BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens defense has been historically dominant against rookie quarterbacks at home during the John Harbaugh era, allowing the least amount of points against first-year signal callers since the head coach took over in 2008.
On Sunday, it took everything the Ravens had to come away with a victory.
Making his first career road start, rookie quarterback Kyler Murray led the Cardinals on a 78-yard drive before handing the ball off to David Johnson for a 1-yard score early in the fourth quarter. He then found KeeSean Johnson in the back of the end zone for a 2-point conversion to make it a three-point game.
It marked the closest they would get to Baltimore (2-0), which converted a 51-yard field goal on the next offensive possession and generated a pair of defensive stops in a 23-17 victory at M&T Bank Stadium.
“We’ve got to get comfortable dominating those situations,” Ravens safety Earl Thomas III said. “It’s not going to be the last time we’ll have to close the game out when the game’s tight like that. It was great to be in that situation and have some success.”
Murray joined the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton as the only rookie quarterbacks to throw for 300-plus yards in each of his first two games. Against the Ravens, he completed 25-of-40 passes for 349 yards and zero turnovers.
He was sacked three times on the afternoon as he faced an aggressive defense dialed up to torment the first-year signal caller.
“He hit some throws and did what he had to do for his team,” said Ravens outside linebacker Matthew Judon, who brought down Murray for a sack in the first quarter. “They are a good team. They schemed up some good stuff, throws and looks, and I’m glad we got to see them early in the season. But we have some ‘dawgs in the back end, and we were able to handle them.”
Cornerback Brandon Carr sacked Murray on the first play from scrimmage following the Ravens’ final field goal as the defense produced a three-and-out deep in the Cardinals’ zone. On the ensuing Arizona possession, a holding call on second down drove the visitors to their own 5-yard line before another incompletion on a deep pass led to a punt from the end zone.
The Ravens then controlled the ball for the remained of the contest, aided by a 41-yard pass on third down from Lamar Jackson to Marquise Brown after the Cardinals had burned their final timeout.
The Cardinals drove into the red zone on three separate occasions during the contest, but settled for chip-shot field goals after failing to find the end zone.
“We did a good job covering them, which we didn’t do when they went down there and scored. They had us on the ropes a little bit there,” Harbaugh said. “We covered really well, and we presented in fronts that they really couldn’t run it in with.”
Added Murray: “It really got loud as hell. We’ve got to do better in those kind of circumstances.”
The Baltimore Ravens emerged with the narrow 23-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, but they allowed rookie Kyler Murray to connect on six passing plays of 20 yards or more Sunday, including two completions of 40-plus yards to vetern receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
“It’s a spread-open offense, and sometimes you get into some zone-coverage situations, and you have to get lined up fast, and you have to communicate fast. The route matches are not simple for any team,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh explained. “And when you have a bunch of receivers on the field, that’s what that offense is built to do.
“One time a backer didn’t do this. One time, a safety didn’t do that. One time, we didn’t talk through something. That’s where those plays come from. So, as I said last week, we have to keep getting better, keep improving. Those are some things we have to work on. And credit to them with the routes as well.”
While starting cornerback Jimmy Smith has been lost for a portion of the season after suffering a knee sprain in last week’s season-opener, fellow Ravens defensive back Marlon Humphrey was limited or held out for all three practice days this week. A preseason injury to starting nickel corner Tavon Young as also put pressure on a secondary once lauded for its depth.
“We had one corner that didn’t practice this week. Not making excuses, but as a young guy, we need you on the field so you can understand the communication. We had simple mental errors on some deep crosses and cover-3 zone where our corners just need to stay back and stay in the zone and the route come right to them. We won’t give up those big plays like we did,” safety Earl Thomas said. “Overall, they had some great concepts. It was schemed up, concept plays, and they took advantage of it. A couple of them, we didn’t have zone eyes, and it was little areas or simple mistakes that if we were on our stuff, you never would have seen that. It’s stuff that we have to clean up.”