Flying with the Flock: Ravens vs. Jaguars Recap
RAVENS VS. JAGUARS RECAP – The Baltimore Ravens paid a high price for their victory over the Jaguars on Sunday night.
At 11-3, the Ravens are a full game above the rest of the conference with just three weeks left. But the win doesn’t feel so sweet knowing that Keaton Mitchell will be out for the season.
Mitchell burst onto the scene against the Seahawks in Week 9 and has injected life into a lethargic Ravens’ running game ever since.
His acceleration and home-run ability rounded out Baltimore’s offense and forced defenders to respect the ground attack.
On a field of fast people, Mitchell’s speed looked different, and his ability to turn the corner rivaled early Lamar Jackson. But the wicked pincers of the injury bug seized the rising star.
Mitchell received a handoff early in the fourth quarter, managed to stymie two Jaguars defenders in the backfield, bounced the ball outside, and took off into a crease for what looked like a potential touchdown.
Initially, it appeared that Mitchell was going to shed Andrew Wingard’s diving tackle attempt, but the Jaguars’ safety made just enough contact to force the running back to plant his leg violently and awkwardly into the ground.
This injury carried none of the hopeful uncertainty of J.K. Dobbins’ bizarre torn Achilles in Week 1. When Mitchell went down, everyone knew it was bad, really bad.
It was good to see him composed and giving thumbs up to the crowd while getting carted off, but the rookie faces a long road to recovery.
It Could be Worse
As tough as it is to lose Mitchell, the Ravens are still pretty lucky as injuries go so far this year. That would have been ridiculous to say at the start of the season, when it felt like half the team was on IR, but with a third of the NFL down to second- and third-string QBs, having a healthy Lamar Jackson is immense.
The quarterback admitted that he’s missed playing this late in the season, and Ravens fans concur. The former MVP was magnificent, evading Jaguars’ pass rushers like a drunk uncle at his eight-year-old nephew’s football-themed birthday party.
His pirouette escape and prayer of a pass to Isaiah Likely is destined for the highlight reel at his Hall of Fame ceremony. The numbers might not back it, but Lamar Jackson has played MVP-level football this season.
Ravens wide receivers must be more involved in the game. The unit combined for five catches for 60 yards.
Fortunately, Isaiah Likely’s strong play supplemented the passing game. But too often, Lamar looked panicked at the top of his drop when targeting wide receivers.
Sunday’s version of the Ravens’ passing game will not be good enough to beat San Francisco on Christmas, nor will it be good enough for a deep playoff run.
We’ve seen Monken coordinate highly effective passing outings, but consistency remains a question for me.
I’d love to say that the Ravens’ defense deserves heaps of credit for holding Jacksonville to only seven points, but to me, the Jaguars’ struggles were more self-inflicted than opponent-induced.
It was flat-out luck that Trevor Lawrence let the football slip out of his hands like it was freshly dunked in the stadium’s slimy, built-in pool.
Calvin Ridley’s no-call touchdown was another wacky play that happened to go the Ravens’ way. Even though seven points allowed might be a bit misleading, the unit did its job.
Justin Madubuike’s stellar season finally got some primetime pop and he’ll be an integral part of a good playoff pass rush. Baltimore’s offense has yet to string together three consecutive elite games, so the defense will likely have to carry the team at least once in the playoffs.
With the playoffs officially clinched, and the AFC North all but officially wrapped up, seeding is the only remaining question mark. With the top spot so clearly attainable, this team will make a strong push to win out. But every injury sustained from here on out will feel like a waste.
It doesn’t help that the Ravens have a road game against one of the most physical teams in football next week. Jacksonville was reeling, San Francisco is surging, and this Christmas night collision of the two respective conference leaders has all the makings of a classic.