After Baltimore’s total annihilation of Miami in a sudden and unanticipated breakout of the new-age offense, expectations were high for the Ravens going into week two. No one expected the Ravens to drop another 59 points, but the assumption was that the Ravens would at least demonstrate their superiority over the team that had won just three games last year. This thought made the most sense when one took into account the not only the matchup favorability but when one considered two metrics that the Ravens have found historical success in. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens win almost all games played in Baltimore in September, and almost all games played against rookie quarterbacks.
With all things taken into consideration, it looked like the Arizona Cardinals, with a rookie quarterback, Kyler Murray, at the helm of the offense, were poised for disaster on Sunday.
Spoiler alert, there was no disaster waiting for the Cardinals at M&T Bank Stadium.
The game’s beginning could not have been more confidence-inducing. Baltimore forced an Arizona punt on the first drive, and the offense picked where they left off in Miami. The Ravens dashed almost the entire length of the field, 94 yards in total, in just seven plays, which took just 3:56 off the clock. Lamar Jackson flashed his eliteness, completing on all six of his pass attempts. Jackson accounted for 93 of the 94 yards on the drive, and he finished it with a slash down the sideline to Mark Andrews, who tip-toed into the endzone for the score.
The stadium was literally shaking after that touchdown, I felt it.
The Ravens were in control of the game throughout the first two quarters, but there was a collective sense that the Ravens were not doing enough in the first half. Baltimore should have put the Cardinals to bed by the end of the second quarter, but Arizona remained very much awake.
Trouble started for the Ravens just before the end of the first half. With 2:43 remaining in the half, the Ravens started a drive at their own 45-yard line, amicable field position to say the least. The Ravens were in front, 17-6, and had a real chance to put a win out of Arizona’s reach on this drive. So what did the Ravens do on this critical drive? Orlando Brown Jr. committed a holding penalty, Lamar Jackson took a sack, and Matt Skura botched a snap, which would have resulted in Baltimore’s first turnover of the year, had Marshal Yanda not fallen on the ball. The Ravens lost a total of 11 yards on the drive and punted the ball away.
Letting a team hang around like this rarely ends well.
The Cardinals cut the Ravens lead in the second half. Just over two minutes into the fourth quarter, the Cardinals scored a touchdown to close the gap to just three points. The hysteric confidence of the first drive was replaced with the sour feeling that the Ravens were going to choke the game away.
Baltimore answered Arizona’s score with a score of their own, but instead of a touchdown to secure a two-possession lead, Baltimore only scored a field goal. This left the Ravens with an uneasy six-point lead, and it was up to the defense to hold back the Cardinals offense.
The Cardinals had their way with the Ravens defense during most of the second half. The secondary especially struggled, as Kyler Murray was shredding it with downfield passes against blown coverages. When the game was on the line, however, Baltimore’s defensive poise prevailed. The Ravens held the Cardinals to one yard, and negative six yards on their two drives after the Ravens field goal. The Ravens got the ball back with 3:13 to go in the fourth quarter, and were able to run the clock out and win the game.
Despite the sloppy play and near choke-job, the Ravens left M&T Bank Stadium with their second consecutive win to open the season. The game was not pretty. Kyler Murray threw for 349 yards against Baltimore’s supposedly stout secondary, and the matchup proved to be much closer than expected, but the only statistic that actually matters is the conclusion. The Ravens defeated the Cardinals. Yes, the game should have been dominated by Baltimore, but the Ravens escaped with a victory, and no one can take that away from them.