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Despite Week 3 Defeat, 2019 Baltimore Ravens Prove They’re Contenders

2019 Baltimore Ravens

The 2019 Baltimore Ravens suffered their first loss of the season Sunday, dropping their contest at Arrowhead Stadium 33-28 to the Kansas City Chiefs. Their Week 3 matchup was maybe the most hyped game of the NFL season up to this point and did not disappoint. The matchup featuring 2018’s best offense and best defense was full of crazy plays that could only be imagined in a matchup of class NFL teams. Both quarterbacks, the Chiefs Patrick Mahomes and the Ravens Lamar Jackson, battled all game and proved the future at their position is in great hands.

Despite looking out of hand at points, Jackson and the Ravens stuck with one of the league’s elite teams till the very end. Up just five points with 2:01 left in the game, Baltimore failed to give the ball back to their offense after allowing Darrel Williams to scamper out the backfield for the first down on a third and 9 play. The Chiefs would kneel out the clock from there.

The loss stung but proved the 2019 Ravens have what it takes to contend with the big boys of the NFL. Baltimore didn’t do themselves any favors, taking penalties that ended up subtracting and adding points that would have positively effected their scoreline but there were far more positives than negatives to take away from the game. Even in defeat, the Ravens sent a message to the rest of the NFL that they should not be slept on going forward in 2019.

Even In Defeat to Kansas City Chiefs, 2019 Baltimore Ravens Prove They Are a Contender 

Jackson’s Ability to Win Games

It’s hard to be happy about a loss but Jackson should be proud of the performance he has put forward in his two losses to the Chiefs. Though Jackson made a number of errant throws, he also made a number of highlight-reel plays. These included two hail Mary plays that somehow were placed just well enough to allow his receivers to go up and make a play in those types of situations. Jackson did not have the passing day he likely envisioned, but the threat of him using his legs allowed Mark Ingram to have a huge day on the ground. Ingram ran for 103 yards on 16 carries and scored three times.

This versatility of Jackson has allowed him to stay in games no matter the situation. In Jackson’s 11 starts as an NFL quarterback, he is 8-3. His only losses have come to the Chiefs twice, and last year’s 12-4 Los Angeles Chargers. However, what is perhaps most impressive is that even when he loses, he doesn’t lose by much. In Jackson’s three career losses, each has been by one score or less — totaling 14 points between the games. He has also had the ball with a chance to win the game on the final drive in two of those games. Last Sunday, he was just one Ravens stop away from being in that position again.

To anyone who watches him, Jackson is proving he responds well to adversity. Baltimore was down three scores and 17 points going into the second half against the Chiefs last week and was still able to pull within just five points. In a position where most teams crumble, Jackson can thrive. That will to win is exactly what a great team needs in their quarterback.

The 2019 Baltimore Ravens Are Hungry

If there’s one thing to be taken from the mood of the Ravens during their postgame, it’s that they know they can play better. This is perhaps best embodied by safety Earl Thomas saying “We’re going to see them again. And this tape is going to be everything to me,” following the game. This shows that he has one thing on his mind, winning the AFC. Thomas made a point earlier in the week that he was “plan(ing) on eliminating all the big plays” and failing to do so likely means he is still planning on making good on his word in the future.

There’s also more than just the loss to the Chiefs that will motivate the Ravens going forward. Following the Ravens Week 1 victory over the Miami Dolphins, Jackson addressed his brilliant performance by saying “Not bad for a running back,” referencing the constant social media barrage he gets for his frequency of running the ball. Tony Jefferson was another Ravens player to discuss being overlooked by the media during the off-season. In April, he said “what’s going on outside this building, honestly doesn’t really matter…we’re not going to praise anybody else” when asked about the Cleveland Browns being betting favorites to win the AFC North. In short, the Ravens players have made it clear they hear the criticism they get and are hungry to prove their doubters wrong.

That kind of fire should carry the Ravens throughout the season. Baltimore and Cleveland face off in Week 4 with the winner claiming the top spot in their division. Beating the Browns would be a statement win for the Ravens but perhaps would do even more for their confidence on the year.

Penalties Were the Difference in the Game But Can Be Fixed

Though the Week 3 matchup between the Ravens and Chiefs was decided by just five points, it could be argued it should’ve been a lot closer. Multiple times throughout the game, Baltimore hurt themselves with bad penalties that resulted in both taking points off the board and giving them to their opponents.

It started with a Matt Judon horsecollar tackle on Mahomes. The tackle would’ve been Judon’s second sack on two drives and would’ve stalled a Chiefs drive at the Baltimore four-yard line on third and goal. Instead, the personal foul handed the Chiefs a new set of downs leading to their first touchdown of the day. The next instance was a questionable hold on Willie Snead negating a long Gus Edwards run at 6:34 of the second quarter. Edward’s run would’ve set up the Ravens at the Chiefs 18-yard line but Snead’s hold pushed the Ravens back seven yards and the drive ended in a punt. Jefferson also committed a controversial pass interference penalty on a non-targetted receiver negating a Brandon Carr interception deep in Ravens territory. That drive also resulted in a touchdown.

Assuming the game played out the exact way it did aside from these three aforementioned plays, the Ravens penalties potentially caused at least a 14-point swing.

These plays directly affected the scoring in the game but can be fixed. The Ravens are currently tied for 19th in penalties. Showing a little more discipline will go a huge way when it begins to show itself. Baltimore was the NFL’s fourth-least penalized team just two years ago.

The Defense Will Improve

When it comes to the Ravens, they are usually a defense-first team. So far in 2019, that script has flipped. Through three games, Baltimore is currently averaging the most yards per game on offense while ranking middle of the pack (T-16th) on defense. A far cry from allowing the least yards in the whole NFL a season ago.

However, that doesn’t mean they won’t improve. The Ravens secondary is extremely banged up right now and it showed against a high-flying Chiefs offense. Marlon Humphrey battled an injury at Arrowhead and only played 85 percent of snaps after playing 100 percent the week prior. Jimmy Smith will also likely remain out until late in the season. But, that’s OK. Anthony Averett had another rough game Week 3 but should improve as he’s still young. Thomas is also a player that’s somewhat struggled his first three weeks. Though he’s been reliable, he has still only played three games as a Raven. Replacing C.J. Mosley as the quarterback of the Ravens defense is a very tough task but even tougher from a player so new to the team.

The pass rush is still the most pressing need (even though it isn’t the worst unit) simply because getting pressure on the quarterback is still the most important thing a defense can do in today’s NFL. A quick proof of this is this year’s San Francisco 49ers. With a secondary full of returning players, the team has forced seven turnovers (T-2nd) after forcing seven all of last season. What’s the big difference? They added game-changing pieces to the front-seven. The Ravens don’t have those big pieces upfront right now but hopefully, one or two can emerge throughout the year. Beyond Judon, who’s looked great in 2019, the pass rush has nowhere to go but up.

Closing Out September

Despite the loss to the Chiefs, the Ravens offense is clocking and look like a team that can stack up against the best teams in the NFL. Even when they lose, for the most part, they looked good doing it. Losing to the Browns at home would blur the picture but a win against a division rival and a move to 3-1 should cement the Ravens as the favorites in the division going forward.

If Baltimore’s pass rush can begin to get home a bit more and Jackson can continue to evolve his game through even further, the Ravens are in good shape. They are far from a perfect team but they are showing the features you like to see in a Super Bowl contender. Losing to a great team like the Chiefs by such a narrow margin should keep the Ravens motivated moving forward.

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