The Baltimore Ravens defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday to stay in the thick of the AFC Playoff Race. The victory added another “w” to the Ravens win column, the fourth such denotation in five weeks. While the game ended in the desired manner, many Ravens fans may have found the game boring to watch. The Ravens utilized another run heavy scheme to defeat a low scoring opponent. Baltimore’s win over the plainly bad team was not dominant, however. The Ravens struggled to establish themselves in the first half, and it would not until the end of it. The second half is where the Ravens, players both individually and as a whole, shined.
The Ravens offense started the game off poorly, very poorly to be precise. Baltimore struggled to move and hold on to the ball. Quarterback Lamar Jackson gave the Ravens no help. In fact, Lamar Jackson hurt the Ravens for the majority of the first half, in what was perhaps his worst performance in a purple and black uniform. Jackson failed to accurately throw the ball. He missed receivers such as John Brown running a short route, and tight end Mark Andrews wide open on a deep route. Jackson also fumbled the ball on a bad snap, and threw a sure-fire interception, only to luck out as it was dropped by the defensive back.
By the end of the first half, however, Jackson and the Ravens offense got in rhythm. They moved the ball downfield and took a field goal to take the lead with barely any time left on the clock. Jackson’s passing abilities improved as the game went on. He later explained that it was hard for him to grip the ball in the rain, and needed to get used to it. His favorite target would be Willie Snead. Jackson has relied on Snead like no other receiver during his tenure as the starting quarterback. He targeted Snead six times, and he caught the ball five times for 58 yards. Jackson also targeted Hayden Hurst frequently, three times to be exact. Hurst, who has struggled this year, did well. He caught all three targets for 20 yards. Jackson finished the day with 14 completions on 23 attempts for 131 yards and one touchdown.
The Ravens again used the ground game to serve as the engine for the offense. The weather conditions warranted less passing and more running. This fit right into the hands of the Ravens, as rushing yields Baltimore’s most productive offense. The Ravens ran well throughout the game, but especially in the fourth quarter. The Ravens entered the final drive up by eight points with 7:08 left on the clock. Baltimore was able to burn all the time remaining and win the game simply by running the ball. Baltimore’s most effective carrier was Gus Edwards. Edwards ran 19 times for 104 yards and one touchdown. His 5.5 yards per rush average was the highest on the team. Lamar Jackson ran the ball 18 times for 95 yards. At one point, Jackson was above 100 rushing yards, but his total went down after a few negative yardage plays. Running back Kenneth Dixon got in on the action too. Dixon ran the ball 11 times for 48 yards.
Despite the production on the ground, the Ravens offense was only able to accumulate 20 points. Baltimore had a chance to increase the lead at the end of the game, but chose to go into victory formation instead of racking up the score. The offense again yielded to the defense to cover its inability to score. The Ravens defense played phenomenally well against Tampa’s offense. which was ranked first overall in yards per game going into the week. Baltimore held Tampa Bay to just 156 passing yards, and 85 rushing yards. The Ravens defense pushed the Buccaneers offense off the field quickly, and the Ravens again won the time of possession battle, 37:10 to 22:50. Baltimore also held Tampa Bay’s offense to converting just 30% of all third down conversions. The defense got off the field quickly, and gave the offense the ball back to wind down the clock. By repeating this strategy, Baltimore choked the life out of the Tampa Bay offense, and ensured a victory.
The defensive unit played well as a team, as every player meshed together to create one giant effort to win the game. However, there still were a couple of players that stood out. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley recorded eight total tackles, and one half sack. He and Patrick Onwuasor split the quarterback takedown. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey continued to display his development into one of the best defensive backs in the NFL. He recorded two tackles, four pass deflections, and one interception. The second year player earned our Ravens Player of the Game Award.
The Baltimore Ravens fought hard against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The suffocating defense prevented any substantial gains, and the offense drained the clock in the second half to ultimately secure a victory. With the win, the Ravens remain at the forefront of the playoff race. Baltimore possesses the sixth and final playoff seed with just two weeks to go in the 2018 season. Baltimore will have to fend off the 8-6 Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans to punch their ticket to the postseason. The Ravens will need to create a win streak this week in Los Angeles against the Chargers to give themselves a great chance to make the playoffs. A loss would put that chance in danger.