An ugly win for the Ravens, but this one could look pretty come playoff time
A win is a win, as they say. Baltimore used a late touchdown, its only one of the game, to edge Denver 10-9 here at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday.
The win could be costly, as the Ravens lost quarterback Lamar Jackson on final first quarter play, due to a knee injury. Baltimore must be happy how the game concluded, with a late-game drive when backup quarterback Tyler Huntley scored from two yards out.
The crowd, snoozing for most of the game, erupted, but with some caution as 28 seconds remained, and the Broncos with two timeouts in their pocket.
Denver did advance the ball to midfield, and with just two seconds remaining set up a potential game-winning 63-yard field goal try. The stadium fell silent as the ball appeared dead center, but ran out of air about two yards short, falling harmlessly to the turf.
On a near-perfect day for football here in downtown Baltimore, the Ravens and Huntley showed some real grit, pulling out a win when about everything went sideways.
Despite winning, the eerie buzz around the stadium was about Jackson leaving the game with an injury. Yes, Huntley made some tough throws in relief, but everyone in the crowd of 70,000 understand the Ravens, if they’re without the multi-dimensional Jackson, will be limited. They know because they lost all three games Huntley started last season in December and January.
Sunday, Baltimore settled for a field goal and a touchdown against one of the weakest teams in the NFL, certainly the weakest of the remaining schedule. Without Jackson, nothing is guaranteed.
Can the Ravens defense carry this team? The defense played well today, but again the opponent carried a lot of weight. Denver, led by Russell Wilson, is porous on offense, and didn’t offer much of a challenge.
Huntley did his best at imitating Jackson, but as the game progressed it became clear that he’s a backup for a reason. His arm strength is NFL backup quality, his decision-making a split second late. But if the Ravens are without Jackson for a prolonged period, then Huntley gets the call.
Huntley made some bad decisions – his lone interception was as ugly as interceptions get – but he also made some strong plays, and like Jackson can use his wheels when needed, showing that in the game-winning drive, a 16-play, 91-yard march in which Huntley took complete control.
That drive may prove to be season-saving. A loss today and the Ravens might be hard-pressed to even finish with a winning season. Today, about everything that could go wrong did, and Baltimore still won.
But the buzz today here at “The Bank” is that despite the possibility that the Ravens could end Sunday in first place in the AFC North, the feeling is the season is slipping away.
The injury list continues to grow and now includes inside linebacker Patrick Queen, who is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, and offensive coordinator Greg Roman may be Stanford-bound. The Jackson contract negotiations are now looming larger.
In a sport when the regular season is only 17 games, every win is significant, regardless of how they come.
Sunday, Baltimore won ugly, but down the stretch it could get prettier by the game.