The Baltimore Ravens entered Indianapolis on Monday, determined to prove themselves a worthy adversary against a well-matched team. Against the Rams last week, the Ravens starting offense and defense exclusively competed against second teamers. While the units found success, the team wanted to up the ante against the Colts. The Ravens and Colts battled fiercely, but at the end of the match, Baltimore came out on top. Here are some key observations from that victory on Monday night.
From the getgo, the offense attempted to show off its playmaking abilities. On the first play of the game, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called in a missile launch from Joe Flacco. Although the path was obstructed by a defensive back, the ball was well placed for John Brown, who would have made the catch, if not for the defensive play. The first drive stalled out on the third play, however, when Javorius Allen muffed a handoff from Flacco on third and one. The Ravens recovered, but the team was forced to give up possession by virtue of a punt.
On the second drive, Flacco and the offense moved the ball from deep in the team’s own territory to midfield but could go no farther. The drive stalled out at midfield after Flacco was sacked on third down. On the third offensive drive, Flacco efficiently moved the ball downfield, registering two highlight plays. Flacco shot one pass to the near sideline on second down to Michael Crabtree, who gained 29 yards on the toe-tapping play. Later in the drive, Flacco spun the ball right into the hands of John Brown, standing in the back of the end zone. Brown dragged his feet as he fell out of bounds, to ensure a Ravens touchdown. After this drive, the Ravens opted to remove the starting offense and put the second string players in place.
Overall, the starting offense impressed. Joe Flacco his stellar day completing seven of nine passes for 72 yards, and one touchdown. It seems that Flacco has greatly improved from last season, because of two main factors. The first is that Flacco is finally healthy. Since 2015, Flacco has dealt with an ACL tear and recovery, along with a lingering back injury. The second factor is the new receiver corps. It is obvious that Flacco loves the new trio of Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead. The new tight ends also offer Flacco a viable option that has been absent since the loss of Dennis Pitta. Overall, the revamped offense has looked good in the two preseason games so far.
Lamar Jackson came out to lead the offense but failed to produce much of anything early. His first drive stalled out, as Gus Edwards gained a net of 0 yards on two rushes. Jackson, on third down, shot the ball to a wide open Janarion Grant, but he drastically underthrew the receiver. In the next drive, Jackson took a shot at Willie Snead, but this time, placed the ball high above the former Saint. The pass fell incomplete. On his second pass of the drive, he failed to connect with Jordan Lasley, as he overthrew the rookie by ten yards downfield. On third down, Jackson fled backward to avoid a tackle. In the process, he went back 28 yards and almost gave up a sack before throwing the football away.
Jackson’s next gaffe came on the next drive after he rightfully decided to scramble. The issue came at the end of the run, as Jackson decided to dive head first into two defenders and consequently fumbled the ball. Luckily for the Ravens, upon further review, the officials ruled that Jackson was down before the fumble. Jackson eventually recorded his first completion to Kenneth Dixon on a check-down late in the second quarter. He also connected with Hayden Hurst, who dragged a would-be tackler for an additional five yards. The drive stalled out as time was running out, and Jackson was forced to attempt deep passes which came up empty.
Jackson eventually settled in and finally recorded a score at the start of the second half with a touchdown pass to Chris Moore in the corner of the end zone. As Jackson was struggling, Kenneth Dixon provided the Ravens with a steady stream of yardage. Dixon finished the night with six runs for 32 yards, and 3 receptions for 24 yards. Dixon was a major standout of the night, as the third year running back is competing with undrafted rookie Gus Edwards for his roster position. Edwards received ample time to prove himself as well. Edwards ran 15 times for 43 yards. In comparison, Dixon outperformed Edwards in this matchup. Dixon averaged 5.3 yards per carrying, while Edwards averaged 2.9.
Lamar Jackson again failed to finish with a completion percentage over 50%. Instead, he completed just seven of 15, for 49 yards and one touchdown. A great many of Jackson’s completions came from check downs as well, the easiest type of passes. Jackson touted as the future of the franchise, has yet to prove himself capable of playing in the NFL. Every snap he takes seems to further solidify Joe Flacco as the 2018 starting quarterback. To be fair, the Ravens do not expect Lamar Jackson to produce right away. Baltimore drafted him to be a project quarterback, and the development plan is still in place. The national media seems to have an unhealthy obsession with Lamar Jackson, that unfairly puts him in the spotlight he is not ready for.
After Jackson exited the game, Robert Griffin III entered and took control of the offense quickly. The former Heisman Trophy winner completed six of eight passes for 31 yards, but if one adjusts for drops, he should have completed all passes. The two drops came from the two rookie draft pick receivers. On one pass, Griffin launched a perfect bomb to Jordan Lasley on the near sideline. The ball was in the exact place it needed to be for Lasley to catch it, and run into the end zone, but in a lack of concentration, the former UCLA Bruin dropped it. The next drop was committed by Jaleel Scott. Scott was passed the ball on third and long and caught it about midway from the first down marker. Scott flat out dropped the ball in the middle of the field, with no defenders on him.
Both failures give the Ravens serious doubts about how these two receivers can produce moving forward. Lasley was highly touted in training camp, his practice production has yet to be seen on the competitive field. Scott was drafted to be a reliable red zone target. However, he has yet to even make an impact this preseason. Both were seen as roster locks heading into the preseason, but with the disappointing performances, one may not make the roster.
Meanwhile, the special teams unit saw failure uncommon for Baltimore football. Tim White and Janarion Grant both could not maintain their roles as kick returners. Tim White, on the second kick return, fumbled the ball. White then illegally called for a fair catch and was penalized for the mistake. The early errors by White gave way for Janarion Grant to try his hand. Despite initial success, Grant fumbled the ball as well. The turnovers on special teams did not just come from the return specialists. On a Kaare Vedvik punt, a colts special teamer burst right through the middle, and blocked the punt, leading to a Colts touchdown on the ensuing drive. The series of misfortune constitutes a disaster for the Ravens special teams unit, an irregular occurrence for one of the best in the business.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens starting unit showed up to play. Although Jimmy Smith was notably absent, Don Martindale’s defense was able to shut down Andrew Luck and the Colts offense. On Luck’s first offensive drive, Baltimore forced a three and out. Cornerback Tavon Young was able to knock down an accurate pass on third down to force a punt. The Tim White fumble gave the Colts starting field position deep inside Ravens territory, but the defense came up big. Anthony Levine Sr. picked off Andrew Luck, saving Baltimore from surrendering points. The first points were scored by Adam Vinatieri. The 45-year-old kicker put a 57-yard field goal through the uprights. Before the unit left the field, Terrell Suggs recorded a drive ending Sack on Andrew Luck.
The Ravens starting defense held the Colts to just three points while on the field. The secondary was able to bottle up Luck and his receivers, while the defensive line was also able to provide pressure and stuff the run. The one disappointment of the night from the unit was the play of C.J. Mosley. Mosley broke down in coverage twice, allowing passes to tight ends over the middle. Mosley would eventually redeem himself, as he batted down a pass intended for the tight end.
The second string Ravens defense, as a unit, played well throughout the remainder of the game. The unit gave up two additional touchdowns but stopped a crucial two-point conversion to seal the win. The first touchdown came on a long Colts drive led by Jacoby Brissett. On the goal line, defensive tackle Michael Pierce stripped the ball from Jordan Wilkins. The football rolled right into the hands of Chester Rogers, who was standing in the end zone, resulting in a touchdown. The great play by Pierce has the opposite of the intended effect, giving the Colts the lead.
In the next red zone situation, the Ravens prevented a Colts score. The star of that series was Anthony Averett, who got stopped the Colts on three straight plays. On the first, he bottled up Jordan Wilkins for a loss of yards. On the next, he breaks up a would-be touchdown pass. On the third play, Averett prevents a touchdown through tough coverage, not allowing the receiver to have a chance at the ball. The Colts attempted to score a touchdown on fourth down, but safety DeShon Elliot broke the pass up in the end zone. Elliot also recovered a fumble and returned it for about 20 yards, but the officials took the call back, as the receiver did not have full possession before fumbling it.
Near the end of the game, the Colts regained control of the ball after a blocked punt on Kaare Vedvik. Immediately, Phillip Walker tossed up a touchdown pass to Zach Pascal. Pascal caught the ball over Darius Williams, who had another poor performance for the Ravens. Williams constantly gets beat in the end zone and has been cited for multiple penalties. The defense was able to stop the Colts from winning. Walker attempted to run in a two-point conversion but was bottled up by Kenny Young, Bronson Kaufusi, and Zach Sieler.
Overall, the Ravens defensive depth group was able to hold their own against the Colts. The unit saw great performances by certain players like Anthony Averett, DeShon Elliot, and Michael Pierce. The best performance, however, came from Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Jean-Baptiste finished the day with five tackles, a pass breakup, and an interception. His efforts earned him The Baltimore Feather’s Ravens Player of the Game award. Overall, the unit is very deep on defense, and will be able to perform well this season.