Welcome back to The Crow's Nest, your virtual Baltimore Ravens sports bar.
Well, another prime-time game. Another twist to an already unpredictable season with Lamar Jackson throwing four interceptions tonight. Somehow, another win. At 8-3, the Ravens are the #1 seed in the AFC. In this improbable season where every game it seems could be decided in the final minute, the Ravens pulled a rabbit out of their hat with their much-maligned defense stepped up on Sunday and throttled the Browns running game while the offense did just enough to put 16 points on the board and win. "The defense was off the charts", John Harbaugh told the press after the game, "It's one of the best performances we've seen in a while."
It was a raucous night at the old nest as both teams combined for five turnovers in the last three minutes of the first half. A lot of hands-on head moments in this one. The Ravens continue to live dangerously but they keep finding ways to win. The AFC North divisional games mean everything and with the Ravens playing the Browns, at the Steelers then at the Browns (?) in the next three games, there's little room for error. The Ravens holding serve tonight at M & T Bank Stadium against Cleveland while the Bengals throttled the Steelers in Cincinnati kept the Ravens at the top of the division for now.
We have decided to do things a little differently here at the nest this week. After polling everyone here at the bar (except Ronnie until he pays his tab) we're awarding Crow's Nest game balls for great play and assigning suicide laps from Canton to Fells Point for underwhelming play (coaches included). There's no favoritism here, only our opinion after another wild one at the Bank on Sunday night.
Queen's career as a Raven has been up and down but tonight against the Browns, he put the defense on his back at points and proved why he was a first-round draft pick. He led the team in tackles tonight with 8 and was a disruptor to Cleveland's stellar running game. Queen injured himself after attempting to tackle Browns tight end David Njoku and was questionable to return but he showed some serious heart by returning to the game and playing at a high level. The lineage of great Ravens linebackers looks like it's going to continue if Queen continues to play at the level he played at tonight.
Bowser was all over the field tonight registering a sack, two tackles, and two assists. The signature plays from Bowser's night were on the final Browns drive of the night where he broke up the third-down pass from Baker Mayfield and had the game-clinching tackle on 4th down to ice the win for the Ravens. Bowser is putting together a terrific season in a Baltimore uniform and could get a Pro Bowl bid if he continues to dominate.
When the Ravens offense sputtered along tonight, there's always a chance for points once they cross over the fifty yard line and once again, Tucker delivered going 3/3 on field goal tries. It's a thing of beauty to see him nail kicks from 50 yards plus dead center over the crossbar as points were hard to come by tonight for both teams. Tucker has had his fair share of thrilling moments this season and while tonight didn't come down to a last second kick, his last field goal with 1:15 left made the Browns have to get a touchdown with their final drive with no timeouts left. He was put on this Earth to be the best field goal kicker of all-time and all he does is deliver week in and week out. He's simply the best player at his position in the entire NFL. No one is better. No one.
After sitting out last week's game against the Bears with an illness, Jackson returned to the Ravens lineup tonight and had his worst career night with four interceptions. As much as the Ravens ask of Jackson, tonight was to put it mildly a clunker for him as he threw three picks alone in the second quarter. There was the spectacular touchdown play to Mark Andrews to put in the highlight reel here:
Jackson did settle down in the fourth quarter and managed to put together a few drives that were just enough to get into field goal range. Still, Jackson's four interceptions are troublesome and he needs a capable running game in order to free up his receivers. The Ravens had far too many 3rd and longs that Jackson had to deal with. No team relies on a player more than the Ravens rely on Jackson and after his suicide laps, he'll go right into the film room and try to get right. No alarm bells here yet but tonight wasn't great for the former MVP.
Ben Powers, Alejandro Villanueva
Sorry big fellas but you have to run some laps on Monday. As fun as it was to see Jackson frustrate Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett in the backfield tonight, the fact they had numerous pressures on the quarterback can be blamed on Villanueva. He is as bad at his position as Tucker is good. The Browns weren't even blitzing that much but Powers, Villanueva and the rest of the line was overmatched. I'm mostly singling out Powers due to a critical holding call he got on the Ravens final drive where they were marching down the field and had the Browns dead to rights and his penalty derailed the drive into a field goal. Our running backs stink, this isn't news but even if we had Derrick Henry in the backfield, I doubt this line could open up gaps for even him. They will be the reason the Ravens won't make the Super Bowl.
Well, it's last call here at the nest. 8-3, first seed in the AFC. Bear that in mind. Tonight wasn't pretty and by all statistical measures they should have lost this game:
They keep on winning though. I can't explain it anymore. We are more than halfway through the season and they keep winning games like this. This is going beyond a fluke. For better or worse, this is the Ravens M.O. this year. Living on the edge. Playing with fire. Every week I think it's going to bite them in the ass but they keep winning these games they shouldn't win.
It's a Steelers week next Sunday so I'm sure the bar will be packed. Until then, we're number one. Numero uno in the AFC. As the old Orioles announcer Chuck Thompson would say, "Ain't the beer cold baby?".