You got to love it when our guest is just an open book for everything they know about their team. This week is no different. I want to give a big shout to Kyle Barber of Baltimore Beatdown for answering our questions this week.
Now let’s see if there ain’t a few things we can learn before tomorrow’s matchup between these AFC powers.
I hope you all enjoy!
1.) The Ravens were awfully close to losing Monday night’s game to the 1-3 Colts. Somehow, some way, Lamar Jackson and company pulled out a comeback worthy of an instant classic. In your opinion, are the Ravens truly a 4-1 team or are they somewhere between that and the team that played the first three quarters against Indianapolis?
The Ravens are 4-1. Just about every team in the NFL is their record. You can argue all you want about officiating, flukes and fortune, but the Ravens are 4-1 by way of their playmakers showing up when called upon. When kicker Justin Tucker trotted onto the field and hit a 66-yard field goal against the Detroit Lions, that wasn’t just some prayer. Yes, it was a long-shot but that’s exactly what Tucker’s been about since his arrival in Baltimore. He’s the most accurate kicker in NFL history and specializes in both clutch situations and from distance. There’s a reason the Ravens’ kicker is a household name. Also, that kick doesn’t happen without quarterback Lamar Jackson completing a 4th & 19 to wide receiver Sammy Watkins to move the chains.
Similar to that is the Colts game. The Ravens struggled on offense for a few quarters. They got punched in the mouth at home in prime time, but they collected themselves and called upon their stars to do what they are best at: make plays. Jackson, tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown went to work, combining for four touchdowns and two 2-pt. conversions. Calais Campbell stepped up with his eighth career blocked field goal. Did they need these things to go their way and catch a break? Absolutely. However, they did so on the backs of their playmakers.
I sound rather defensive and quite the homer with this response, but I have a strong believe that a team is their record, barring something extraordinary. The Ravens are both parts of what you asked in your question. They’re “truly a 4-1 team,” but that team is also including the struggling squad who puttered around for three quarters against the Indianapolis Colts. They are far from a perfect club and their struggles demonstrate that.
2.) Is Lataviuis Murray fitting right in with the offense? Is he the answer to all the injury issues at the position or would you prefer they give chances to another one of the backs the team has stabled?
I think Murray has been the most impressive of the three veteran additions at running back. Devonta Freeman has looked good at times but there’s a reason Murray has three rushing touchdowns after signing with the Ravens four days before Week 1.
No, Murray is not the answer to all the injury woes. He has not executed in spots I am confident running back Gus Edwards would have. There’s been the hard-earned yards in short-yardage situations that we know Edwards would be getting the ball and getting a chain-moving one- or two-yard gain. Murray hasn’t demonstrated the same burst.
I think Murray is the best option for the Ravens, when combined with running back Ty’Son Williams. The two have been a solid one-two combo in lieu of the injured combination of J.K. Dobbins and Edwards.
3.) The biggest mismatch here in this game is most certainly the Ravens run game against the Chargers’ lackluster run defense. If you were defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill, how would you go about defending Lamar Jackson and these backs? What looks and/or personnel tend to give them fits?
Containing Jackson is the most vital aspect for survival. If he is allowed to extend the play by escaping pressure and finding an open man, he will carve a defense up. He’s done so against the Colts and Denver Broncos, and will do so again. Also, his second-best ability now appears to be his running ability, which we all know is second-to-none among quarterbacks. With the Chargers’ run defense struggling, I think you give versatile looks that can show pressure to blitz or clog the lanes, but don’t forget to keep your focus on both Andrews and Hollywood. Allowing a run of four yards is far greater than biting on a play-action pass that crosses midfield for a wide-open Andrews.
While I’m not saying I’d allow rushing plays, I’d keep more attention on the passing attack. Especially when considering quarterback Justin Herbert and the teams’ offense can go out there and compete drive-for-drive with the Ravens.
4.) Similar question above but flipped around. If you were Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, how would you go about scheming to exploit this Ravens defense? Is there any player on the Chargers (sans the obvious in Justin Herbert) that you believe the Ravens should be especially worried about?
I’d go ahead and watch the tape from the Colts vs. Ravens game. Fourth-year cornerback Anthony Averett, who prior to the Week 5 matchup boasted the lowest QBR of any cornerback, became the primary attack target for quarterback Carson Wentz. It didn’t matter who the Colts put on his side, they were throwing against him. As somebody who’s covered Averett since being drafted, it felt like just a bad game, but if I’m the Chargers I’m going to bring both wide receiver Mike Williams and Keenan Allen and see if that was a one-off or there are more deep-seeded issues. If Averett has suddenly cleaned it up, you can still count on Herbert and this team to find other areas to thrive. If it’s the latter, Herbert’s job will be light work and the Ravens will be in deep trouble.
5.) Go ahead and top this off with a final score prediction along with how you see this game shaking out on Sunday.
I’m going to go a bit bold here and say this will be the third time the Ravens head to overtime this season. Unfortunately, the Chargers win the coin toss and Herbert leads the offense down the field against a gassed Ravens’ defense for a walk-off touchdown. Final score: 31-37 Chargers.