Lions' Goff, Brockers have seen challenges Ravens present on offense, defense
Allen Park — When the Baltimore Ravens come to town this Sunday, Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff and defensive lineman Michael Brockers can take solace in the fact it can't possibly go worse than the last time they faced this foe.
And, optimistically, there's hope they learned some valuable lessons from that 45-6 drubbing in 2019 — when both were still with the Los Angeles Rams — that they can apply to help their current team pull off an upset and break into the win column after an 0-2 start.
The defending NFC champions, the Rams welcomed the red-hot Ravens to Los Angeles for a Monday Night Football matchup in late November that year. In quarterback Lamar Jackson's second season, and his first as the franchise's full-time starter, Baltimore came into the night winners of six straight, including a 41-7 throttling of the Houston Texans a week earlier.
The Rams, meanwhile, were struggling to maintain positive momentum after making a Super Bowl run the previous season. At one point earlier in the year, they dropped three in a row. Yet, in a push for another postseason berth, they had won three of their past four, all by double-digits.
But this one would be all but over by halftime after the Ravens jumped out to a 28-6 lead at the break. Jackson, en route to being named league MVP, did more damage with his arm than his feet, throwing for five touchdowns despite attempting just 20 passes.
Goff, on the other hand, completed 26 of his 37 throws, for 212 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was also sacked twice as the Ravens brought extra pressure all night, a known trait of defensive coordinator Wink Marindale's game plans.
"They, for sure, got after us that night," Goff said this week. "I won’t forget that one. I think just their overall physicality and they’ve been doing it for, I don’t know, 15 years, ever since the (former Ravens linebacker) Ray Lewis regime was there. Just the way that they approach defense and the aggressiveness and physicality and the way they try to impose their will on, you’ve got to be aware of it. It’s different than a lot of teams we play."
When Goff dropped back, the Ravens blitzed more often than not. And like most NFL quarterbacks, Goff's production sharply declines when he faces pressure. Both of his sacks and interceptions came when the Ravens sent at least one extra pass rusher.
Logically, Martindale will look to deploy similar tactics this Sunday. It will be a big test for Detroit's offensive line, which has been living up to lofty expectations through two weeks, even with starting left tackle Taylor Decker sidelined by injury.
"We’ll have a plan for it," Goff said. "We’ve got a lot of ideas of how to counter it. They know there are issues when they’re blitzing, though. That’s the best thing about that defense is they’re not just blitzing to blitz, they’re blitzing for a reason and have a good idea of how offenses want to attack them when they do."
Of course, the Ravens pass rush wasn't the only thing stressing out the Rams that night. The team's defense had no answer for Jackson, who also ran the ball eight times for 95 yards.
Brockers had a front row seat for the majority of the dismantling, playing 70 of the team's 77 defensive snaps. His biggest takeaway from that night to carry into a future meeting, no one player is enough to slow Jackson. It truly has to be a full-team effort.
"He's a tremendous talent," Brockers said. "He can get it done on either, with his arm or his legs, so the biggest thing about him is you gotta get population to the ball. Everybody has to be able to tackle. Everybody has to wrap up. He did have some turnovers, so we have to look at that as well. Like, we get everybody to the ball, people rippin', strippin' at the ball."
All week the Lions have been hammering home assignment-sound football. On every play, each gap will assigned to a defender. And for all the jukes and cutbacks Jackson might employ with the ball in his hands, Brockers said he and his teammates can't be lulled out of their gaps, because that's when things will quickly fall apart.
"I know it's cliche, but we talk about doing your job — doing your job first, and after you're done doing your job, then let's get to the ball," Brockers said. "And everybody get to the ball, not just one person or expecting one guy. They always have these schemes where they're making one guy tackle. It's not up to one guy. There's 11 people on defense, let's all get to the ball. Let's all rip at the ball, try to get the ball out there."
Fumbles have definitely been one of Jackson's few weaknesses. He lead the league in 2020, putting the ball on the ground 11 times, plus he's fumbled three times through the first two weeks of this season.
Ravens at Lions
► Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit
► TV/radio: CBS/97.1
► Records: Lions 0-2, Ravens 1-1
► Line: Ravens by 9