Given only three days to shake off a tough defeat at the hands of the Browns, the Ravens rebounded nicely, outlasting the Bengals 34-20 on Thursday night. Here’s how the team graded out.
Lamar Jackson went down late in the first quarter with an apparent ankle injury but, after a visit to the medical tent, returned without missing a snap. His final stat line — 16-for-26, 264 passing yards, two touchdowns — paints a rosier picture than the one presented on film, though his performance could’ve been hampered by his injury. Playing without safety valve Mark Andrews for the majority of the game, Jackson sometimes looked out of sync with his pass catchers, failing to connect with his wideouts on deep balls on several occasions. Still, he led six scoring drives, rushed for 54 yards and spread the ball to nine receivers.
After rushing for a minuscule 2.2 yards per carry against the Browns on Sunday, Gus Edwards responded by posting 62 yards on 12 carries and a pair of touchdowns, once again showing he’s one of the best goal-to-go backs in the league. Keaton Mitchell picked up 33 yards on eight carries, flashing the kind of game-breaking speed the Ravens’ rushing attack has been missing since J.K. Dobbins went down with a torn Achilles. Baltimore’s backs helped the offense go 6-for-12 on third downs, extending drives and salting away a victory.
Tackle Patrick Mekari was pressed into action again in the absence of starter Ronnie Stanely. Matched up against professional game wrecker Trey Hendrickson, Mekari was less than perfect to start but improved as the game continued. Jackson was sacked three times for 16 yards, though at least one of those could be blamed on the quarterback. Center Tyler Linderbaum led a strong performance from the interior offensive line, paving the way for the running backs.
Losing their All-Pro tight end on the first drive of the game could have had disastrous consequences in this game. But Baltimore’s much-maligned receivers stepped up. Odell Beckham Jr. topped 100 receiving yards for the first time as a Raven. Nelson Agholor scored one of the most bizarre and memorable touchdowns in recent memory, catching a deflected pass in the middle of the field and taking it 37 yards to the house. Zay Flowers would’ve had a touchdown himself had Beckham not been flagged for holding on what would’ve been a 68-yarder in the second quarter. This was exactly the kind of production fans have been waiting to see from the Ravens’ wideouts.
Where would this team be without Jadeveon Clowney? Well, probably still in good shape. But a first-half sack brought the veteran’s total to 6.5 on the season, impressive for a player signed in July. Veteran Broderick Washington was a surprising healthy scratch, and the middle of the Ravens’ line looked vulnerable at times. But the pass rushers feasted on Bengals backup quarterback Jake Browning in the second half, finishing with five sacks.
The inside linebackers remain the spine of the Ravens’ top-flight defense, but this is two consecutive games in which the group has looked vulnerable. Patrick Queen appeared less than 100% and, aside from his second-quarter demolition of Joe Mixon, Roquan Smith looked to be just a tick less effective than usual. With a longer week ahead and the bye on the horizon, these guys could use a rest.
Down cornerback Marlon Humphrey, the Ravens’ secondary needed Ronald Darby to pinch hit, as he did so well at the start of the season. Despite not having played in four weeks, the veteran delivered with three passes defended. Brandon Stephens held Bengals star receiver Ja’Marr Chase to two catches for 12 yards. Marcus Williams, playing in just his fifth game this season, played much better than he had in his previous four. Browning posed little threat in the passing game, and Rock Ya-Sin drew a brutal pass interference penalty in the third quarter, but on the whole this unit played well.
Kicker Justin Tucker was perfect, connecting on field goals from 25 and 47 yards, as well as all four extra points. Cincinnati’s Charlie Jones had an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown the last time these two teams met, but he had no such luck Thursday, returning three punts for 24 yards.
These guys somehow caused play to stop. On a night when the Ravens repeatedly turned off the stadium lights for dramatic effect, the drones demanded the spotlight.