Flying with the Flock: Ravens vs. Cardinals Recap
FLYING WITH THE FLOCK: RAVENS VS. CARDINALS RECAP – The Ravens got an unremarkable yet important win on Sunday. There had to be some amount of regression after the 38-point thumping Baltimore put on Detroit last week, but following it up with 31 points isn’t too shabby.
Offense Just OK
In all fairness, that score seems inflated to anyone who actually watched the Ravens’ offense. The Cardinals did a good job of making Lamar uncomfortable. On the first drive of the game, Lamar had a near-pick six, a frantic, somewhat ugly shovel pass with defenders bearing down on him, and a throw that should have been intercepted but was saved by a heroic effort from Rashod Bateman. Even the touchdown was a bizarre, back-foot flip by Lamar to a freelancing Mark Andrews.
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Nothing felt easy. My season-long theory that Todd Monken doesn’t like to tip his hand against bad teams felt vindicated. After that opening 75-yard drive, the Ravens didn’t have another over 43 yards until a little over midway through the fourth quarter. But thanks to their opportunistic defense, led by the NFL interception leader Geno Stone – we all predicted that, right? – the Ravens were able to cash in on some short fields gifted to them via turnovers.
J.K. Dobbins’ injury may have limited the high-end potential of the Ravens’ runningback room, but Gus “The Bus” Edwards has kept the group on the road. A 6-foot-1, 238-pound bruiser who runs with about as much flash as a 1998 Nissan Altima, Edwards will never wow you with highlights.
But all the man does is grind for tough yards. His three-touchdown performance was a gritty one, with his long on the day being only 10 yards. Edwards has long been an unsung hero on this team, so it was nice to see him get his shine on Sunday.
Big Guy Appreciation
Arizona has proven it can run on anybody, and that held true against the Ravens. None of the Cardinals had a carry over 14 yards, but the consistent ability to churn out 4-, 5- and 6-yard runs was impressive. On the opening 12-play touchdown drive they ran it eight times against a Ravens defense that had no answers. Had it not been for Michael Pierce playing out of his mind, a performance that earned him a 90.1 PFF grade, the Cardinals might have been able to pull off the upset.
In the preview, I alluded to a potential Odell meltdown, and sure enough, we got it. After drawing a bogus pass interference call in the endzone, but letting the ball slip through his hands, Bekcham threw down his helmet in frustration on the sideline. I never expected the 2023 version of Beckham to suddenly regain his old burst, or even offer much after the catch. I expected him to be the chain mover. The savvy route runner with sure hands who comes up with tough grabs in big moments.
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But to this point, the only impact he’s had has been drawing penalties. Obviously, it’s bothering him and I don’t anticipate it getting turned around. The fact is that even in Monken’s new offense, Baltimore’s doesn’t utilize perimeter pass catchers like they do those in tighter splits. And even if it was a focal point of the offense, I don’t think this version of Beckham is good enough to be a threat against teams’ top corners. I’m holding out hope that he and Lamar can get in rhythm, but it just seems unlikely.
Where Do the Ravens Stand?
With the Chiefs falling to 6-2, Baltimore is now in a four-way tie for the best record in the conference. As frustrating as this season has been at times, it’s hard to complain about where they stand. But they have their work cut out for them moving forward. The Ravens have the toughest remaining strength of schedule in the NFL. Seven of their final nine games come against teams with winning records, and even the two that don’t (Chargers and Rams) have elite quarterbacks.
The Bengals’ annual early-season slump once again appears to be a ruse, a routine that’s getting a little tired in my opinion. So it’ll take a special performance all around for Baltimore to emerge from this stretch sitting in good position for the playoffs.