One month in the past, the Baltimore Ravens have been in a state of Code Red.
The crew ended a September follow after two gamers — the No. 1 operating again, Gus Edwards, and the No. 1 cornerback Marcus Peters — tore anterior cruciate ligaments on back-to-back performs. They had already misplaced operating backs J.Ok. Dobbins (torn A.C.L.) and Justice Hill (torn Achilles tendon) for the 12 months, and with a complete place group devastated, many pundits justifiably anticipated 2021 can be a misplaced season.
Yet, right here they’re. The Ravens are 5-1, atop the A.F.C. North, and Sunday’s 34-6 termination of the Los Angeles Chargers (4-2) despatched a transparent message to the complete league:
Go forward and take a look at them.
The Baltimore Ravens can win any kind of recreation.
After going full M.V.P. mode final week in an exciting comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts, quarterback Lamar Jackson didn’t drive his manner right into a Superman cape on Sunday. The veteran free brokers Baltimore signed when these accidents hit — Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell — mixed for 115 speeding yards and three touchdowns in this one when the crew’s main rusher (behind Jackson), Ty’Son Williams, was inactive.
The Ravens run first and run usually, however don’t get it twisted — that is no ground-and-pound operation straight out of the Nineteen Seventies. With Jackson lighting the match, the Ravens can commerce haymakers with Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City and are available out with a 36-35 win, detonate in a single quarter the manner they did towards the Colts, or roll with a extra surgical method as was the case towards the Chargers.
The menace of Jackson’s arm and Baltimore’s punishing but advanced run scheme drives defenses mad. Jackson has the second-most profession 100-yard speeding video games (9) for a quarterback. And whereas Michael Vick had 10, it took him 143 regular-season video games. Jackson? He has performed solely 52.
Coming into Sunday’s recreation, there have been questions on how the Ravens’ protection would deal with an offense that by no means appears to elevate its foot off the gasoline.
The Chargers introduced their go-for-broke bravado with them 2,700 miles east. Brandon Staley’s 100-mile-per-hour teaching type had earned Los Angeles a win over Kansas City at Arrowhead in Week 3, and he went full throttle once more to beat the Cleveland Browns final week. He appears to deal with punting prefer it’s a illness.
But at Baltimore, two daring calls turned this one right into a blowout.
In the first half, Staley rolled the cube on fourth-and-3 from the Chargers’ 39-yard line. Quarterback Justin Herbert’s excessive throw to Mike Williams hit the broad receiver’s fingers, however Baltimore’s Marlon Humphrey — one in every of the gnarliest corners in this N.F.L. — was on the spot to tough up Williams. The Ravens bought the ball again with 9 minutes left in the second quarter and drove for a area purpose and a 17-0 lead.
In the second half, Staley gambled once more. Trailing, 24-6, with 5 minutes 58 seconds left in the third quarter, he went for it from his personal 19-yard line. Herbert’s fourth-and-1 cross fell incomplete, successfully ending the recreation.
It’s laborious to knock the first-year Chargers coach. Such fearlessness ought to turn out to be the rule, not the exception, in a league slowed down by old-school considering.
This time, nevertheless, that bravado backfired towards a callused Ravens crew with a protection coordinated by Don Martindale. The names of yesteryear on this protection are lengthy gone — both retired or signed with different groups — however in his fourth 12 months operating the protection, Martindale has constructed a unit able to ruining the N.F.L.’s greatest offenses.
On third down earlier than that first Staley gamble, Ravens security DeShon Elliott blitzed untouched and dinged Herbert to drive an errant incompletion. In the second quarter, Elliott muscled an interception away from the 6-foot-5, 246-pound tight finish Jared Cook.
Edge rusher Justin Houston, a 10-year N.F.L. veteran, confirmed he nonetheless has loads of juice in his 31-year-old legs with a sack of Herbert late in the fourth quarter, and linebacker Josh Bynes, who’s on his third stint with the Ravens, was omnipresent on Sunday.
After operating free by way of the Cleveland secondary, the Chargers’ receivers had nowhere to go on Sunday. Herbert’s 67.8 passer ranking was the second-worst of his profession. Austin Ekeler? Invisible. He managed 7 yards on six carries.
Finally, we’re getting readability in the A.F.C. The surging Buffalo Bills and the Ravens have dynamic quarterbacks with particular traits — Josh Allen’s freakish arm power, Jackson’s don’t-blink elusiveness. Jackson’s Midas contact has been sufficient to mitigate the accidents which have piled up. But popping out of Sunday, it’s obvious that each groups have defenses that may drag any explosive offense right into a darkish alley and win. That’s what made the Ravens so good in 2000 and 2012.
Led by Jackson? A return to the Super Bowl must be the bar for Baltimore.
What a loopy thought that will have been a month in the past.
Dallas has expertise all through its roster.
Strange issues occur to explosive offenses in Foxborough, Mass. That’s been the case for a technology.
So it wasn’t too stunning to see Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys sputter in the crimson zone for some time on Sunday night. Two weeks prior, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick had Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady on the ropes, too. But as masterful as Belichick is, this can be a recreation fueled by the gamers and Dallas had greater than sufficient expertise to tug out a 35-29 time beyond regulation win.
On the run in time beyond regulation, Prescott tossed a 35-yard landing cross to CeeDee Lamb, incomes Dallas the type of steely win it has lacked the final 25 Super Bowl-less seasons. Belichick appeared to let his guard down on the play. Lamb was able to work his manner from the left aspect of the area all the approach to the deep proper with no security assist over the high. Prescott casually rolled proper off play-action to hit his receiver, then Lamb scored and waved “goodbye” to cornerback Jalen Mills.
It was a masterful finish to a chaotic fourth quarter with three lead modifications and some “oh, this one is over” moments. New England went up, 21-20, on a 1-yard landing run that ended a 75-yard drive that milked practically seven minutes of recreation clock. Getting possession with six minutes remaining, the Cowboys’ drive stalled at the Patriots’ 33-yard line, the place linebacker Josh Uche stopped Prescott 2 yards wanting an important third-down conversion. Dallas kicker Greg Zuerlein missed the field-goal strive from 51 yards out and it appeared like New England wanted solely to expire the remaining 2:52.
But two performs (and one delay of recreation penalty) into the Patriots’ possession, New England quarterback Mac Jones was picked by Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs, who returned the ball 42 yards for a landing that put Dallas forward, 26-21, after an unsuccessful 2-point conversion try.
Jones hit Kendrick Bourne for a 75-yard landing cross and transformed the 2-point try to offer the Patriots a 3-point lead, and the Cowboys once more responded.
First, Prescott led a nine-play, 40-yard field-goal drive that tied the recreation, 29-29, with 20 seconds remaining. Prescott saved the drive on fourth-and-4, alive with a pinpoint throw to Cedrick Wilson.
In time beyond regulation, Dallas’ protection compelled a Patriots punt, then Prescott went an ideal 5-of-5, ending with that deep cross to Lamb to win the recreation.
As the recreation progressed, Prescott steadily found out what Belichick was throwing at him till lastly delivering the knockout blow. He accomplished 36 of his 51 makes an attempt for 445 yards and three touchdowns.
Lamb has emerged as the crew’s No. 1 receiver, totaling 149 yards with two scores Sunday, and the Cowboys caught with the run, getting 110 mixed speeding yards on 27 carries from Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.
Outside of the one deep shot, Jones and the Patriots continued to play small ball. Eventually, they might want to mud off some deep balls to maintain up in right now’s N.F.L.
It took oddities and Dolphins gaffes for the Jaguars to get their first win.
Urban Meyer’s N.F.L. profession has been a humiliation thus far. Meyer, Jacksonville’s coach, dedicated some personnel sins — the fast hiring and firing of a power coach accused of racist feedback and bullying, the Tim Tebow distraction in coaching camp — earlier than the common season even began. Once it did, the Jaguars (1-5) began dropping in heartbreaking trend and Meyer’s off-field errors overshadowed the ones he was making on the sideline.
But on Sunday, Meyer bought his first win as an N.F.L. coach. The Jaguars beat the Miami Dolphins in a 23-20 stunner with kicker Matthew Wright — signed someday prior — drilling a 53-yard area purpose as time expired. A wacky mixture of things was all the Jaguars wanted to get their first win.
The recreation was performed at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
The struggling groups performed scorching potato with the soccer with a fumble, an interception and a turnover on downs in one seven-play span in the second half.
Wright tied the rating, 20-20, with a 54-yard kick that one way or the other curved in at the final second.
Tied at 20-20, Dolphins Coach Brian Flores properly went for it on fourth-and-inches from his 46-yard line with 1:46 left. The downside was an egregious play name. Instead of sneaking forward, Miami lined up in a shotgun formation. Malcolm Brown was stopped wanting the marker.
Miami (1-5) had another gaffe up its sleeve. On the ensuing possession, the Jaguars confronted a fourth-and-5 from the Dolphins’ 44-yard line with 5 seconds left. Flores even referred to as a timeout to arrange the protection. And what occurred? The Dolphins allowed quarterback Trevor Lawrence to knife a completion to Laviska Shenault Jr. for 9 yards.
Shenault hit the turf and Wright received the recreation, snapping a 20-game dropping streak, the second-longest in the Super Bowl period.
In fact, there’s a lot to love about this younger Jaguars core. Lawrence, the No. 1 total choose in this 12 months’s draft, has been bettering steadily. He has a really feel for stress that’s past his years. Lawrence threw for 319 yards and a landing.
It’s nonetheless laborious to consider Jacksonville drafted a operating again (Clemson’s Travis Etienne) twenty fifth total this 12 months with James Robinson on the roster. The 2020 undrafted pickup continues to be one in every of the nice scouting finds in the sport, scrapping for 101 whole yards with a speeding rating. And the receiving corps is a wholesome mixture of younger (Shenault is 23, D.J. Chark 25) and previous (Marvin Jones Jr. is 31).
The query is whether or not Meyer can get the most out of all of them earlier than the crew proprietor Shahid Khan runs out of persistence.
Around the N.F.L.
Steelers 23, Seahawks 20 (time beyond regulation): Pittsburgh is all-in on its win-now philosophy. T.J. Watt compelled the fumble in time beyond regulation that arrange kicker Chris Boswell’s game-winner. Seahawks backup Geno Smith was sacked 5 occasions and handed for 209 yards and one landing on 23 of 32 makes an attempt.
Cardinals 37, Browns 14: Baker Mayfield’s Hail Mary heave to Donovan Peoples-Jones for a landing at the finish of the first half was neat. Other than that, the Cardinals dominated each side of the recreation, regardless of enjoying with out Coach Kliff Kingsbury (Covid-19). Quarterback Kyler Murray was environment friendly once more for Arizona, with 4 touchdowns and no picks, and Arizona’s choice to signal a couple of graybeards paid off once more: A.J. Green led the Cardinals in receiving (79 yards, one landing), whereas J.J. Watt had a sack.
Raiders 34, Broncos 24: The Raiders franchise has been in turmoil since Jon Gruden resigned from his head coach place on Monday, however its gamers clearly loved getting again to soccer on Sunday. Quarterback Derek Carr averaged 18.9 yards per completion and unfold the ball round: Six completely different gamers had a reception of greater than 20 yards towards one in every of the N.F.L.’s most interesting defenses.
Kansas City 31, Washington 13: After floating an interception — his second of the first half — whereas making an attempt to keep away from taking a sack, Patrick Mahomes snapped out of his funk to place collectively landing drives on three straight second-half possessions. A Kansas City secondary that’s been lit up all season held Washington to at least one landing.
Packers 24, Bears 14: Justin Fields might be particular someday, however Sunday wasn’t it. The rookie missed a wide-open Allen Robinson deep for one landing and took some vicious pictures from Green Bay, which rolled as Aaron Rodgers handed for 2 touchdowns and ran in a 3rd.
Rams 38, Giants 11: One of today, Cooper Kupp might be acknowledged for what he’s: an elite broad receiver. Kupp’s full repertoire as a receiver was on show — together with some nifty dancing to reel in a fourth-and-1 landing cross — and he now has 46 receptions for 653 yards and 7 touchdowns by way of six video games.
Bengals 34, Lions 11: The choice to draft broad receiver Ja’Marr Chase over sort out Penei Sewell seems higher each week. When Chase wasn’t shredding the Lions’ secondary (97 yards), he was blocking downfield to spring Joe Mixon for a 40-yard landing. This Cincinnati offense is enjoyable and for actual.
Colts 31, Texans 3: After dropping in gut-wrenching trend all season, the Colts bought a house date with the Texans to supply an ego increase. Running every little thing by way of the second-year again Jonathan Taylor (14 carries, 145 yards, two touchdowns) positive was a swell thought. With the win, Indianapolis vaulted to second place in the A.F.C. South and bolstered its possibilities of making the playoffs to 29 %.
Vikings 34, Panthers 28, time beyond regulation: The story of Good Kirk, Bad Kirk continued in epic trend with Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins throwing for 373 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on 33-of-48 passing. A clunker could also be round the nook, however on today, his perfectly placed ball to Ok.J. Osborn in time beyond regulation bought Minnesota the win.