Defense Bounces Back, Running Game Shows Life In Ravens’ Victory

Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey

Getty Several members of the Ravens secondary celebrate a turnover in a regular season game on September 25, 2022.

After allowing a whopping 28 points in an epic fourth-quarter collapse for the ages in a Week 2 loss, the Baltimore Ravens‘ defense was determined to redeem themselves against the New England Patriots in Week 3. While they still haven’t quite fixed all their issues on that side of the ball, the unit showed the closing ability that was missing a week ago.

“There is no better (seed) than adversity,” head coach John Harbaugh said in his post-game press conference. “Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss contains its own seed, its lesson on how to improve your performance next time. That’s Malcolm X. That’s the lesson to me.”

The Ravens not only didn’t give up any touchdowns in the fourth quarter in a 37-26 victory, but they came away with three turnovers and finished the game with four in total. Three different players recorded interceptions and a fourth had what would’ve been a pick-six bounce off his hands.

“For us, it was just making sure we fight to the end, to make sure we finish the right way,” inside linebacker Josh Bynes who has a fourth-quarter interception said in his post-game press conference. “We wanted to give the ball back to the offense as much as possible. It’s about overcoming adversity. This league, and this business, is all about adversity and how you overcome it. You can’t let last week get to you, otherwise it’s going to take you down. I think the guys did a really good job just taking this week as it is.”

The most impressive and clutch turnover came from the player who many blamed for several of the blown coverages that allowed the Miami Dolphins to come back and have a chance to pull off the late upset. After his fellow rookie Damarion ‘Pepe’ Williams got beat inside and gave up a long reception that looked like it was poised to put the Patriots in prime scoring position, first-round safety Kyle Hamilton didn’t give up on the play, hustled to catch up, and punched the ball out of the grasp of Nelson Agholor.

He played fewer defensive snaps than he did in the previous two weeks with just 16 per Pro Football Reference and finished with three total tackles. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the Ravens’ highest-graded defender against the Patriots with an overall of 92.6.

“Kyle Hamilton with the effort play, knocks the ball out, Marcus Peters with the unbelievable recovery on the sideline of the fumble,” Harbaugh said. “Those are plays — they’re just great football plays.”

“He’s a young guy and he wants to make plays, because he knows he’s gifted,” veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell said in his post-game press conference. “I think this one feels good because you can get that monkey off your back and get that first big play that was huge.”

Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who caught one of the team’s three interceptions on the day was glad that they were able to have this bounce-back performance and believes that it helped them gain some of their swagger back on that side of the ball.

“It was tough last week knowing our offense scored that many points and in the fourth quarter, the defense just could not get a stop – touchdown after touchdown after touchdown,” Humphrey said in his post-game press conference. “For us to have these big plays at the end, it’s huge. It’s a confidence boost and a pride thing that we can be this defense.”

Running Game Shows Signs Of Improvement

The Ravens’ rushing attack wasn’t much of an attack through the first two games of the 2022 regular season outside of Lamar Jackson’s contributions. The entire running depth chart produced just 74 total rushing yards on a combined 29 carries over that span for woeful 2.5 yards per carry average and no touchdowns. Although they still have yet to reach the end zone, the running backs were much more productive against the Patriots in Week 3.

In his 2022 debut, J.K. Dobbins didn’t quite look like himself but had a solid over outing and showed that he still possesses impressive contact balance to pick up more yards after getting hit and good vision to find lanes and creases to hit. He only ran for 23 yards on seven carries, caught two passes for 17 yards, and he believes that he will continue to improve with more touches.

“I (going to) keep chipping away, keep getting better each week,” Dobbins said in his press conference.

While Dobbins had a solid outing, fourth-year pro Justice Hill looked very impressive as he made the most of his most extensive playing to date. He brought some much-needed juice to the running game and looked both powerful and explosive on his way to finishing as the team’s second-leading rusher behind Jackson with 60 rushing yards on six carries. Over half of his yards came on an electric 34-yard run where he displayed great vision, cuts, explosion, and elusiveness in the open field.

Harbaugh thought the entire position group “played well” and that Hill “really stepped up.”

“He was kind of the bell cow today,” he said. “He made some exceptional runs. He and I have been talking about that for a couple weeks, that he was going to break out and run like a star running back, and he did it.”

The Ravens rushed for a season-high 188 yards on the ground as a team in Week 3 and were led in rushing yards by Jackson who ran for over 100 yards for the second straight week.

Updates On Players Injured Against The Patriots

The Ravens’ training staff had a busy afternoon on Sunday as it seemed like they had starters and key players getting hurt on every other play. They had four players go down with injuries, three get tended to on the field, one stayed on the sideline for the remainder of the game, two get carted off to the locker room, and only one returned to the game.

After stepping on Hill’s foot in pass protection, do-it-all utility lineman Patrick Mekari who was starting at left tackle in place of Ronnie Stanley was taken to the locker room in the first quarter with an ankle injury. He would not return in the second half after being ruled out but it doesn’t appear he will miss any extended period of time.

“Pat Mekari is going to be fine,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a sprain. He’ll be okay. Won’t be long-term.”

Veteran outside linebacker Justin Houston went out in the first half as well and didn’t return due to a groin injury. After the game, Harbaugh said that it is just a “soft muscle thing” and that the strain may cause him to miss little to no time.

While they avoided significant injuries to Makari and Houston, they will have to wait until further testing is conducted to find out the severity of veteran defensive lineman Micheal Pierce’s arm injury. He got carted to the locker room in the first half as well, didn’t return, and could miss some time for the foreseeable future.

“We’ll have to see tomorrow,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not definitive yet which way what it is exactly in terms of seriousness. A decision will have to be made on that.”

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