imposing unit posted.
“We take a bunch of pride in it,” cornerback Brandon Stephens said. “Every time we step on the field, we try to make a statement, and I think we did that today. Like you said, bend-don’t-break mentality. We just make it as hard as possible.”
Part of what made Sunday’s performance especially impressive is that it came against an offense more highly regarded than any Baltimore had played this season. The Ravens have held other offenses in check, but many of those — be it the backup quarterback of the Cleveland Browns or a rookie in C.J. Stroud of the Houston Texans — haven’t performed at a high level against even lackluster defenses.
The Lions entered as one of the best offenses in the league because of the development of their quarterback. Jared Goff has risen into an upper-tier passer. But Goff was under duress throughout Sunday’s contest, and for the first time this season he was held without a passing touchdown.
The Ravens sacked him five times, pushing their season total to 29, the most through seven games in franchise history. They hit him eight times. They pressured him 30 times on 58 drop-backs.
Goff was never comfortable, and part of it was down to the return of outside linebacker Odafe Oweh, who played his first game since Week 2 and finished tied with Kyle Van Noy for the team lead in pressures with five, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats.
Goff still racked up 284 yards, but many of those came as the fourth quarter wound to a close and the result was a foregone conclusion. Still, when running back Jahmyr Gibbs punched the Lions into the end zone for the only time Sunday, it left a bitter feeling among a defense that had come close to a shutout.
“I know they got that one late, but, hey, live to see another day,” Smith said. “We’ll bounce back.”
That’s just about the only quibble the Ravens can have from an all-exhaustive display of defensive dominance. The Lions came in as an early-season juggernaut. They left humbled by a defense that stood up to the task.
“There was a lot of talk,” Queen said. “But they hadn’t played us yet.”
Now they have. And now it’s the Ravens’ defense that can keep on talking.