By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO
A game that once looked like another blowout win for the Baltimore Ravens turned into a nail-biter in the end.
The Baltimore Ravens comfortably led 17-0 in the first half, but the Philadelphia Eagles put together a late-game comeback rally that would have forced an overtime.
However, thanks to a crucial defensive play inside the two-minute mark of the fourth quarter, the Ravens held off the Eagles, 30-28, at Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 18.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson was 16-of-27 passing for 186 yards and a touchdown while collecting a team-high 108 yards rushing on nine carries for another touchdown to lead Baltimore, which improved to 5-1 with the win.
“It’s a win that we are very, very happy to have. We’ll be very proud of it because it was a fight. I’m proud of our guys for winning the fight in the end,” Coach John Harbaugh said.
“Getting the job done with the two-point stop, obviously, and getting the first down at the end of the game to close it out. Those are two close plays and I’m really proud of those guys,” he added.
While the Ravens were pleased with picking up their third straight win, they acknowledge that there is still substantial room for improvement. Nevertheless, they made the right plays at the right times and did just enough to escape with the away win.
Jackson’s seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nick Boyle and a seven-yard scamper to the end zone along with a 46-yard field goal by Justin Tucker put the Ravens up 17-0 at halftime. In the third, both squads traded scores and Baltimore still held a 24-6 cushion heading into the last 15 minutes of regulation.
Baltimore’s defensive unit essentially played lights out in the first half, but had a number of miscues especially in the fourth quarter, a frame when it gave up 22 points, which is uncharacteristic for a defense of its caliber.
In addition, costly penalties was another point of emphasis on offense and defense. Baltimore was charged with 12 penalties in all which led to a loss of 132 yards. Led by Calais Campbell and Marlon Humphrey, the Ravens’ defense forced four fumbles and tallied six sacks which somewhat compensated the loss of yardage incurred from penalties.
Harbaugh identified several issues, including assignment miscues, pre-snap penalties and inconsistency on offense, elaborating on some of the areas that must improve as Ravens prepare for a stiffer schedule in the coming weeks.
“I think we’ve got to execute better on both sides. We gave up too many big plays on defense,” Harbaugh added.
“The defense in the first half played well, but in the second half there were just way too many big plays. They (Eagles) had one big play in the first half, too. We’ve got to figure that out. We can’t give up big plays.”
The Eagles (1-4-1) allowed no touchdowns in the fourth, but Tucker knocked in field goals from 55 and 46 yards out for Baltimore’s only points in the quarter.
By scoring three fourth-quarter touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions, Philadelphia – led by fifth-year quarterback Carson Wentz – showed its offensive capabilities in the game’s most crucial moments while testing the fortitude of the Ravens’ defense.
On Wentz’s two-point conversion attempt to tie the game from the 2-yard line, linebackers Matthew Judon and L.J. Fort came up with the game-winning stop to seal the deal for the Ravens.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey finished with eight tackles to go with a forced fumble, sack and pass defense. Defensive end Calais Campbell had an exceptional day with three sacks and inside linebacker L.J. Fort added seven tackles.
Fortunately for Baltimore, next week will be a bye which gives the team two weeks to sharpen up in a few areas before facing a formidable opponent in AFC North foe Pittsburgh Steelers, who have gotten off to a blazing 5-0 start this season. The showdown will be on Nov. 1 at 1 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium.
The defensive resilience of the Ravens will be part of what carries the team to a strong regular-season campaign and deep into the postseason, if they are able to continue their winning ways.
“We’re not ever going to give up. We’re never going to hang our head,” Judon said after the win. “We understand it’s a football game; they’re going to make some plays, and we’re going to make some plays. We’re just never going to give up.”