Baltimore Ravens winning ugly should spark optimism

Baltimore Ravens Lamar Jackson(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Baltimore Ravens Lamar Jackson(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens were far from perfect in a Week 14 win over Buffalo but finding success when it’s not pretty is a good sign.

There were few things that were pretty about what the Baltimore Ravens did on Sunday to capture the win over the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park. In winning their ninth consecutive game, the Ravens amassed only 257 yards of total offense against a high-quality defense. Lamar Jackson wasn’t in MVP, awe-inspiring form. The defense was quite good but not elite. And it did not matter.

Baltimore picked up the 24-17 victory in a grinding, slugfest that played right into what the Bills like to do. Buffalo has made their money in 2019 by succeeding with defense and making things ugly. The Ravens, meanwhile, have been a near-flawless offense capable of moving the ball at will. Thus, John Harbaugh’s team was not designed in their best form to play this style.

Yet they’ve done so in two straight weeks, first against the 49ers and now against the Bills, and have emerged the victors in both. As impressive as the Ravens have been at many times over their first 13 games en route to an 11-2 record, these last two victories have told us the most about Baltimore.

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While Jackson may be the MVP and a matchup nightmare, he’s been relatively pedestrian in the past two games. Jackson in the last two games combined has gone 30-of-48 for 250 yards, four touchdowns and one interception while rushing for an admittedly impressive 141 yards and a score, though with his first lost fumble of the season. Even with the rushing, though, he’s not been the video-game figure we’ve seen at other times with his dual-threat numbers.

That hasn’t mattered, though. Marcus Peters, Matthew Judon and an improving-by-the-week defense have been able to step up and make plays against two unique and dangerous offenses in the past couple of games. That side of the ball has gone from potential liability to viable strength since the secondary has improved.

They put that fully on display against the Bills as they made Josh Allen look like the worst version of himself. Baltimore limited the second-year quarterback to just nine rushing yards while he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes for only 146 yards and sacked him six times. It was a masterpiece on defense.

Showing that type of performance on the road tells us what we need to know about Baltimore. This isn’t a team with a gimmick on offense that can be stopped if you limit Jackson. Instead, it’s a viable contender that has numerous ways in which they can win a football game.

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The mark of a Super Bowl contender isn’t always wins and losses in the regular season or having the most talented player on the field — though those things don’t hurt. It’s being able to adapt on a given day and still find ways to have success. And if nine straight wins that have recently seen two slogging, ugly victories come Baltimore’s way isn’t enough to show that the Ravens have that trait, then you aren’t paying attention.