The checkerboard win column is dead!
By beating the Bucs, the Ravens strung together consecutive wins for the first time this season. Another first, they did so in convincing fashion, at least in the second half. Baltimore outgained the Buccaneers in total yardage, won the turnover battle, dominated time of possession, and most importantly scored more points than Tampa Bay.
But if you asked a Ravens fan to predict the rest of the game at halftime, their story would be totally different. A measly three points in the first half had me feeling confident in my prediction of a Bucs victory but miserable as a fan. Squandered opportunities and sloppy play had me sure the Ravens’ slump was going to cost them once again. I’ve never been so happy to have been wrong.
Must’ve been some halftime speech
The Ravens team that emerged after the break looked nothing like the uninspired bunch that was dead in the water for the first two quarters. Lamar was just about perfect, tossing two touchdowns on only eight second-half throws. His efficiency as a passer is partly due to the dominance of the Ravens’ second-half run game. Baltimore finished with 231 rushing yards averaging 7 yards per carry.
The Ravens’ O-line exhausted Tampa’s defense with hard running inside, which freed up some huge runs on the perimeter, like Devin Duvernay’s 15-yard jet sweep touchdown. Duvernay is officially underappreciated, by the way. He’s special with the ball in his hands and has absolutely made the case to be considered the best receiver on this team. No one is Deebo Samuel, but Duvernay has a similar body type with a powerful lower half and elite acceleration. His hands are lock solid as well, as he hasn’t dropped a pass since his rookie season in 2020.
Bateman has the notoriety that comes with being a first-round pick, but he’s struggled to stay on the field and has dropped an atrociously high 14.3% of the passes thrown his way this season, a mark that’s fifth worst in the league.
An Un-Likely Hero
A player who hasn’t been dropping the ball is Isaiah Likely. Here I was wondering when the player who torched preseason secondaries was going to show up, and low and behold, Likely grabs six passes for 71 yards and a touchdown in a primetime spot. He has an unusual skillset that makes him a really tough guard for DBs and linebackers alike. He’s an extremely natural catcher of the football, never letting the ball into his body, making it nearly impossible for defenders to make a play on the football.
— NFL (@NFL) October 28, 2022
But what I love about him is his instincts, he has rare feel to know where to sit and slide into holes of zone coverage. You absolutely never hope for an injury, especially to a player as important as Mark Andrews, but sometimes forcing a young player into some big shoes let’s you know what you’ve got in him. And it appears the Ravens have a Likely star.
But enough praise for the offense, the defense held up their end of the agreement. They bullied Tampa’s offensive line and made life hell for Tom Brady. Brady looked so checked out and dissociated by the end of this one, partly due to the performance by Baltimore’s big guys up front. On the back end, the Ravens’ coverage was solid but finishing was a problem. Baltimore’s DBs blanketed the Bucs’ receivers for the most part but they let three pretty easy interceptions slip through their hands. You know something’s up when Marcus Peters lets a ball bounce off his chest. Despite this, they held Tampa’s offense in check, and a garbage-time touchdown at the end made this game look closer than it really was. It feels like ages ago when Baltimore’s secondary was getting toasted every week. Credit to Mike Macdonald because it seems he’s found a way to self-scout himself and figure out what he was doing wrong.
The Buccaneers might not be the juggernaut of old, but facing Tom Brady in any condition is a challenge. The Ravens have been a first-half team this season, burned by the adjustments of opposing coaches, so a comeback in the second half to win this game is refreshing. I’m not ready to call this the jumping-off point of a long win streak, but looking at the Ravens’ schedule, it might be. If they handle their business and take advantage of the long week before their bye, Baltimore might finally be getting hot.
Final Grade: A-