Top takeaways from Ravens comeback win over Indianapolis: Defensive Stars
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:
In classic Ravens’ fashion, the defense kept them in a game where their offense struggled worse than we had seen them all season. Thankfully, reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson and the offense were able to flip the script in the second half.
Baltimore’s defense allowed the offense to mount a comeback for the first time in the Jackson era by pitching a second-half shutout. While they had some young and backup players step up on that side of the ball, three defenders really stole the show and highlighted a dominant effort.
CB Marcus Peters
The 2019 First-Team All-Pro cornerback provided the Ravens with several parks throughout the game and was the most dominant player on the field for either team on Sunday.
In the first half he did his best Marlon Humphrey impression and punched the ball out of the grasp of Indianapolis rookie running back Johnathan Taylor and safety Chuck Clark returned it 65 yards to provide Baltimore with their first points of the game and tie it at 7-7.
The Ravens offense marched down to the Indianapolis ()-yard line on the opening drive of the second half but turned the ball over on a Gus Edwards fumble.
However, they find themselves back on the field one play later after Peters intercepted Phillip Rivers on his first pass attempt of the third quarter.
It was originally ruled an incomplete pass but a successful challenge from Ravens’ Head Coach John Harbaugh overturned the original call on the field.
Not only did Peters haul in the pass with both hands, but he also took four steps backward before the ball was punched out of his grasp and recovered by an alert Clark.
“I think I made a play with the ball. I was going backwards for multiple steps, [and] I had control over it. So, I think it was an interception. I kind of went over and asked Philip Rivers if he thought it was a pick. He didn’t think so, but that was a [heck] of a job by Coach Harbaugh. [The coaches] upstairs, they got that called down, and they went with it. So, I appreciate it, and the team does, too.”
Both of his turnovers proved pivotal for the Ravens in this game and he was excellent in coverage as well. He added five total tackles and a pass deflection to his final stat line.
S Chuck Clark
The fourth-year pro seemed to always be in the right place at the right time of Sunday whenever Indianapolis put the ball on the turf which shouldn’t be too surprising since he’s the defensive signal-caller who gets everyone else in position so it would make sense that he’d be able to put himself in position to make plays as well.
The long return of his first fumble recovery of the game resulted in his first career touchdown and the Ravens third defensive score of the season, all of which have come on fumble returns.
He was determined to go the distance and had to hurdle a flailing Rivers on his way to the end zone.
“Whenever I get the ball in my hands on defense, I’m thinking about scoring. So, when I looked up, I saw grass, and I saw [Philip Rivers]. I saw the move that I wanted to do, but then I saw him fall. So, I was like, ‘Alright. I’m just going to jump over him and keep going.'”
Clark finished the game with two total tackles and a pass deflection to go along with his two crucial fumble recoveries. He is ascending from a solid starter to one of the best young defenders in the league before our eyes with the more experience he accrues.
OLB Matthew Judon
The Ravens franchised-tagged edge defender made up for getting ejected early in the team’s loss to the Steelers last week by going all out for four full quarters against Indianapolis.
On a day where Rivers was getting the ball out of his hands on an average of 2.52 seconds, it was hard to apply pressure upfront because the ball would be gone before Ravens defenders could get upfield or set up any pass rush moves or exotic pressures.
Despite limited opportunities, Judon was the only Ravens to record a legal quarterback hit and he did it twice. He was lights out in the fourth quarter and was key in securing the second-half shutout.
Judon almost single-handedly forced a pair of turnovers on downs when Indianapolis was trying to mount a comeback of their own and made the last play of the game to thwart their last-ditch effort to score points.
On Indy’s first offensive drive of the final quarter, he broke up a pass intended for tight end Trey Burton on fourth-and-1 at Baltimore’s 16-yard line, on the ensuing drive he pressured Rivers into throwing an errant pass intended for receiver Zach Pascal that fell incomplete on fourth-and-5 from their own 36-yard line, and on their last drive which was the last of the game he sprinted down the field to tackle Pascal short of paydirt at the Ravens’ five-yard line as time expired.
“We know that teams are definitely going to [try to use] screen [plays against] us and try to make us run to the ball, just [because of] how we play with our effort,” said Clark. “That’s the last play of the game, about two seconds left, and they throw a screen. You have a defensive lineman running downfield, 20 yards downfield to make a tackle, that says everything about this defense.”
Judon played a season-high 78 percent of the defensive snaps and finished with a team-leading seven total tackles, a pass deflection, and a pair of quarterback hits.
DT Derek Wolfe
Veteran defensive tackle stepped up to the plate big time after Calais Campbell went down on the first drive of the game and was a force against the run and even pushed the pocket well as a pass rusher. He finished with three solo tackles and played a season-high 75 percent of the defensive snaps.
CB Jimmy Smith
The veteran defensive back was excellent in coverage in his fourth start at corner of the season after being thrust into a larger role due to the absence of Humphrey.
He played 100 percent of the defensive snaps for the first time this season, tied for the second most tackle on the team with six including the only tackle for loss.