Nic Antaya/Getty Images
Welcome back to The Crow's Nest, the virtual Ravens sports bar.
Damn. That was kind of wild today in Detroit, huh?
There's so much to get to with today's game and before we delve into the four factors on the improbable win in Motown, there's just one thing I have to get off my chest.
Folks, I'll level with you. I resigned myself to losing today's game after Lamar Jackson faced a 4th and 19 with a few ticks on the clock left and the offense moving backward. I should have known better. Don't count this team out until the clock reads zero. Jackson somehow found Sammy Watkins for a 36-yard completion with seven seconds left. Then, after a controversial non-delay of game call and an incompletion, the Ravens called on Justin Tucker to win the game with a field goal. No, not your normal 40 or 50-yard kick, but an NFL record 66-yard field goal in order for the Ravens to win. Tucker squared up, it was a perfect snap and a perfect hold by Sam Koch, and somehow the ball hit the middle of the crossbar, tumbled over, and there it was. A miracle Ravens win and a new NFL field-goal record for the best kicker of all time in Tucker. For all the shortcomings the Ravens had today, games like these are the ones that are the difference between a playoff berth and maybe a home game and a bye at the end of the season. As privileged as we are as Ravens fans to have seen some of the great defensive players in NFL history, maybe the most unsung and best player in Ravens history could be Justin Tucker. As Rodger Sherman from The Ringer put it:
There's simply been no one better at their job in football than Tucker, ever. This kick will be replayed forever.
Hollywood? Not Good
One of the nice aspects of this young season is how well Jackson and Hollywood Brown have been meshing at quarterback and wide receiver. After being the unsung hero of the win last Sunday against Kansas City, Brown was all set to be the goat of the loss with three huge drops in the first half that would have led to touchdowns. Brown has put up great numbers in the first two games this season but it appeared he took his eye off the ball on two out of the three drops and the other drop in the end zone just went off of his hands. He makes those plays and this game isn't even close. Today may be just and abbertion in Brown's career but it's worth keeping our eye on him as he was shut out on catches in the second half and Watkins was able to make the key reception on the 4th down play to lead to the winning field goal.
Will the lead running back please stand up?
After losing JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards before the start of the season, GM Eric DeCosta brought in vets Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman to spell Ty'Shon Williams who was the defacto starter after Dobbins and Edwards. Judging by today's share of carries, it looks like Murray has taken the lead role at running back with seven carries (28 yds) to Williams five (22 yds) and Freeman's three (8 yds). The running game was a non-factor today as the offense couldn't put together a sustainable drive that was predicated on the running game. Jackson led the team in rushing with 58 yards. Usually, when Baltimore is ineffective in rushing and loses the time-of -possession game, it amounts to a loss. Williams has had his moments in this young season and I would like to see Harbaugh give him some more chances. This team HAS to run the ball to win. You can't rely on an NFL record to get you a victory every week.
Lamar Jackson Won With his Arm
At this point with an MVP award under his belt, Lamar Jackson shouldn't have to prove anything anymore yet there have always been questions about his arm strength and accuracy. While his numbers don't pop off the charts today, you have to factor in Brown's three drops which were all beautiful throws from Jackson. What was impressive today was how often Jackson waited while making his reads instead of taking off at the first sign of pressure. You can see some maturity in Jackson's game now. He's never had a superstar receiver but he spreads the ball around and the throw on 4th and 19 with the game on the line to Watkins was about a pretty as a throw in that situation you'll see any great quarterback in the game make. Jackson's clutch gene after last weeks win and this weeks miracle should give him the benefit of the doubt moving forward.
Well, I have to close the doors early this Sunday. My voice is gone and I've got to pack for a trip. Days like today are the reason why nothing will ever compare to the NFL. After the last three weeks with all of the games coming down to the wire, I'm starting to think we might be the team of destiny this year. Whatever is happening is pretty special and I can't remember a more entertaining three weeks of Ravens football than what the start of the 2021-22 season has given us so far.
Stay tuned for "The Crow's Nest" podcast from House Enterprises that will have Ravens opinion, guests and betting tips coming soon