Five thoughts on the Ravens' 30-28 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field:
The Ravens were in complete control almost all day. They led by 17 points at halftime, by 18 early in the fourth quarter and by 16 with five minutes to play. So how in the world did they end up needing a massive, final stop on a two-point conversion to avoid the possibility of a truly disastrous loss? Basically, they ran a clinic on how to let the opponent hang around and retain hope while being down. The Ravens never made the one play to put the game away, stopped themselves with penalties on offense and gave up big plays on defense. They settled for field goals instead of touchdowns on key drives. Suddenly, the Eagles had all the momentum and a real chance to steal a game they had no business winning. But the shaky performance became easier to swallow when Baltimore linebackers Matthew Judon and L.J. Fort made the one play that absolutely had to be made, stopping the two-point conversion to preserve the lead. The result is a 5-1 record for the Ravens heading into their bye, which they'll gladly take with a run of tough games coming up.
In the first half, the Ravens' defense was the same, smothering unit that almost pitched a shutout the week before. The Eagles didn't generate a first down until late in the second quarter, by which time the Ravens were well ahead. Calais Campbell was dominating the interior. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz could barely get off a pass without being swarmed. But the Eagles had hurt themselves with two big drops on plays that should have been made, suggesting the defense's dominance wasn't so assured. Sure enough, when the Eagles stopped hurting themselves, they started making big plays in the second half. One run went for a 74-yard score. Wentz was still being pressured, but he used his legs to escape danger and made big throws to open receivers. Give him props for a gutsy performance, but it was a head-scratcher to watch a defense go from dominant to basically having no answer. The Eagles ended up rushing for almost 200 yards and outgained the Ravens despite a 13-minute shortfall in time of possession. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale will have plenty to discuss as he reviews film of this one.
Like the defense, the Ravens' offense was strong early. It drove to a touchdown on its first possession, then quickly converted a short-field turnover into a touchdown late in the first quarter. But the rest of the game was a struggle, with the offense generating just one touchdown on 10 possessions. What was going on? Lamar Jackson was under steady pressure when he dropped back and often had nowhere to run when he improvised. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman stuck with the running game, as backs Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram combined for 28 carries, but they only averaged 2.8 yards per attempt. Bottom line, the Eagles' defensive line won the day up front. But what really hurt were penalties that stopped drive after drive, with the Ravens' offensive line leading the way in getting flagged. "We had way too many penalties, especially pre-snap penalties," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. In the final analysis, Jackson saved the day. He didn't bring his "A" Game but still rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown (on a dazzling 37-yard dash up the middle) and passed for 186 yards and a touchdown (after dancing around pressure with a nifty two-step). The Ravens ended up needing every ounce of what he provided.
Campbell was the only member of the Ravers' starting defensive line to suit up and play. Derek Wolfe was inactive with a neck/concussion injury, and Brandon Williams was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday. The team only had four D-linemen active, and two were rookies. Bottom line, the Ravens desperately needed a big performance from Campbell, and the veteran delivered on cue with three sacks, four quarterback hits and four tackles for loss. He was especially dominant early, so much so that the Eagles finally started running plays away from him and, no surprise, moved the ball better. Campbell has been solid throughout his first season in Baltimore but this was his first time in full "game wrecker" mode. It was quite a sight, and remember, he's one of the oldest players on the field every week. The Ravens have plenty to work on during the bye, but Campbell is anything but a concern.
Short takes: As the Eagles lined for the two-point conversion that could have tied the game late, there was no doubt the Ravens would bring big pressure. Judon was on Wentz in a flash; the option play was doomed as soon as the quarterback hesitated ever so slightly about whether to hand off or run ... The Ravens are 5-1 for the third time in franchise history, and they went to the Super Bowl the other two times (in 2000 and 2012) ... The Ravens have now won nine straight road games by a combined score of 299-151 ... It was fitting rookie James Proche II fielded the Eagles' last-gasp onside kick. He looks extremely sure-handed as the punt returner ... Needless to say, it made a huge difference in the end that the Eagles' Jake Elliott missed a 52-yard field goal attempt, his only try of the day, while the Ravens' Justin Tucker was perfect on attempts from 46, 55 and 46 yards.