The NFL's fluctuating schedule has provided the Baltimore Ravens an early, well-timed bye that will enable the team to work out a few kinks and get healthier before its first-place showdown with Pittsburgh on Nov. 1.
Baltimore was originally slated to host the Steelers this Sunday, but all that changed after Tennessee's matchup with Pittsburgh was postponed from Oct. 4 following several positive tests for COVID-19 among the Titans.
Thus, the Ravens had their bye pushed up a week to Sunday, the same day the Steelers finally face Tennessee.
Although the Ravens (5-1) might lose a bit of the momentum generated from a three-game winning streak, they definitely could use a break after giving up four second-half touchdowns in a 30-28 victory at Philadelphia on Sunday. Baltimore frittered away most of a 17-0 halftime cushion under the weight of several big plays by the Eagles and a variety of mistakes by the Ravens, most notably drew 12 penalties for 132 yards.
"We're happy because we got the win, but we should have got out of there a lot cleaner than we did," safety Chris Clark said Monday.
The Eagles piled up 270 of their 364 yards in the second half and came within a botched 2-point conversion of drawing even after falling behind 30-14 with just over seven minutes left. A Baltimore defense that had seemingly reached a crescendo one week earlier in a 27-3 rout of Cincinnati now finds itself looking for answers after an injury-riddled Philadelphia squad accumulated 19 first downs — including three on penalties.
"We just didn't execute on some of the plays that allowed them to get that close," Clark said. "But we've got two weeks to clean that up and get better and move forward."
The two weeks off will also enable some of the Ravens to mend. Running back Mark Ingram missed the second half with a sprained left ankle and guard Tyre Phillips left in the fourth quarter with a hand injury.
Both should be ready to go against Pittsburgh, but defensive back Anthony Averett, who hurt his shoulder in Philadelphia, will be out 5-6 weeks, coach John Harbaugh said Monday.
Though the Ravens have some issues on both sides of the ball, their 5-1 start matches the best in franchise history. Twice before they were 5-1, and both times (2000 and 2012) the team won the Super Bowl.
Even without Ingram, the Ravens' running game was sound. That aspect of the offense still hasn't reached the record-setting level it achieved a year ago, but it remains among the league's best.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson ran for 108 yards and rookie J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards picked up the slack for Ingram. Baltimore finished with 182 yards rushing, its 29th straight game with at least 100 — the longest active streak in the NFL.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Ravens aren't going to beat too many teams if they don't clean up some of the silly penalties that let the Eagles back in the game.
Rookie defensive end Jihad Ward extended a Philadelphia drive after being called for roughing the passer on a third-and-5 incomplete pass. In addition, an interception by Clark was wiped out after Calais Campbell was cited for roughing the passer.
Baltimore's offense was flagged four times before the snap.
"We jumped a couple of times and didn't line up (correctly) a couple of times," Harbaugh noted. "We had wrong formations where we covered up eligible receivers. Those are the things that really should never happen. We'll look at those things and keep working on them."
Punter Sam Koch marked his 230th game with the Ravens by booting seven kicks for an average of 46.4 yards. One of those kicks traveled 59 yards and three landed inside the 20.
Koch broke a tie with Terrell Suggs for most games played in a Ravens uniform. The 38-year-old punter also served as the holder for Justin Tucker, who banged home three field goals on three tries in another solid performance by the special teams.
Wide receiver Willie Snead was targeted twice and caught one pass for 32 yards before fumbling at the end of the play. Fortunately, the ball rolled out of bounds.
Jackson wants to get Snead more involved, but at this point the six-year pro has been targeted only 15 times. Snead has 11 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown.
Harbaugh said defensive tackle Brandon Williams, who was placed on the COVID-19 list Saturday, does not have the virus and never tested positive.
24 — That's the number of quarters the Ravens have scored in, every one in every game this season. No other team has scored in every quarter.
Whether the Steelers (5-0) beat Tennessee or not, the Nov. 1 game in Baltimore will be for the top spot in the AFC North. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are the only teams to defeat third-place Cleveland (4-2).
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