The Ravens reached the quarter-pole of the regular season with a better record than at this point last year, which would be cause for optimism given that Baltimore finished with a league-best 14 wins in 2019.
Yet it seems as if this team is still striving to reach the level it achieved a year ago, when blowout victories were commonplace and the offense was racking up points and yardage at record levels while closing with a 12-game winning streak.
The Ravens (3-1) handled Washington with relative ease on Sunday, but the 31-17 victory was not without its flaws. Quarterback Lamar Jackson accounted for more than one-third of the team’s 144 yards rushing with one 50-yard sprint, Baltimore committed two turnovers and Washington’s learning-on-the-job quarterback Dwayne Haskins went 32 for 45 for 314 yards.
“The season is young,” said Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon, who got his first two sacks of the year. “We just have to peak at the right time.”
That goes double for Jackson, who’s 22-4 as a starter during the regular season but 0-2 in the playoffs. Now in his second full season as a starter, Jackson is Baltimore’s leading rusher but as a passer is still trying to adjust the many looks he’s seeing from the opposition — including formations that have not showed up on the scouting report.
“Defenses play us a lot differently. We watch film on them. We study teams. When we go out there, it’s a totally different ball game,” he said.
Maybe, like last season, it will begin to click in Week 5.
“We just have to keep pushing, keep grinding, keep playing Ravens ball,” said Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP.
Marquise Brown had four catches for 86 yards on Sunday, but lamented the lack of the big play.
“Eventually, it’s going to start to hit,” Brown said.
There might not be a club with better special teams than the Ravens, who executed a fake punt to perfection in the second quarter to set up a touchdown for a 21-7 lead.
Not only did Sam Koch complete a pass for 15 yards, but he had a 48-yard net average on this three punts. And Justin Tucker banged home a 46-yard field goal to remain perfect for the season.
“They’re playing well. I give those guys a lot of credit,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday, including the coverage teams in his assessment of the special teams.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Ravens aren’t running the ball as well as they did a year ago, when they set a record with 3,296 yards rushing.
It might have been too much to ask for another season like that, but starter Mark Ingram has only 148 yards and is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, down from 5.0 last year.
Rookie Patrick Queen had a team-high 12 tackles — three for a loss — against Washington after being benched briefly one week earlier in a loss to the Chiefs.
“He made a lot of good plays, made a bunch of tackles for us, at the point of attack and rally tackles, too,” Harbaugh said.
It was a bounce-back performance in the wake of his dud against the Chiefs.
“The thing about the Kansas City game, that was a tough one for all of us,” Harbaugh said.
The pass defense was repeatedly burned by screen passes. Running backs J.D. McKissic and Antonio Gibson combined for 11 catches for 112 yards.
The screen worked for the Chiefs, so Washington tried the same thing. Until the Ravens stop it, they can expect to see plenty of dump-offs.
“The biggest thing is we have to be all-hands-on-deck on those screens,” cornerback Marlon Humphrey said.
7 — That’s how many passes Koch has completed in his career, in seven attempts. Five times, those completions have resulted in a first down.
The Bengals and No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow come to Baltimore for an AFC North matchup on Sunday. Cincinnati (1-2-1) got its first win over the weekend, beating Jacksonville.
“I know Joe. I’ve been a teammate of his,” said Queen, who played at LSU. “I know he’s going to have them fired up.”
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