Andy Dalton entered Monday night’s matchup with the Ravens, an old AFC North foe, on a surprise hot streak as the signal-caller for one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses of late. Anyone betting on the ex-Bengals quarterback to show out in prime time, however, needed only to look to the other sideline to know better. Lamar Jackson, king of the highlight-reel play this side of Patrick Mahomes, seized the spotlight in Week 9’s finale, carrying an otherwise erratic Baltimore attack to help the Ravens cruise past the Saints in New Orleans. His legs, coupled with a monster night for veteran pass rusher Justin Houston, headlined a 27-13 victory for the visitors, giving the Ravens their third straight “W” to stay atop their division.
The Saints, meanwhile, fall to 3-6 with the ugly defeat, and a full game behind the Buccaneers and Falcons in the sloppy NFC South. Despite another relatively productive night from rookie receiver Chris Olave, they failed to register any rhythm with the ball in their hands, and Dalton turned in his worst performance since taking over for Jameis Winston in Week 4.
Here are some additional takeaways from Monday night’s Ravens rout:
Why the Ravens won
It wasn’t because they figured out how to move the ball through the air with consistency; DeSean Jackson’s debut predictably ended early due to injury, and James Proche was somehow the only receiver to log at least two catches. But Lamar Jackson still did his thing, finding Isaiah Likely on a perfect floater for an early touchdown and showcasing the moves of an elite running back in, around and beyond the pocket, teaming up with a busy Kenyan Drake (two TDs) to help fuel the game’s superior backfield. Defensively, the Ravens were just as, if not more, impressive; Justin Houston, 33, took it back to 23 with 2.5 sacks and a tipped-pass pick, while Marlon Humphrey notched his own takedown on the blitz and newcomer Roquan Smith made his presence felt, recording a third-down stuff. Neutralizing Alvin Kamara, the “D” won against Andy Dalton from start to finish.
Why the Saints lost
Dennis Allen’s squad simply lacked execution and energy on both sides of the ball. It was a totally hapless performance for a team under the lights on its own turf, with a chance to get even in an ugly division. Andy Dalton never looked comfortable facing pressure from Baltimore’s front, taking some nasty shots in particular from Calais Campbell and Justin Houston. The ground game was nonexistent. Even worse, Allen’s defense tried and failed to use a heavy dosage of blitzing to bottle up Lamar Jackson, whose athleticism won the night. In doing so, it also became something of a sieve against the run, allowing Jackson and Drake to combine for 175 yards. The Ravens were just physically faster and stronger — downright better — for the duration of the matchup.
The Ravens only led 7-0 deep into the second quarter, so it’s not as if Baltimore ran away with it out of the gate, but the minute the Saints went three-and-out following Lamar Jackson’s first scoring drive, whatever air remained in New Orleans coming into the contest seemed to deflate. Taysom Hill opened the team’s third offensive series but had a short run negated by a penalty, and then Dalton absorbed one of Houston’s several sacks to cap the drive, preserving the Ravens’ momentum. By the end of their subsequent series, the Saints had managed just 13 total plays through four possessions.
Play of the game
Give it to the one-man band on the Ravens offense: facing a third-and-1, up 17-6 in the fourth, Lamar all but sealed the victory with his elusive scramble past the sticks:
The Ravens (6-3) will rest up on their bye before returning in Week 11 to host the Panthers (2-7), who went back to Baker Mayfield in a big loss to the Bengals on Sunday. The Saints (3-6), meanwhile, will travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers (2-6), who lost to the Eagles before taking their bye this week.