In what could have been a preview of an AFC playoff game in a couple months, the Baltimore Ravens recorded an impressive road win against the Indianapolis Colts, beating them by the final score of 24-10.
With the victory, the Baltimore Ravens improved to 6-2, comfortably in line for a playoff spot despite trailing the undefeated Steelers in their division. The Colts fell to 5-3.
Here are some important takeaways from this matchup, just in case we see it again in January.
5. We still don’t really know what a catch is in the NFL
We’re all veterans of the exercise at this point. We watch the replays from multiple angles to determine whether a pass-catcher maintained control of the football through to the ground, or made a football move after establishing possession. At the end of the day, these are judgment calls, and we just hope one doesn’t go against our team.
During this game, Baltimore Ravens CB Marcus Peters was involved in a similarly scrutinized play, where it was initially ruled that he did not complete the process of a catch while attempting to intercept a pass from Colts QB Philip Rivers.
In what appeared to be a gift of a call, it was determined that Peters caught the ball with two feet down, took a third step, and then fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the Baltimore Ravens. Had that call not gone the Ravens’ way, it’s possible that Indianapolis would’ve been able to short circuit the Ravens’ momentum in the second half.
And how ironic was it that another controversial catch/no-catch call happened in a game that marked the NFL return of Dez Bryant after three years? Bryant was involved in maybe the most famous catch/no-catch call ever during his time with the Dallas Cowboys.
4. Michael Pittman Jr. Figures To Play A Key Role Down The Stretch
Pittman, who was expected to be a factor in the Colts’ passing game from the beginning of the season, got off to a bit of a slow start in September. He wasn’t much of an option during the first two weeks of the season, and got hurt in Week 3 against the New York Jets, suffering a leg injury that cost him four weeks.
While the game was still competitive, Pittman was the receiver Rivers targeted often. He finished with a decent line of 4 catches and 56 yards, but was targeted a team high 7 times. In the first half, Pittman hauled in all 3 of his targets. If T.Y. Hilton continues to miss additional time nursing a groin injury, look for the rookie out of USC to get many opportunities to shine in this offense.
3. The Colts Tried To Make Things Easy For Rivers
Instead of asking Rivers to push the ball down the field against a fierce Ravens pass rush and solid secondary, the Colts’ offensive coaching staff eased the veteran into the game. Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and head coach Frank Reich dialed up a bunch of screen plays and jet sweeps early in this game, to keep Baltimore off balance, and to get Rivers some easy throws.
Prevalent in that offensive philosophy was speedster De’Michael Harris, who was prominently involved around the line of scrimmage. Harris carried the rock twice for a total of 28 yards, and added another 4 catches for 27 yards in the air. It will be interesting to see what role, if any, the undrafted rookie plays when T.Y Hilton returns to the team.
2. Indianapolis’ Backfield Appears To Be a Full-Blown Committee
Frank Reich’s backfield usage last week against the Detroit Lions raised an eyebrow or two around the league and in the fantasy football community. It seemed like rookie RB Jonathon Taylor was going to be the bellcow for the rest of the season, after starting RB Marlon Mack tore his Achilles in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Seemingly trying to debunk any notion that the team had lost confidence in the rookie from Wisconsin, Reich featured Taylor at the beginning of the Ravens' game, giving him touches on the first three offensive plays of the game. On their second drive, he punched in a goal line carry for a one yard touchdown, and it felt like all was right with the world again.
But as the game progresses, RB Jordan Wilkins got more involved. Wilkins finished the contest with 13 total touches, to Taylor’s 8, to fellow RB Nyheim Hines’ 4. Taylor had a costly fumble in the second quarter against the Ravens’ swarming defense, which may have played a role in Wilkins’ increased usage.
1. The Baltimore Ravens' Coaching Staff Is Elite
The Baltimore Ravens had about as bad a first half on offense as anyone could have imagined. They were held to 55 yards of total offense on the ground, and led fans to wonder whether WR Marquise Brown’s comments about the usage of Baltimore’s “souljas” were becoming more and more relevant by the day.
Coming out for the second half, the Ravens needed energy, intensity and purpose, and that’s exactly what the coaching staff provided them with in the locker room. Instead of trying to pound the rock in between the tackles against a fast and aggressive Colts front seven, Ravens' coordinator Greg Roman dialed up quick hitting passing plays to get the team going.
QB Lamar Jackson found WR Willie Snead twice in their opening second half drive, connected with the aforementioned Brown, and sprung TE Nick Boyle free for a 21-yard gain. Jackson himself also started to make things happen with his legs, and although that drive ended in a fumble by RB Gus Edwards, The Ravens had found what they had been missing for the first 30 minutes of the game. They ended up riding that flurry for the rest of the half and it brought them the victory.