The Ravens’ time as the biggest show on the field was short-lived.
A week after Lamar Jackson scored on each of his first four possessions and threw three touchdown passes and ran another against the Detroit Lions, Baltimore’s offense hit a losing streak against the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Still, it did just enough to find the end zone four times and then do what it does best: rely on its defense to make final plays when it matters most.
The Ravens (6-2) stopped Arizona twice on fourth down, intercepted Joshua Dobbs twice and held the quarterback to 208 yards passing en route to a shaky 31-24 victory over the Cardinals (1-7). The win keeps Baltimore atop the AFC North on a day when the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers lost and the Cincinnati Bengals each won 4-3.
“It was a tough game,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We weren’t nearly as sharp and sharp as we wanted to be, and yet we kept grinning, kept fighting and found a way to get the job done.
“You’re just not going to be at full speed every week. You have to find a way to win these games. I think the best teams prove over time that they can win games even when they are not at their best.”
Leading the way on Baltimore’s defense was tackle Michael Pierce, who pushed his way through the Cardinals’ line, recorded five tackles, including one for a loss, broke up a fourth-and-1 pass and forced a fumble on a strip sack.
“Mike was dominant,” Harbaugh said. “He just took over the game inside.
“If you’re struggling and not scoring, someone has to step up. Someone has to make plays. …Someone has to do something to make the plays that keep you going. Michael was definitely the guy for us.”
Geno Stone also had his NFL-best fifth interception of the season when he picked off Dobbs late at the Cardinals’ 24-yard line in the third quarter. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Stone’s NFL-leading five interceptions are tied with Hall of Famer Ed Reed (2007) for the most by a Ravens player in the first eight games of a season in team history.
But it was Pierce’s play that helped set the tone for the NFL’s best defense.
The Ravens entered Sunday with a league-low 13.9 points per game and the second-fewest yards per game. Still, the Cardinals managed to move the ball at times – until they couldn’t anymore.
After Dobbs scored with a 1-yard sneak on the game’s first series, a 12-play, 75-yard drive — one aided by an illegal contact penalty on Kyle Hamilton that resulted in a sack by Justin Madubuike on third down nullified, and a 23-yard pass interference penalty by Marlon Humphrey – Baltimore and Pierce are knocked down.
On the Cardinals’ second possession and a fourth-and-1 from the Ravens’ 44, Pierce knocked down a pass intended for former Raven Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. On their next drive and another four-and-1, this time from the Ravens’ 36, the 6-foot-1, 355-pound seventh-year veteran Emari Demercado stuffed up the middle on a handoff.
Dobbs was 8 of 12 for just 55 yards in the first half. The Cardinals finished the game with 310 total yards; the Ravens only had 268.
Still, it was enough.
On the Ravens’ first possession, they also drove 75 yards for a touchdown – and also got help from wide receiver Odell Beckham, who drew a pass interference penalty for a 19-yard gain to the Cardinals’ 8th yard. Two plays later, Jackson, who was 6 of 7 for 64 yards in the series, hit tight end Mark Andrews for a 5-yard touchdown pass over the middle in the back of the end zone. It was his 40th career score, tying one of Todd Heap’s franchise records as a tight end.
The Ravens then capitalized on a second-quarter Brandon Stephens interception (his second of the year) at the Cardinals’ 47 with just under two minutes left to go 43 yards in six plays, with Gus Edwards plowing in from one yard out.
Edwards (19 carries, 80 yards) then found the end zone again with a 7-yard sprinter After Stone’s interception, Justin Tucker later added a 48-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Dobbs finally found the end zone through the air, connecting with tight end Trey McBride from 17 yards out midway through the fourth and then adding a 2-point conversion run.
But Edwards put the game out of reach with his third touchdown of the game – another 1-yard run – with 2:51 left.
Dobbs connected with Brown for a 1-yard score with 1:14 left, but the 2-point attempt failed. Matt Prater’s successful onside kick gave Arizona another shot down, and Prater made a 47-yard field goal with 26 seconds left, but the Cardinals failed to recover another onside kick and Nelson Agholor saved it and the Ravens ran out of time.
“A win is a win, but I think we need to put more points on the map,” said Jackson, who went 18 of 27 for 157 yards with a touchdown. “The type of defense they played, some of the plays we had, we weren’t supposed to keep the ball for long. They were able to chase us a little bit and disrupt the backfield a little bit. That’s all.”
The Ravens now complete a stretch of four of their last five road games and will finish the season with six of their last nine games at M&T Bank Stadium.
Seahawks at Ravens
Sunday, 1 p.m
Radio: 97.9FM, 101.5FM, 1090AM
Line: Ravens at 4 1/2