Top takeaways from Ravens comeback win over Indianapolis: Backups stepped up

The Baltimore Ravens bounced back from a disappointing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week Eight and improved their record to 6-2 with an impressive come from behind 24-10 win over the Indianapolis Professional Football Team on the road in Week Nine.

Before we turn the page and set our sights on their primetime matchup with the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football, here are some of the top takeaways that I observed from the Ravens’ sixth win of the season:

Backups stepped up

Nobody would’ve faulted the Ravens if they would’ve come up short against an Indianapolis team that was riding a two-game winning streak and playing well on both sides of the ball.

Baltimore had been hit hard by injuries on offensive and defense in recent weeks and had their week of preparation and practice disrupted because of COVID-19.

Following a lackluster first half by the offense and an up and down showing from the defense, it seemed like the Ravens were destined to drop their second game in a row.

However, they were able to flip the script in the second half thanks in large part to some standout performances from their star players that were left standing but they also had several backups step up a play well on both sides of the ball as they rallied back to victory.

On offense, the Ravens were without starting running back Mark Ingram for a second straight game due to a high ankle sprain and their reshuffled offense line was making their debut after losing two of their starters in the first of last week’s game.

Indianapolis owned the line of scrimmage in the first half as their defensive front overwhelmed Baltimore’s offense. Rushing yards were hard to come by and the pass protection was extremely poor but that wouldn’t be the case after halftime.

Third-year pro Gus Edwards and rookie J.K. Dobbins teamed up with reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson to get the run game going which set up the play-action passing game as a result.

On the opening drive of the second half, the Ravens drove down to the Indianapolis three-yard line but camp up empty after Edwards fumbled and lost the ball.

Instead of putting him in the doghouse like Indy did rookie Johnathan Taylor after his first-half fumble that the Ravens first point s of the game, Baltimore kept him involved in the game plan.

He rewarded their unwavering faith in him on their next offensive possession when he capped off a 10 play, 54-yard drive by punching the ball across the goal line from one yard out to give them their first lead of the day that they would add to and not relinquish the rest of the way.

“I was happy to be able to do that for the team,” said Edwards. “When the [fumble] happened, my teammates had my back, my coaches had my back, and props to them for keeping me in there and trusting in me.”

Dobbins was coming off a breakout game against the Steelers where he churned out a career-high 113 yards on the ground on 15 carries. While he didn’t come close to last week’s gaudy total on the ground, he still ran the ball well, especially in the second half.

He picked up a crucial first down late in the third quarter when the Ravens decided to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Indianapolis 39-yard line. It was a key play in a scoring drive that put the Ravens up two possessions heading into the final quarter.

Jackson liked what he saw from both backs and raved about their performance and ability in his postgame presser.

“He has great vision. He bounces off tackles and makes guys miss. When they’re wide open to make the tackle on him, he does a great job making the guy miss,” said Jackson. “Not just him, Gus (Edwards) as well. He’s great at running back as well. We’ve just got to keep giving the guys the ball and keep letting them do their thing.”

The turnaround of the offense in the second half has been attributed to the performance of Jackson and the play calling and adjustments of Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman but it always starts upfront with the battle in the trenches.

The Ravens reshuffled offensive line rebounded tremendously from the first half where they were getting dominated with the final two quarters where they were the one doing the dominating. They established the run from the opening drive of the third quarter and imposed their will the rest of the way.

“I thought they played pretty darn good,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “That front they were playing is really good. That’s one of the very top fronts in the league.

“I think we struggled with them more in the first half. In the second half, we started to get a sense of the timing of it a little bit better. It’s hard to practice that kind of speed and how well they do that stuff. I thought our line did a good job of adjusting through the game. Joe D. (Offensive Line Coach Joe D’Alessandris) did a great job of coaching those guys up. It showed up in the second half.”

If there was a pregame poll of offensive skill players that are eligible receivers in the passing game, I wonder how many votes tight end Nick Boyle would get if the question was posed on who would wind up leading the team in receiving yards and catches.

While I’m sure he wouldn’t be dead last in the polling, no one would’ve anticipated the blocking specialist to finish first in either statistical category over starter and 2019 Pro Bowler Mark Andrews. Boyle caught all four of his targets for a team-high 46 yards.

On defense, the Ravens were without starters at all three levels thanks to a mixture of both injuries and COVID-19.

The secondary was razor thin behind their top four starters and was without First-Team All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey this week after he tested positive for the coronavirus last Monday.

With Humphrey out for this game, the Ravens were forced to turn to former undrafted free agent Terrell Bonds to take over slot duties in the nickelback role. He responded from a tough first half where he gave up some catches by playing extremely well in the third and fourth quarters.

He was much better in coverage after halftime and nearly came up with his first career interception on a pass that was thrown a bit behind the intended receiver. He performed so well that All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters went as far as to say Bonds played an “amazing game”.

Veteran linebacker L.J. Fort was one of six defenders that were forced to miss five days of practice heading into this game because he was deemed high risk via contact tracing. While he was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 List on Saturday, he was declared out for the game with a finger injury.

The Ravens used and rotation of rookie Malik Harrison and third-year pro Chris Board to offset the loss of Fort at the weakside/WILL inside linebacker spot. They combined for eight total tackles between them with Harrison tying for the second-most on the team with six.

Their snap count was almost identical with Board slightly edging out Harrison 35-33 and both players played nearly or just over 50 percent of total defensive snaps for the day. Those metrics were season highs for both players and Harbaugh was very impressed by what they showed in extensive playing time.

“I thought those guys played really well,” Harbaugh said. “I thought they played excellent football especially for not having practiced. They did a really good job. I thought Mike Macdonald, our linebackers coach, did a great job with those guys, getting them ready to play. Very few mistakes. They played super-hard. They just left it all out there. They really played just excellent football.”

It was bad enough knowing that they would be without their best player in Humphrey, but on the first drive of the game, they lost their second-best player on that side of the ball when veteran defensive end Calais Campbell went down with what later diagnosed as a calf strain and would not return.

Veteran defensive tackle Derek Wolfe raised his game once Campbell went down and was a force as run stuffer and pocket pusher in the passing game.

While that was expected from a nine-year vet who has been on a Superbowl winning defense with the Denver Broncos, the Ravens had their two backup defensive linemen step up big after the four-time Pro Bowler went down.

Veteran nose tackle Justin Ellis stepped up and had his most impactful game of the season making one tackle and coming up with a clutch pass deflection.

Rookie defensive tackle Justin Madubuike has still yet to record his first sack of the season but he was extremely active in this game and had his best outing help making up for the absence of his mentor and veteran leader.

Madubuike finished third on the team and first among all defensive linemen in tackles with a career-high five combined including five solos. His best play came on a tackle he made on Taylor on a screen in the second quarter.

The rookie had a lot of green grass and a convoy of blockers in front of him on a play that would’ve picked a chunk of yardage if it weren’t for Madubuike holding him to just a five-yard gain by tackling him from behind. It was the only completion of the drive and Indy ended up punting two plays later.

“That’s a great play,” Harbaugh said. “That thing was about to get out. He really showed some great acceleration and went and got it on a pursuit and effort play. That was a tremendous football play. He played really well. He was very physical. He played like we like to play as far as our techniques. He’s learning that as he goes, he’s getting more consistent with that. Brings a little bit of a pass rush inside. I’m glad we got him, that’s for sure.”

Last week I wrote about how the Ravens’ depth on both sides of the ball would be tested during the second half of the season and against Indianapolis, they passed with flying colors and helped propel the team to victory over a conference opponent in a game with massive playoff implications.

Please follow and like us:

You may also like...

Follow by Email